• Kurtz79 5 days ago

    To put the title into context:

    "Do you still feel like Silicon Valley has retained that idealism that struck you when you arrived here?"

    "There’s still that optimism. But the optimism is tempered by a sense of deliberation. Things have changed quite a bit. You know, we deliberate about things a lot more, and we are more thoughtful about what we do. But there’s a deeper thing here, which is: Technology doesn’t solve humanity’s problems. It was always naïve to think so. Technology is an enabler, but humanity has to deal with humanity’s problems. I think we’re both over-reliant on technology as a way to solve things and probably, at this moment, over-indexing on technology as a source of all problems, too."

  • discoball 5 days ago

    <<But there’s a deeper thing here, which is: Technology doesn’t solve humanity’s problems. It was always naïve to think so. Technology is an enabler>>

    Google was enabling the DoD to be more efficient at killing people and China to be more oppressive until its workers protested. So he's right about humanity having to solve its problems but he's forgetting that Google, the corporation, is opting to make it harder for humanity to solve its problems by enabling those who do not have humanity's best interest in their heart.

  • ucaetano 5 days ago

    > Google was enabling the DoD to be more efficient at killing people

    The world is complicated, and things are never as simple as that.

    Would you consider drones and smart bombs bad when the alternative is carpet bombing?

    It is always too easy to ignore the world as it is and focus on a utopian case. War will happen, with whatever tools are available.

  • natalyarostova 5 days ago

    Only the most dogmatic pacifists in the US still maintain that the US entering WWII was the wrong choice. Yet the US literally incinerated hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians through carpet fire-bombings. Thankfully, we seem to have left the world of total war.

    Whether nuclear weapons and targeted drone strikes made the world in some broad strokes more peaceful on purpose, well, probably not. Nonetheless, we haven't had carpet bombings anywhere near the scale of WWII in decades.

  • crwalker 5 days ago

    > Thankfully, we seem to have left the world of total war.

    Deaths in armed conflict form a fat-tailed distribution. Extreme events dominate, and the absence of any world wars for several decades is not evidence that humanity has gotten more peaceful if world wars happen roughly every couple hundred years. See Taleb, who is much more clear. http://www.fooledbyrandomness.com/violencenobelsymposium.pdf

  • robax 5 days ago

    Yuval Noah Harari has a different argument in his book Sapiens. He says that we’re living in the most peaceful period of human existence ever and it’s caused by a few factors. #1 the stakes are too high because of nuclear weapons and #2 now more than ever a country’s resources are the brains of its inhabitants, which can’t exactly be conquered.

    I think we’re definitely seeing the landscape of war changing. I really hope traditional bloody war is obsolete.

  • dragonwriter 5 days ago

    #2 seems obviously wrong; minds can be conquered (that's what propaganda is about), if you conquer minds you don't need to fire a shot to conquer, and—except perhaps for a handful of the most totalitarian regimes as targets—its never been easier for a hostile power to deliver propaganda to the citizenry of a target state, especially if the target is a developed democracy.

    So, yeah, the importance of minds as resource might be part of the reason for the absence of major armed conflict, but for almost the exact opposite of the reason Hariri suggests.

  • chr1 4 days ago

    Hararis argument is that when the main resource of the country is brains, conquering that country with army wouldn't give you anything useful, and you need other methods to conquer like the propaganda you ention.

    And because the propaganda tends to kill less than bombs, the conflicts do not end up as wars.

  • crwalker 5 days ago

    Both views could be correct: Taleb's point is that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

    I haven't read Sapiens, and I hope Harari is correct, but I'm not tracking the second argument. Certain governments believe they can conquer minds, as evidenced by detention/propaganda camps and universal surveillance/scoring. If a government with this perspective successfully invaded another country, wouldn't they institute a similar program there and expect similar results?

  • ntsplnkv2 5 days ago

    > If a government with this perspective successfully invaded another country, wouldn't they institute a similar program there and expect similar results?

    No country of consequence can be invaded like this today - nuclear weapons upped the stakes considerably.

  • dragonwriter 5 days ago

    > No country of consequence can be invaded like this today - nuclear weapons upped the stakes considerably.

    No nuclear power can be, nor can any country closely allied with a nuclear power, but not every country of consequence is in one of those categories.

    Unless you define “of consequence” specifically to mean in those two categories, and so exclude, e.g., Ukraine.

  • rak00n 5 days ago

    It's interesting you mentioned Harari because he mentioned Google when describing #2.

  • natalyarostova 4 days ago

    I'm familiar with Taleb's argument on this point, and it's a fair point. A massive nuclear war in 70 years would change any current conclusions that nuclear weapons make us safer.

    On the other hand, I'd personally rather take a 1% chance of obscene nuclear war and otherwise peace, than a (let's say) 40% chance of ongoing infantry warfare.

  • dta5003 5 days ago

    Hey, I'm not even that dogmatic of a pacifist and I'd go further. Entering the first WW and the preceding entangled alliances was the wrong choice (as warned against by our founders). The resolution of WWI set the stage for inevitable problems including WWII.

  • u02sgb 5 days ago

    Not sure that's "going further". They're two separate choices (despite being related).

  • ameister14 5 days ago

    >Would you consider drones and smart bombs bad when the alternative is carpet bombing?

    That's not the alternative, though. Drones are used in hundreds of situations where without them, the US simply wouldn't have taken action.

  • darawk 5 days ago

    And it's your belief that not taking action would be better?

  • kentm 5 days ago

    In many cases, probably. In other cases, probably not. The fear is that drone strikes lower the bar for how certain you have to be that "action" will have better results, because the practical risks have been substantially lowered. If the bar is lowered, then we may be choosing the "no action" a lot less even if it was warranted.

  • darawk 5 days ago

    Certainly. I agree 100%. They lower the bar, and that increases their frequency. No question about that. However, you can say the same about literally any military technology. Bulletproof vests have the same effect. The question at hand is: is this lowered bar leading us to make bad judgments?

    I see people pointing at cases where civilians were killed and saying "See! Its bad!". But that isn't an argument that it was a bad judgment. Collateral damage is, unfortunately, inevitable with the technology that we have. The question we have to ask is: is the amount of collateral damage we're causing worthwhile and/or could we substantially reduce collateral damage without harming our objectives. And i've basically never seen anyone even attempt to make that case.

  • solitus 5 days ago

    Worthwhile in terms of saving other human lives or in terms of capital?

  • darawk 5 days ago

    Worthwhile ethically/morally. So, considering all factors, to include saving lives and capital.

