CAMLAW: Complementary and Alternative Medicine Law Blog

Scientists warned of hubris by the Pope

The Pope compared scientists bent on taking technology to its limits to Icarus.

   'Pope Benedict told scientists on Saturday that by believing only in "artificial intelligence" and technology they risked the fate of the mythical Icarus, whose home-made wings melted when he flew too close to the sun. "Contemporary life gives pride of place to an artificial intelligence ever more enslaved to experimental tecnhiques, thereby forgetting that all science should safeguard mankind and promote his tendency to authentic goodness," the Pope said.'

But Icarus might have fared better with the right technology, one could argue. Perhaps we will be able to fly closer to the sun with the right shapeship or spacesuit. The Pope has a good point in cautioning and urging humility; but that can't be taken too far, as we have long ago as humans crossed the threshold (with recombinant DNA and other technologies) of engaging in creation ourselves.

I'm now reading a fascinating book entitled "Flesh and Machines" by MIT professor Rodney A. Brooks. Published in 2001, the book remains contemporary and prescient. One thing Professor Brooks argues is that the fears of 1950's scientific fiction movies about the robots taking over are unfounded. The reason:

"With all these (contemporary) trends we will become a merger between flesh and macines. We will have the best that machineness has to offer, but we will also have our bioheritage to augment whatever level of machine technology we have so far developed. So we (the robot-people) will be a step ahead of them (the pure robots). We won't have to worry about them taking over."

If Icarus had his wing implants (or was genetically modified to be able to take the sun's heat), perhaps he would have succeded and the Greek myth would have turned out differently.

Maybe an MIT assignment in 2010.

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