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In April 2000, Bill Joy who was then a revered scientist at Sun Microsystems wrote the article, “Why the Future Doesn’t Need Us” that was published in the issue of the Wired magazine in that period. In the article, Joy argues that the 21st century technologies, robotics genetic engineering and nanotech (GNR), are a great threat to the humans such that it is possible that they might wipe out the human race from the face of the earth. Other than creating a looming danger to humanity, Joy additionally argues that the fast growing technologies are also a threat to all the other species on earth as such technologies have proved to be perilous than any other that has existed before. He asserts that the destruction technologies of the 20th century, like the nuclear bombs, were only available to the rich governments due to cost and complexity of such materials. He uses “The White Plague” to explain his point of view. This is a novel that had been earlier written explaining how a mad scientist had created a virus that would have wiped the entire human race from the face of the earth. This document critically assesses the strengths and the weaknesses of Joy’s article.

Joy's Best Reasons for Being Pessimistic

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The article stirred attracted attention from a wide range of individual and mainly the information technology community following the fact that it is a dystopian vision concerning the future and also because Joy is a renowned person in the technological industry. All through the article, he explains that special care should be taken while treating the GNR technologies since they are capable of creating a self-replicating nuisance (Messerly, 2012). His argument was based on the perception that products from the GNR technologies might, and probably will, exceed the human control and subdue them. This prods him to suggest that humans should cease having endeavors in those sectors and thus prevent the potential catastrophes.

A closer evaluation of the article reveals that Joy was trying to persuade those who do not share his point of view, and he realizes that his opinion is that of the minority. To emphasize on his argument, he uses the knowledge that he has acquired over the years in his career and the readings he has read from other prominent individuals. Through the use of a number of passages from renowned pioneers of technology, Joy is almost able to present his argument as a valid and a real scenario that other scientist have been attracted to look at. This is important because though some people may deem the article to be one’s over reactive imagination, there are at least some documented facts from other individuals to supplement Joy’s argument (TJ Online, 2009).

After Joy establishes his point of view, he perfectly builds on it by comparing the GNR technologies to the NBC (nuclear, biological and chemical) technologies. Particularly, he focuses on the increase of nuclear weapons and how the competition in nuclear arms between the United States and the Soviet Union turned out to be perilous, almost to ending the world (TJ Online, 2009). Through this explicit argument, it can be deduced that if a military-based technology like the nuclear was so close to endangering the human survival, then GNR technologies, which have the capacity to self-replicate and may be used outside the military functions, will almost be unstoppable once they start to astray. This argument is all through developed in a logical and a methodical manner, and all the authors points are brought into a harmonized elegant conclusion.

Weaknesses of Joy’s Argument

The entire article by Bill Joy is based on the presumption that everything that might go wrong will go wrong, and that the misfortunes are deemed to befall people unless they abandon the GNR technologies. The author is convinced that the emerging technologies are doomed and that they will undoubtedly ruin human existence on earth. He seems to take these like approved facts and he does not even take some time to rethink and justify it. He does not bother to research on whether the GNR technologies will advance to reach a particular level that they cannot be controlled and endanger the human existence (Joy, 2000). Having no assurance of this assumption, he further fails to consider other possible solutions in case the catastrophe was to occur. He does not consider other competing points of view, such as the fact that the society may automatically adjust to the impact of the technologies and devise ways to cope with the circumstance. By avoiding these challenging points of view, the author is able to reach a fast conclusion and come up with an elegant conclusion, something that does not justify his argument.

Since the future is unknown, the consequences of what will happen in future are also unknown. This has the implication that it would be wrong to come up with conclusions about what would happen in future as the consequences of a particular action are presently unknown (Edelbach & Winston, 2011). The advice that Joy provides in the article, that humans should carefully choose in the course of their actions and be responsible for their actions, can be deemed upright but the strong conclusion he gives, that people should cease carrying out research and developing the 21st century technologies, is a contradiction because he draws a conclusion over something that he is not even sure whether it will happen. He is quick to make an assumption when he is not even sure that abandoning GNR technologies will produce the aspired results.

As such, the idea of unplanned results does not help Joy justify his argument, because it surpasses the approval of any kind of action. This means that his argument of unintended consequences offers no direction as to what people should choose and what they should not. It additionally does not give any valid reason as to why the GNR technologies ought to be abandoned (Joy, 2000). Though Joy and his supports might argue that emerging technologies might lead to a dangerous future than in the past, it is not guaranteed that more developed technologies will automatically translate to doom. It may be a surprise that even newer technologies might be a channel to a safer generation.

In his analogy, Joy also argues that humans will also be subdued by much superior robots which will remain new creatures and drive the entire human race into extinction. This is a view that has been greatly rejected by Rodney Brooks, a robotics expert. Though the analogy might hold some validity, it is not obvious that this will happen, and more so, robots would be even less troublesome than disturbing individuals who are ever bent to make their neighbors miserable. If what Rodney envisions is correct, then humans will integrate technology within their bodies and hence have absolute command of the robots. This notion clearly renders Joy’s argument aimless and his “big fish eat small fish” quotes baseless. Above all, no one is even sure that the robots will be the big fish (Edelbach & Winston, 2011). His argument based on the “mad scientist” describes a molecular scientist who comes up with an extremely contagious plague that kills so many people but selectively. Without putting into consideration the fact that it is through medical science that humans have been in a position to avoid plagues, he goes ahead to associate the analogy with the future technologies (Messerly, 2012).

Joy’s pessimism in regard to the technology tends to blind him to the potential fruits of the human know-how and this hysteria will not make him perceive human knowledge as a source of salvation. He instead appeals to the ethics of the Dalai Lama to save the human race, as though other religions will offer refuge as opposed to the angels that people are used to. While Joy’s concerns might be considered legitimate, the solutions that he offers seem unrealistic (Messerly, 2012). He suggests that people should stop their endeavors in technology, but does not enlighten people that this will lead to underdeveloped humans. Having accepted the fact that it is the humans that develop technologies, Joy should accept the fact that the same humans are capable of coming up with ways of controlling the potential challenges.


Bearing in mind the fact that human beings have become so extravagant, something that has contributed to major developments in all sectors and mainly the technological sector, there are vivid signs that this trend will continue in the forthcoming years. Despite the misgivings of many people, modern technology has been responsible for each and every development that can be identified in the modern society. Though there are threats that there might be threats if scientists are not an extra cautious on their engagement with the technologies.  Irrespective of everything, any barrier that stands along the path of development and intelligence should be condemned especially after considering the past achievements. Generally, it can be inferred that Joy’s argument, though it shows concern over the future, is an intimidation to development of our technology.

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