  • Tyrek 5 days ago

    Are you certain that every drone strike that's ever been made has had a positive impact on the world?

  • Forbo 5 days ago

    I'm not sure why you're getting downvoted. Perhaps the inclusion of the absolutist "every drone strike... ever".

    But this raises a valid concern. Is drone striking weddings really winning the hearts and minds of people, or is it just setting up the next generation of (IMO, justified) hate toward the US? [0] [1]

    [0]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wech_Baghtu_wedding_party_airs... [1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haska_Meyna_wedding_party_airs...

  • darawk 5 days ago

    Do you believe that those outcomes were the intent of the person that authorized these missions?

  • PhasmaFelis 5 days ago

    It doesn't matter.

    Adults are expected to understand the potential consequences of their actions. If you knowingly fire missiles into a populated area, you don't get to say "oops, I didn't mean to" when you accidentally kill a few dozen innocent civilians.

  • darawk 5 days ago

    > It doesn't matter.

    It absolutely matters. Intending to kill civilians and killing them accidentally are very, very different things.

    > Adults are expected to understand the potential consequences of their actions. If you knowingly fire missiles into a populated area, you don't get to say "oops, I didn't mean to" when you accidentally kill a few dozen innocent civilians.

    Are you alleging that they didn't understand the risks involved? Or are you alleging that they did understand the risks involved, and made a conscious decision that those risks were worth it? If the latter, do you have reason to believe that their calculation was wrong?

  • Tyrek 5 days ago

    Well, I'm sure that intent has an impact, but the question is one of magnitude. You can't exactly solve extremism by telling them all to stop being mad at the US because the missile that killed their families 'was just a miss whoops my bad'

    I take issue with your stance that the burden of evidence lies with the 'let's not shoot missiles crowd', though. While we don't have specific evidence on the specific efficacy of individual drone strikes, I'd argue that the intelligence community's track record (or what's been declassified or widely known) does not inspire the greatest confidence in their ability to make nuanced, apolitical judgment.

  • darawk 5 days ago

    > I take issue with your stance that the burden of evidence lies with the 'let's not shoot missiles crowd', though. While we don't have specific evidence on the specific efficacy of individual drone strikes, I'd argue that the intelligence community's track record (or what's been declassified or widely known) does not inspire the greatest confidence in their ability to make nuanced, apolitical judgment.

    Well, we've elected people (who've then appointed people) to make those judgments on our behalf. Someone has to make them. If you have evidence that they're being made poorly, then that's something worth hearing. But what is that evidence? If you don't have such evidence...then are you arguing that nobody should be making decisions like that at all, ever?

  • PhasmaFelis 5 days ago

    If you blow up a terrorist training camp out in the desert, and it turns out afterwards that there were a few civilian hostages or dependents on-site, that's unfortunate but arguably unavoidable.

    If you bomb an outdoor wedding party with dozens of visible women and children, and then return to fire again when ambulances are on the scene, that's not an "unfortunate accident". That's deadly negligence at the very best. You're trying to twist the second example into the framework of the first.

  • darawk 5 days ago

    > If you bomb an outdoor wedding party with dozens of visible women and children, and then return to fire again when ambulances are on the scene, that's not an "unfortunate accident". That's deadly negligence at the very best. You're trying to twist the second example into the framework of the first.

    Is it? Do you have a sense of what went into that particular decision? Was the wedding party the target, or were they hit accidentally? Did they know it was a wedding party? Did they actually do a double tap strike in this instance?

  • PhasmaFelis 5 days ago

    Someone looked through a drone cam at a crowd of women and children, and authorized the drone to fire.

    If he didn't bother looking closely enough to identify his target, that's negligence or incompetence. (Middle Eastern women are noted for dressing distinctively.) If he didn't care, that's intentional murder, or whatever euphemism we're supposed to use in those circumstances. If he was told it was all right to fire without being able to see the target clearly, that's bad policy. If he was told it's all right to knowingly kill women and children, that's also bad policy. If the drone was authorized to fire without any human in the loop somewhere, that's really bad policy, and also bad tactics--there's no point in wasting a missile on an empty field that you expected a terrorist to be standing in.

    There is no circumstance where someone wasn't lethally and unnecessarily careless with innocent lives. Whether it was due to malice or incompetence is not really relevant.

    > Did they actually do a double tap strike in this instance?

    Yes. You've already been linked to relevant articles in this thread. Do your own homework.

    You are not going to Socratic-method anyone into admitting that, yes, it actually is okay to blow up a wedding if we think there might be a terrorist in there somewhere.

  • darawk 5 days ago

    > Someone looked through a drone cam at a crowd of women and children, and authorized the drone to fire.

    No they didn't. Cite a source for that. Don't just editorialize nonsense.

    > If he didn't bother looking closely enough to identify his target, that's negligence or incompetence. (Middle Eastern women are noted for dressing distinctively.) If he didn't care, that's intentional murder, or whatever euphemism we're supposed to use in those circumstances. If he was told it was all right to fire without being able to see the target clearly, that's bad policy. If he was told it's all right to knowingly kill women and children, that's also bad policy. If the drone was authorized to fire without any human in the loop somewhere, that's really bad policy, and also bad tactics--there's no point in wasting a missile on an empty field that you expected a terrorist to be standing in.

    > There is no circumstance where someone wasn't lethally and unnecessarily careless with innocent lives. Whether it was due to malice or incompetence is not really relevant.

    People like to make silly statements like this, maybe for rhetorical effect. Whether or not something is attributable to malice or incompetence is always relevant. Mistakes happen in war. This may well be an instance of that. But it is not evidence that the policy is net bad. There are hundreds of these strikes. Some of them will kill civilians, but sometimes it's worth killing a few civilians to kill some unusually bad actors. We have people who's job it is to make that tradeoff. Do you have evidence that they're doing so poorly?

    > Yes. You've already been linked to relevant articles in this thread. Do your own homework.

    Firstly, the wedding that got bombed twice was not by drones, it was by jets. So, if the point of this thread is to discuss drones, it is irrelevant. There have been many wedding strikes, which one are you referring to?

    > You are not going to Socratic-method anyone into admitting that, yes, it actually is okay to blow up a wedding if we think there might be a terrorist in there somewhere.

    What, exactly, is the terrorist density of a wedding that makes it bombable? 50%? 80%? 99%? Do you know what the terrorist density of these particular weddings were?

