Wednesday, May 19, 2010

An Interesting Interview ~ Is knowledge outstripping our ability to deal with it?

A few weeks back, I was listening to the CBC program The Current on the drive to Brandon.One of the interviews was with E.O. Wilson, the eminent evolutionary biologist. At one point the host asked about the current oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. His response (paraphrased) was that we (especially Americans) are so self confident that they think that any problems that arise will be solved as they arise. In other words, we go ahead with projects and ideas without taking the time to think about the consequences, we just think that if something comes up it will be dealt with then. He posits that our society is getting too complicated and that we can't handle the big crises that our coming up. Advancements in knowledge and technology is outstripping our ability to use our wisdom to deal with the big problems. We need a better understanding of ourselves as species, we have had great progress, but also great danger. I am not going all 'luddite', but his words made me think, especially now that the oil has been leaking for almost a month and is produced an oil 'glob' that is many kilometers long and wide. (Wilson is not a technophobe either - as his TED talk and web site below show.) In my previous post, I brought up how nature - the volcano in Iceland - still grounds flights from time to time. While the latter example shows that Nature still trumps man, the oil disaster does reinforce Wilson's ideas. We must think carefully about the ramifications of of our progress and not let the almighty dollar be our guide. I am not saying that we should quit progressing, however, we need to be critical thinkers and reflect and consider the possible consequences instead of "ready ... shoot ... aim".

This is an interesting interview - take a few minutes to give it a listen (link above).
Some links: E.O. Wilson's Biodiversity Foundation.
The Boston Globe: Gallery of photos of this disaster.

TED Talk : E.O. Wilson talks about "Saving Life on Earth"


  1. I have deliberately staying off clAss blogs , but it is time to change that.

    Your comment re the oil spill is as you suggest yet another example of the nature/ technology dichotomy.

    I hope that one of the themes that came through in Edub7450 was that "things are not as simple as they seem".

    ...and as wonderful as my iPhone is, this one finger typing is NOT progress!!

  2. Hi Denis,
    Thanks for commenting. I plan to add a post now and then and keep this blog alive. Your input is always welcome!By the way, maybe you need a new iPad - bigger keyboard :-)

  3. Denis has entered the building!! I listen to The Current regularly... I catch the beginning during my last few minutes on the trip to school. I like it. I also like Ideas.

    Mike, what you have told about Wilson's comments remind me of the Heidegger article. I ask, has western society become arrogant? To think that BP may have not had a contingency plan in the event of such an occurrence is scary. But, perhaps it's our do it now, get it done, and give me now society that is in part driving poorly thought through plans... ones that don't consider all possibilities.

    The iPad is a neat gadget. I stopped into the Apple Store in Polo Park tonight after the ManACE meeting. I met Raman from MTS when leaving the meeting. He showed me his iPod Touch and the Dragon speech-to-text app. When I saw that he could talk and have his speech accurately transcribed, I was sold. Hence my stop at the store. Might end up picking up an iPhone... might, or the iPod. I bought a Panasonic digital voice recorder a while ago. It had speech-to-text software, so I tried it. What garbage... the software. The recorder isn't very good either, but the files can be saved as wav. If I go Apple, I'll have to learn how to program apps. I'm still a developer...

    It's good to be back on the blog!

  4. Thanks for joining in, Gary. Now creating Apps - that could be a cool project for kids. I too was amazed at how accurate the Dragon dictation app was. I will add my review of the iPad when I get a chance.

  5. I very much agree about getting the kids to write apps.