  • PhasmaFelis 5 days ago

    > No they didn't. Cite a source for that. Don't just editorialize nonsense.

    I'm...not sure how you think attack drones work? There is always a human in the loop, at least for now. Humans pick the targets and authorize weapon release.

    > Whether or not something is attributable to malice or incompetence is always relevant.

    It's relevant to the discussion of how and why these things happen. It's not relevant to the question of whether or not a wrong has been committed. If you drive drunk and kill four people, you certainly didn't mean to, but you still go to prison.

    > We have people who's job it is to make that tradeoff. Do you have evidence that they're doing so poorly?

    Do you have evidence that they're not? They've certainly had limited success in stopping international terrorism.

    We discussed earlier how extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. If you believe that a goal was achieved here that outweighed 50 or so innocent lives, it's on you to demonstrate that, not on me to falsify it. Do your own homework.

  • darawk 5 days ago

    > I'm...not sure how you think attack drones work? There is always a human in the loop, at least for now. Humans pick the targets and authorize weapon release.

    Many of these wedding bombings didn't involve drones, they involved jets. The drones are also using fairly low res cameras, so if we are talking about one of the instances where a drone bombed a wedding, it may or may not have been clear to the operator that that's what it was. It may also have been a targeting issue. That is all to say that we do not know that a person consciously, knowingly chose to bomb a wedding full of civilians.

    > It's relevant to the discussion of how and why these things happen. It's not relevant to the question of whether or not a wrong has been committed. If you drive drunk and kill four people, you certainly didn't mean to, but you still go to prison.

    It's relevant to the level of the wrong, just as it is in the car case. If you kill four people in a car on purpose that is a much more serious crime than doing so by accident. Further, if the CIA intended to do this, then we are having a very different moral discussion than if they did this accidentally.

    > Do you have evidence that they're not? They've certainly had limited success in stopping international terrorism.

    Are they? By what metric? There have been very few Islamic terrorist attacks on US soil. Sure, they haven't wiped out radical Islam in the entire region...but we don't really have a basis for comparison here. We cannot conclude much of anything about its efficacy.

    What we do know is that there are networks of people who have organized themselves for the purpose of enacting terrorist attacks on western soil. What do you propose that we do about it, if not this?

    > We discussed earlier how extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. If you believe that a goal was achieved here that outweighed 50 or so innocent lives, it's on you to demonstrate that, not on me to falsify it. Do your own homework.

    Ok. Drone strikes have killed hundreds of high ranking members of Islamic terror networks. And it is highly likely that to the extent that civilians were harmed, most of them were probably, at the very least, sympathetic to these people to begin with.

  • zaptheimpaler 5 days ago

    Wow I'm sure the remaining family members feel a lot better knowing the drone operator didn't CONSCIOUSLY choose to massacre their entire family, its just that their camera was low res...

    How about if your camera is so low res or your drones are too shitty to avoid killing innocent people, you stop fucking using drones?

    I have 0 doubt you would find it ridiculous to use the same drones on US soil because of the risk but hey as long as its not your family/friends, its just a "risk" right?

  • darawk 4 days ago

    > I have 0 doubt you would find it ridiculous to use the same drones on US soil because of the risk but hey as long as its not your family/friends, its just a "risk" right?

    I would not find it ridiculous at all. So, I guess your argument kind of falls apart then.

  • zaptheimpaler 3 days ago

    Great well heres [1] some data. Between 2001-2015, 48 have died to domestic terrorism vs 26 to foreign born terrorists. Hope to see you lobbying for drone strikes and military patrols in the US and your hometown soon.

    1 - https://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/25/us/tally-of-attacks-in-us...

  • darawk 3 days ago

    People like to cite things like this, but we both know these stats are silly and meaningless.

    First of all, you cropped the start at 2001. Presumably after September 11th, 2001, because a whole lot more than 26 people died there. Second, Islamic terrorism is not just about attacks that happen inside the US. The difference between Islamic terrorism and most other forms of domestic terrorism, is that Islamic terrorism represents a global, organized threat to liberal democracies, in general. Islamic terror attacks have happened through western and eastern Europe, China, Canada, they are positively endemic in Africa, and they continue to plague many other places.

    No doubt about it, there are real and serious domestic terror threats inside the United States, and it is important that our law enforcement agencies work to stop them. But in the regions of the world where we're employing drone strikes, substantial fractions of the population are involved in these organizations. In some cases, such as Afghanistan, the recognized government of the country (the Taliban) consisted of these people. There are no similarly large sections of the US population to target for drone strikes. That doesn't mean there aren't domestic terrorists here, there are, and many of them are not Islamic. The reason drones don't work here though is that they don't have the critical mass to organize - they're lone wolves. Drones simply aren't an effective tool in that context.

  • zaptheimpaler 5 days ago

    Fucking bullshit.

    Even the phrasing grates at me. Killing a bunch of innocent people in another country is just a "risk" to some moron with a drone. If all of a sudden that moron was piloting a drone IN THE US and blew up a church/school on accident, I guarantee you wouldn't be so comfortable abstracting away lives as "risk".

    By the way, if we count all the innocent people killed by the US as "mistakes", it is certain that number would be >10x the people who died to Islamic terrorists on 9/11... so isn't the US military as much of a terrorist?

    Its a sick strain of sociopathic paternalism by which you can abstract away peoples lives as long as they aren't your own countrymen.

  • darawk 4 days ago

    I would absolutely say the same thing about people in the US, provided it was in service of an important, higher purpose, as it is here.

  • discoball 4 days ago

    If it was your own family at a wedding? Seriously? You can tell us with honesty that you would classify the brutal murder of your own family as worthwhile because there was some resistance fighters in your country that happen to be in your area and a foreign power wanted to eradicate them with air to ground missiles? Hmm. It cannot possibly be true.

  • darawk 4 days ago

    > If it was your own family at a wedding? Seriously? You can tell us with honesty that you would classify the brutal murder of your own family as worthwhile because there was some resistance fighters in your country that happen to be in your area and a foreign power wanted to eradicate them with air to ground missiles? Hmm. It cannot possibly be true.

    I wouldn't be happy about it. But these things are inevitable consequences of war. People get shot accidentally by the police, here, in the United States. We try our best to minimize it, but it happens. It is an inevitable consequence of law enforcement. If one of my family members were accidentally killed by a cop, I would be upset. I'd want to understand the specifics of the incident, and see if perhaps the cop was being negligent in some way. But, if they were not being negligent and the situation had warranted it, and it was just an unfortunate accident, then I would not be angry with the officer, or the department.

  • tomp 5 days ago

    well put.

  • detaro 5 days ago

    If you're merely incompetent to use the tools available to you appropriately (instead of maliciously misusing them), I can see why people don't want to give you sharper ones anyways.

  • darawk 5 days ago

    Why do you think they are incompetent?

  • cm2187 5 days ago

    None of 9/11 hijackers were victimized by the US. Islamist militants don’t need drone strikes to hate the US.

  • freeflight 5 days ago

    So this has now become a "We've always been at war with Islam!"? Is that kind of 1984esque discourse really helpful?

    For some proper context, I really suggest reading this CS Monitor piece from back in 2001 [0].

    Keen observers will quickly realize that pretty much everything written there has become reality over these past 17 years. It should also be noted that there's a certain irony to it when the "Christian Science Monitor" is peeved about your religious rhetoric being a bit too much on the extreme end.

    This is something that seemingly passed by many US Americans like it never happened. But you can't declare yourself a "Christian nation" going on "crusades", hinging large parts of your popularity drive on this imagined "clash of the cultures", and then act all surprised and outraged when the opposite side also reacts with more radicalization.

    Just looking at the trends for global terrorism for these past 2 decades [1], there's a very clear picture to be found there. Before 2002 countries like India, Colombia and Algeria topped the "terrorism charts".

    But by 2003, as a response to the "War on Terror" started by the US, you already see Iraq and Afghanistan making their way up the list, steadily increasing in the number of attacks and fatalities until in 2005 they take the top.

    Since then there's been little change, only Pakistan making their way up there some years, one might wonder why? [2]

    But all three of these countries represent massive outliers and make up the vast majority of "Islamic terrorism", what do they all have in common?

    9/11 was bad, no debate there. But the US's reaction to 9/11 was worse, it perfectly played into Osamas original intentions of starting a "culture clash", stigmatizing even moderate Islam in the Western world, making frustrated and discriminated moderates more likely to join his cause.

    In that context, the US pretty much kicked a hornet's nest down the street and still keeps kicking it to this day. Yet many US Americans keep wondering where the angry hornets are coming from and "why they hate us so much".

    [0] https://www.csmonitor.com/2001/0919/p12s2-woeu.html

    [1] https://www.start.umd.edu/gtd/globe/index.html

    [2] http://drones.pitchinteractive.com/

  • darawk 5 days ago

    > This is something that seemingly passed by many US Americans like it never happened. But you can't declare yourself a "Christian nation" going on "crusades", hinging large parts of your popularity drive on this imagined "clash of the cultures", and then act all surprised and outraged when the opposite side also reacts with more radicalization.

    Hm? Which crusades are those?

    > Just looking at the trends for global terrorism for these past 2 decades [1], there's a very clear picture to be found there. Before 2002 countries like India, Colombia and Algeria topped the "terrorism charts".

    You mean countries that had civil wars going on in them? That seems practically tautological.

    > But by 2003, as a response to the "War on Terror" started by the US, you already see Iraq and Afghanistan making their way up the list, steadily increasing in the number of attacks and fatalities until in 2005 they take the top.

    You mean that terrorist attacks increased in places when they had foreign military bases in their country to target? What is that evidence of, exactly?

    > But all three of these countries represent massive outliers and make up the vast majority of "Islamic terrorism", what do they all have in common?

    Fundamentalist Islam and low economic development.

  • hindsightbias 5 days ago

    The Christian Science Monitor, while founded by the founder of the Church of Christ does not really represent the Church or push its doctrines. It has historically been one of the least ideological and most objective news outlets for a couple of generations.

    So there may be irony in the name, but not in their practices.

  • freeflight 5 days ago

    That was more of a pun on the irony of name/situation, sorry just couldn't resist.

    I've never researched their actual background, but over the years I've noticed their content to be usually of very good quality.

    I suppose it's a good example of why one should never judge a book by its cover, or in this case, the content of a website by its domain name ;)

  • cm2187 5 days ago

    What you are measuring is merely the state of chaos of the middle east post iraq war and arab spring.

    If you look at the history of terrorism in Europe for instance, before the 70s it was mostly independentist mvts / de-colonisation related. 70s to early 80s was mostly far left terror attacks. Mid 80s state sponsored terrorism (Libya, Iran). 90s to now, islamist terrorism.

    Islamists were blowing bombs in the metro in Paris in the 90s, and tried a 9/11 style plane attack on Paris in 1994 [1].

    Islamism is a worldwide phenomenon, like communism in its time. If you go through every single muslim country from Marocco to Indonesia, the largest or second largest political party is an islamist party, or the islamists are in power, or they have been outlawed after taking too much power, or they are one of the major party to a civil war. Terrorism is a side effect of this rise in islamism, like the red brigades, RAF, etc were to communism.

    So no, it’s not just a reaction to the war in Iraq.

    [1] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Air_France_Flight_8969

  • freeflight 5 days ago

    > Terrorism is a side effect of this rise in islamism, like the red brigades, RAF, etc were to communism.

    And what allowed Islamism to rise and prosper like that over these past decades?

    The power vacuum created by the removal of Saddam in an illegal invasion? The resulting unleashed sectarian violence?

    You can't just switch around cause and effect like that and call it a day. To quote from the 2001 article:

    > Moderate Muslim opinion could also easily be swayed against America, predicted Ghayasuddin Siddiqui, head of the Muslim Parliament in Britain, an umbrella group for Muslim organizations. "If they end up killing innocent civilians it will be very unfair," Dr. Siddiqui said. "The problems will arise if people see that justice has not been done."

    Now, nearly 2 decades later, we have relentless and ML driven drone warfare [0], torture scandals [1], a US president who is not only condoning it but actively advocating for it. The blatant injustice is done out in the open to see for everybody [2], justified in haphazard "They do not have rights" ways to a point where a US president just declares a "Muslim ban", followed up with pointless legal shenanigans how "it totally isn't a Muslim ban, but a Muslim country ban!", like that's in any way better.

    How can you look at all that and deny it contributed to the rise of Islamist sentiments? Don't you think it's kind of telling that you have to summon the good ol "they caught the communism" bug to still justify these US actions?

    Is it really that difficult to take a step back and admit: "We've fucked up, we've been going about this the wrong way from the very beginning"? Is doubling down on this oppressive and destructive path really the only way forward from here?

    [0] https://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2016/02/the-n...

    [1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abu_Ghraib_torture_and_prisone...

    [2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guantanamo_Bay_detention_camp

  • cm2187 5 days ago

    No the rise of islamism is anterior to the removal of Sadam Hussein. And it happened in every muslim country, including those that were not under a secular dictatorship (Marocco, Turkey, Maldives, etc). What is true is that the topping of secular dictatorships opened the way for islamists to take power or start a civil war. But what you are saying is effectively that muslim countries should be left under a dictatorship otherwise would vote for islamist parties?

  • dwaltrip 5 days ago

    Most statements that attempt to characterize every single instance of a phenomenon are heavily flawed, regardless of what they say. Especially in complex systems, such as those involving humans.

    It seems to me that your question is coming at this from the wrong angle.

  • xvector 5 days ago

    Now we are getting into indefinable moral calculus. If drone strikes have a net positive impact, are they justified? If you are in a train about to run over three people but can change the direction to run over one, do you do it?

  • darawk 5 days ago

    No. But we've elected and appointed people who's job it is to:

    a) be aware of all the information relevant to each operation

    b) make a judgment as to whether each individual operation is worthwhile

    Now, i'm not saying that makes them infallible. It certainly doesn't. There's a long history of people in such positions making poor choices. But if you're implying that they are, i'd like to see some evidence. Because what I see is a lot of "civilians died, therefore it was bad", but very little consideration of the objective of the mission, and whether or not the possibility of collateral damage was justified. What we do know is that smart people in positions of power believed that it was, and i'm happy to second-guess those beliefs if given good reason, but thus far i've never seen anyone give good reason in the case of these drone strikes.

  • Forbo 5 days ago

    > ...thus far i've never seen anyone give good reason in the case of these drone strikes.

    Because the very action they are using to eliminate enemy combatants may in fact be creating more of them?

  • darawk 5 days ago

    > Because the very action they are using to eliminate enemy combatants may in fact be creating more of them?

    That's an interesting statement. Do you have evidence for it?

  • antgiant 5 days ago

    Yep.

    “over the past 15 years. Increased US efforts are correlated with a worsening of the overall terror situation. Statistical modeling indicates for every additional billion dollars spent and 1,000 American troops sent to fight the war on terror, the number of terror attacks worldwide increased by 19 (data available from the author). Furthermore, the model finds up to 80 percent of the variation in the number of worldwide terror attacks since 9/11 can be explained by just those two variables—US money spent and military members sent to fight the war on terror. The data for both money spent and troops deployed come from the Congressional Research Service publication, The Cost of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Other Global War on Terror Operations Since 9/11 by Amy Belasco. The number of terror attacks is from the Global Terrorism Database, hosted by the University of Maryland.”

    “The data show countries the US invaded had 143 more terror attacks per year than countries the US did not invade. Similarly, countries in which the US conducted drone strikes were home to 395 more terror attacks per year than those where the US did not.”

    https://ssi.armywarcollege.edu/pubs/parameters/issues/Spring...

  • darawk 5 days ago

    Of course the countries we invade will have more terror attacks. We've put targets there for them to hit. This does not prove that US intervention causes terrorism. What it proves is that when you move their targets thousands of miles closer to them, terrorists will attack them more frequently.

  • antgiant 5 days ago

    I think you misread that. Drone strikes which don’t provide something for terrorists to attack cause a significantly greater increase in terrorism attacks than troops on the ground do.

  • darawk 5 days ago

    You're right, I did, sorry. However, this paper is talking like its proving causality, but it's really not. Another interpretation of the exact same data is that the US is good at picking targets, and focusing on likely hotbeds of terrorism.

    The fundamental problem is that where the US targets its drone strikes is (or at least, should be) correlated to where terrorism is in the process of springing up. So, if our government was actually doing a really great job analyzing these things, you would see the same data pattern - drone strikes lead terrorist attacks.

  • landryraccoon 5 days ago

    I write code, and I'm quite certain that not every line of code written has had a positive impact on the world.

  • ameister14 5 days ago

    In many cases, absolutely.

  • darawk 5 days ago

    Which cases are those?

  • darawk 5 days ago

    Both of these are troubling to me from a legal perspective, it concerns me that these citizen's due process rights were waived, particularly in secret, with secret justifications.

    It does not trouble me at all from a moral position that these individual were targeted and killed, however. If they were not US citizens, i'd consider this an excellent example of a great use of drones. Do you disagree and if so why?

  • ameister14 5 days ago

    The first one, because he was a young boy. The second, because the president using his sole authority to order the assassination of someone shouldn't happen.

    Regardless, not taking action at that time would likely have been better. They were US citizens, their rights were abrogated and they were killed illegally.

  • darawk 5 days ago

    > The first one, because he was a young boy

    He was a 16 year old Al Qaeda member who was the son of a leader of the group.

    > The second, because the president using his sole authority to order the assassination of someone shouldn't happen.

    Ever?

    > Regardless, not taking action at that time would likely have been better. They were US citizens, their rights were abrogated and they were killed illegally.

    Agree that because they were US citizens they should have been given due process, or at the very least, the legal rationale for their killing should have been subject to public scrutiny. But I don't think this really makes the case against drone strikes as a tool.

  • ameister14 5 days ago

    >Ever?

    Yes.

    You could make the argument that targeted strikes authorized by a single person are acceptable in a state of war (which we are not in), but even with that an assassination should have checks on it, always.

  • darawk 4 days ago

    I would certainly like assassination to have checks on it, all else equal. But do you really think that's practical?

  • ameister14 3 days ago

    Yes. Assassinations take time to plan and execute. Why would it not be practical?

  • darawk 3 days ago

    Well, I guess it depends on what you mean by a 'check'. I was assuming you meant a congressional panel voting on it or something. If that's not what you mean, and all you meant was some degree of bureaucracy involved, then I think we're in agreement.

  • PhasmaFelis 5 days ago

    I mean, yeah? I know there have been cases where drone strikes were justified, but it really only takes one instance of "We think there's some terrorists at this wedding, so let's fire a fragmentation missile into the middle of it, and then another one a few minutes later to make sure we kill the paramedics and firemen too" to decide that the US military is not responsible enough to be allowed to make these decisions.

    Edit: Actually I'll go further than that. You lose all moral authority to wage war the moment you start deliberately targeting civilian medics, and that's standard policy with US drone strikes. See "double-tap."

  • darawk 5 days ago

    > I mean, yeah? I know there have been cases where drone strikes were justified, but it really only takes one instance of "We think there's some terrorists at this wedding, so let's fire a fragmentation missile into the middle of it, and then another one a few minutes later to make sure we kill the paramedics and firemen too" to decide that the US military is not responsible enough to be allowed to make these decisions.

    You think their policy is designed to kill civilian medics? Or do you think the policy was designed to kill other terrorists who come by to try to save their brothers?

  • PhasmaFelis 5 days ago

    It's designed to kill anyone who comes to the aid of the injured. In any built-up area, that will obviously include ambulance personnel; there's no way the policy-makers do not know this. So, yes, it is absolutely designed to kill civilian medics and concerned neighbors/bystanders, and has done so over and over. See also:

    https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/outrage-at...

    https://www.thebureauinvestigates.com/stories/2013-08-01/get...

  • darawk 5 days ago

    > In any built-up area

    Was it being done in built-up areas? I see the word 'rescuer' being used in these articles. But I notably do not see the word 'civilian'. A terrorist who tries to save the lives of his terrorist buddies is still a 'rescuer', and that's exactly who these drone strikes ought to be targeting.

  • PhasmaFelis 5 days ago

    The term "village" is used repeatedly. If you think that--when there's an explosion in a village--it's reasonable to assume that the only people who rush to assist are terrorists, then you need to provide proof of that, not ask me to prove the opposite. Extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence.

  • darawk 5 days ago

    > The term "village" is used repeatedly. If you think that--when there's an explosion in a village--it's reasonable to assume that the only people who rush to assist are terrorists, then you need to provide proof of that, not ask me to prove the opposite. Extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence.

    Do you believe that the CIA is purposefully targeting random villagers for drone strikes?

    If yes...why?

    If no...then you must believe that the CIA is intelligent enough to have asked the very same question that you have, and concluded that the likely respondents would in fact be enemy combatants.

  • PhasmaFelis 5 days ago

    > Do you believe that the CIA is purposefully targeting random villagers for drone strikes?

    Of course not. I believe that the CIA doesn't care who dies as long as they get their guy, and if they make everyone afraid to help drone strike victims, then it's much more likely that any terrorists who survive the initial attack will bleed out on the ground. (Innocents too, but they don't care about them.)

    This is hardly an unusual claim. You can't be unaware that the CIA is infamous for decades of murder and abuse.

  • darawk 5 days ago

    > Of course not. I believe that the CIA doesn't care who dies as long as they get their guy, and if they make everyone afraid to help drone strike victims, then it's much more likely that any terrorists who survive the initial attack will bleed out on the ground. (Innocents too, but they don't care about them.)

    So, your supposition is that the CIA is purposely killing civilians to deter them from giving aid to possible terrorists?

    > This is hardly an unusual claim. You can't be unaware that the CIA is infamous for decades of murder and abuse.

    The CIA has certainly assassinated people over the years. They've certainly fomented revolutions and meddled in geopolitics in myriad ways. I'm unaware of any explicit campaign to target civilians, though. Are you?

  • PhasmaFelis 5 days ago

    > So, your supposition is that the CIA is purposely killing civilians to deter them from giving aid to possible terrorists?

    That's what I just said, yes.

    > I'm unaware of any explicit campaign to target civilians, though. Are you?

    There's been enough evidence presented so far that I believe it's now on you to demonstrate that it's false, if you can.

    Maybe this has worked for you before, demanding indisputable evidence for every fiddly detail, hoping that your opponent takes the bait and gets bogged down in minutiae?

  • darawk 5 days ago

    > There's been enough evidence presented so far that I believe it's now on you to demonstrate that it's false, if you can.

    Zero evidence has been presented that the CIA targeted civilians intentionally. All you'd have to do to prove me wrong is link it, if it's already here.

    > Maybe this has worked for you before, demanding indisputable evidence for every fiddly detail, hoping that your opponent takes the bait and gets bogged down in minutiae?

    Maybe this has worked for you before? Where you insist evidence has been supplied elsewhere without ever providing any of your own?

  • darawk 5 days ago

    You think it is unethical to accidentally kill a single child in the fight against international terrorism?

  • drak0n1c 5 days ago

    The US in WW2 and Vietnam used binoculars and radio to make decisions on general areas that should be Napalm firebombed because that happened to be the most accurate technology available for sensing, communicating, and striking. We've come a long way - but why assume the current state of things is the ideal toolset to stop at? If you're upset at the status quo, why preserve it?

    Also, unfortunately other technologically advanced powers exist. Regardless of the desire for pacifist isolationism, Russia and China will continue to work on military technology, and it only takes a few decades of complacency to fall far behind.

  • marricks 5 days ago

    That is such a false dichotomy.

    Consider arming police officers with tasers. We were promised it would be an alternative to guns and help protect civilians but instead police officers use tasers a ton and still shoot people a ton as well.[1]

    There’s always the excuse new smarter technologies will save lives but it ends up the “safer” they are the lower the threshold to use.

    1. Da_chicken’s reply below has a good source!

  • da_chicken 5 days ago

    Research as shown that when police are armed with tasers, they will use them in situations where previously no violence would have been used at all. Additionally, tasers will be used not just to subdue an individual who is a threat, but also simply to punish those who fail to comply. Further, the police will ignore the safety limitations which would prohibit repeated use of a taser.

    You cannot escape the law of unintended consequences.

    https://www.alternet.org/story/149115/the_6_most_shocking_ca...

  • ntsplnkv2 5 days ago

    You can escape it if you actually think about the scenario on the ground.

    A taser can't replace a gun, it doesn't function like a gun, it's not as reliable as a gun, it doesn't have the range, etc.

    But it can be useful in lieu of physical force or if someone is resisting, which is what became its use case.

  • PavlovsCat 5 days ago

    > These men were able to give the counsel they gave because they were operating at an enormous psychological distance from the people who would be maimed and killed by the weapons systems that would result from the ideas they communicated to their sponsors. The lesson, therefore, is that the scientist and technologist must, by acts of will and of the imagination, actively strive to reduce such psychological distances, to counter the forces that tend to remove him from the consequences of his actions. He must -- it is as simple as this -- think of what he is actually doing.

    -- Joseph Weizenbaum in "Computer Power and Human Reason: From Judgment To Calculation" written in 1976, more timely than ever

  • babuskov 5 days ago

    > Would you consider drones and smart bombs bad when the alternative is carpet bombing?

    Weren't drones used to carefully select targets inside cities and other areas with civilians. I'm not sure carpet bombing is an alternative for those cases:

    "Carpet bombing of cities, towns, villages, or other areas containing a concentration of civilians is considered a war crime[5] as of the 1977 Protocol I of the Geneva Conventions." - source Wikipedia entry for Carpet Bombing

  • srtjstjsj 5 days ago

    That's irrelevant. There is no world police to stop the US from carpet bombing, nor would the US tolerate drone strikes against the USA as somehow acceptable.

  • andrepd 5 days ago

    >Would you consider drones and smart bombs bad when the alternative is carpet bombing?

    Because there are more courses of action other than "drone strike" and "carpet bombing".

  • ucaetano 5 days ago

    > Because there are more courses of action other than "drone strike" and "carpet bombing".

    Indeed, but those courses aren't always available, and war will happen in the way war happens.

    If not, your argument isn't about drones, it is about pacifism. That's like saying "I'll magically lift everyone out of the way" in the trolley problem. Sure, it is a nice thought, but it is not an answer to the question.

    I'll ask again: if the only two options were carpet bombing and smart bombs, which one would you choose?

    Don't run away from the question.

  • vladTheInhaler 5 days ago

    Taking issue with the problem statement isn't the same as running away from the question. You're presenting a false dichotomy.

    In some imaginary world where you are somehow being compelled to chose between a button that says "Drone Strike" and one that says "Carpet Bombing", obviously "Drone Strike" is the correct option. But, equally obviously, that is a terrible model for reality. In reality, the decision maker always has the option to not kill anybody at that time. Yes, always. There might be other consequences for that choice, but admitting that it exists isn't pacifism, it's just common sense.

  • kazen44 5 days ago

    smart bombs is the obvious answer, but your question is has a false pretense.

    Carpet bombing and a drone strike are not in the same "solution space", its like trying to tighten your shoelaces with your hands or with a 10 ton excevator.

  • ucaetano 5 days ago

    > Carpet bombing and a drone strike are not in the same "solution space", its like trying to tighten your shoelaces with your hands or with a 10 ton excevator.

    Oh, but they are (particularly because I'm not just including drone strikes, but smart bombs).

    Wanna destroy a factory, a power-plant, a bunker, a government office?

    In WW2, you'd just carpet-bomb the surrounding area and hope some bombs hit the target.

    Today, you deliver a payload to a specific part of it.

    Compare the bombing of Belgrade in the Balkan wars to any WW2 bombing run.

    There are two discussions in place:

    - How we make weapons more precise and limit collateral damage - How we reduce the need for weapons in the first place

    Both lead to a better situation than the status quo.

  • drb91 5 days ago

    > Would you consider drones and smart bombs bad when the alternative is carpet bombing?

    That’s a false dichotomy. You could do neither.

  • A2017U1 5 days ago

    > Would you consider drones and smart bombs bad when the alternative is carpet bombing?

    That's the only alternative?

  • 3131s 5 days ago

    > Would you consider drones and smart bombs bad when the alternative is carpet bombing?

    Typical apologetics. It actually is quite simple, it all comes down to money like most everything else. The American government let 9/11 happen (there is ample evidence of that, in case you don't know) so that American companies could profiteer off of the ensuing conflict and so that the American government could further its strategic interests in the middle east. It's mostly only moronic Americans who believe that there is any nuance in all of this.

  • nsalkmaar 5 days ago

    Technology here on HN is designed to discourage stating such obvious things. Talking about this discouragement is not productive. You get that X is cool echo chamber. Tech has great potential to do good but first people have to want to use it like that.

  • danharaj 5 days ago

    > Would you consider drones and smart bombs bad when the alternative is carpet bombing?

    No one was ever going to carpet bomb a wedding.

  • ucaetano 5 days ago

    > No one was ever going to carpet bomb a wedding.

    Not a wedding, indeed, an entire town, with possibly dozens of weddings happening at the same time. Plus hospitals, schools, etc.

    If you had to pick between carpet bombing and smart bombs, which one would you pick? (And consider you don't have a choice, like the trolley problem, you NEED to pick one).

  • mrguyorama 5 days ago

    >And consider you don't have a choice

    How do we not have a choice to NOT bomb a desert on the other side of the world?

  • openfuture 5 days ago

    Okay let's just assume I figured out a clever way around your constraints while still avoiding the answer you want us to give. Are you just going to add another constraint to hide from the truth?

    Can you at least accept that the burden of proof is on the guy who wants to go bomb random people not on the pacifists.

  • 3131s 5 days ago

    > And consider you don't have a choice, like the trolley problem, you NEED to pick one

    Can I choose to drop the bomb on Americans instead?

  • tome 5 days ago

    They've carpet bombed other places when they didn't have the alternative of a targeted strike at a wedding.

  • ameister14 5 days ago

    Really? When and where?

  • tome 5 days ago

    Throughout the 20th century across the globe.

  • ameister14 5 days ago

    Ah, I had assumed you were talking about any time in the last 30 years.

  • 5 days ago
    [deleted]
  • ryanmercer 5 days ago

    Operation Gomorrah which began on 24 July 1943 and lasted for 8 days and 7 nights. Hamburg, Germany.

    >killing 42,600 civilians and wounding 37,000 in Hamburg and virtually destroying most of the city.

    >The unusually warm weather and good conditions meant that the bombing was highly concentrated around the intended targets and also created a vortex and whirling updraft of super-heated air which created a 460 meter high tornado of fire.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bombing_of_Hamburg_in_World_Wa...

    ---

    17 January 1991 – 23 February 1991

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gulf_War_air_campaign

    >2,000–3,000 Iraqi civilians killed

    >10,000–12,000 killed

    >100,000 sorties, dropping 88,500 tons of bombs,

    >Coalition bombing raids destroyed Iraqi civilian infrastructure. 11 of Iraq's 20 major power stations and 119 substations were totally destroyed, while a further six major power stations were damaged.[18][19] At the end of the war, electricity production was at four percent of its pre-war levels. Bombs destroyed the utility of all major dams, most major pumping stations, and many sewage treatment plants, telecommunications equipment, port facilities, oil refineries and distribution, railroads and bridges were also destroyed.

    ---

    NATO bombing of Yugoslavia

    March 24, 1999 to June 10, 1999

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NATO_bombing_of_Yugoslavia

    >The bombing killed between 489 and 528 civilians, and destroyed bridges, industrial plants, public buildings, private businesses, as well as barracks and military installations.

    >In 2000, a year after the bombing ended, Group 17 published a survey dealing with damage and economic restoration. The report concluded that direct damage from the bombing totalled $3.8 billion, not including Kosovo, of which only 5% had been repaired at that time

    >In 2006, a group of economists from the G17 Plus party estimated the total economic losses resulting from the bombing were about $29.6 billion.

  • ameister14 5 days ago

    Neither the Gulf War air campaign nor the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia qualifies as a 'carpet bombing.' Both struck individually targeted strategic targets while attempting to minimize civilian casualties.

  • Spooky23 5 days ago

    See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bombing_of_Dresden_in_World_Wa...

    We're in a world where the destructive properties of a modern army are so extreme that combat has evolved/devolved to medieval like small scale/intensity battle. Instead of targeting economic output, social networks of individuals are targeted.

    People always seek effective ways to kill their enemies in conflict.

  • beambot 5 days ago

    Both of the listed examples involve governments. To first order, governments are created by groups of people to address issues that are larger than any one individual. (I.e. closer to "humanity" as a collective than you as an individual.)

    > enabling those who do not have humanity's best interest in their heart.

    This statement is all subject to your interpretation of "humanity's best interests". Not saying I disagree with your interpretation... Just saying: there are many interpretations, especially in other cultural bubbles.

  • samontar 5 days ago

    Those are government agencies you voted for. American citizens want leaders who bomb countries. Go vote a non-interventionist or isolationist if you want someone else.

    Face the truth. If you want no killing, Your enemy isn’t Google, it’s your neighbour.

  • cortesoft 5 days ago

    I mean, I did vote for someone who doesn't want to do those things.

    That person lost.

  • justicezyx 5 days ago

    Sure, then it's not Google's fault either.

  • ArchTypical 5 days ago

    > Face the truth. If you want no killing, Your enemy isn’t Google, it’s your neighbour.

    > it's not Google's fault either.

    Starting from a false truth, you can come to any conclusion. Google is responsible for choosing to enable immoral acts and pretending there are no fault actors is one of your faults.

  • justicezyx 5 days ago

    I said it before:

    - If you continue this line of thinking, your only option probably is to extinguish all human being.

  • andrepd 5 days ago

    Absolutely. There can be no protesting ANY immoral actions, because that means you must advocate for ending humanity /s.

  • Aunche 5 days ago

    I think the point is that it's not immoral because if it is immoral, then the only solution would be to end humanity.

  • justicezyx 5 days ago

    ...

    Enough said, enjoy your day.

  • samontar 5 days ago

    And yet you fund the killing with your taxes. You know they kill, you know they need money to build the killing machines, you give them money.

  • dta5003 5 days ago

    Have an option for me to withhold those taxes that doesn't involve more killing? Sign me up.

  • samontar 4 days ago

    Both you and Google are helping with the killing because it helps you make money. That’s okay. We all do terrible things for money.

    You can withhold taxes by dropping your income below the minimum threshold.

  • kazen44 5 days ago

    yes, but you cannot deny paying these taxes because you live at the wims of the tyranny of the majority.

    You could ofcourse proclaim not wanting to take part in said nation anymore and not pay the taxes, but then you would also loose out of well, the rest of society basically.

  • samontar 4 days ago

    All you have to do is live unemployed and take money from the government, thus draining it of killing money.

  • make3 5 days ago

    I'm a progressive, but there is no peace without being ready for war. I just hope we don't find out too late, and China has much better smart weaponry

  • knieveltech 5 days ago

    Quick question: in this hypothetical where China presents an existential threat to the US, what happens to the Chinese economy when they invade the largest consumer of their domestically produced goods and services?

  • TeMPOraL 5 days ago

    Gets redirected towards the war effort, suffers some problems after the war, and then recovers.

    Assuming isolated China vs. US war, there's still the whole Europe to manufacture trinkets for.

  • CM30 5 days ago

    Which countries in Europe would still buy Chinese goods if China were at war with the US?

    Maybe it's my memories of being taught about World War 1 and 2 speaking, but it seems more likely Europe would side with the US than China, and kinda unlikely they'd let both parties import goods as they please.

    The chances of it remaining an 'isolated' war where no one else gets involved would be low enough than action would probably cost China most of the European market along with the likes of Canada/Australia/etc.

  • TeMPOraL 5 days ago

    Well, the isolation assumption is a pretty weak one, but taking it, if China won, then why wouldn't Europe want to buy from them? Economics always beats hard feelings.

  • CM30 5 days ago

    If China won would assume Europe would stay out of the conflict while the US and China fought each other. A fight with China as the enemy would probably end up dragging in basically the entire 'Western' world.

    Of course, it's all pretty insane to speculate about, since:

    A: Most countries now seem like they're trying to avoid actual wars as much as possible, and most remaining issues seem to be sparked off more by extremist nutcases/cults than a country's army trying to invade or fight off another.

    B: The US, most of Europe, China, etc have nuclear weapons, so any actual war between any of them would probably end like everyone's worst fears about the Cold War made reality. Don't think there'd be much trade or economics left after that.

  • ntsplnkv2 5 days ago

    Essentially none of these big nations can lose.

    The US never has to surrender - they simply say we will use our nuclear weapons. These wars have no victor hence these wars have been replaced by proxy wars in various locations.

    That's why Russia now focuses solely on disrupting elections and cyber warfare-only from within can these nations be affected and weakened.

  • eiaoa 5 days ago

    >> I'm a progressive, but there is no peace without being ready for war. I just hope we don't find out too late, and China has much better smart weaponry

    > Quick question: in this hypothetical where China presents an existential threat to the US, what happens to the Chinese economy when they invade the largest consumer of their domestically produced goods and services?

    WWII was not bad for the US economy. The car plants were converted to build tanks and airplanes, then they were converted back when the war was over.

    I don't think China poses an existential military threat to the US itself in the medium term, but it does pose one to Taiwan and potentially some other countries in the region. Unfortunately, the main thing that contains that threat and maintains peace is US military superiority.

  • srtjstjsj 5 days ago

    China is a totalitarian state that is not accountable to the people of its economy.

  • marricks 5 days ago

    His statement is a wonderful PR side step of that issue. It’s meant to convey an understanding of the moral challenges of technology but with their support of the DoD it seems, well, words are wind.

  • 5 days ago
    [deleted]
  • virmundi 5 days ago

    You're making an assumption about best. What is best?

    Is it personal liberty within the confines of enough law to provide some semblance of stability? The US is straining with that and it is arguably the most free of the Western Nations. Before the EU apologists jump on, keep in mind the EU Human Rights Court ruled that no one is allowed to speak against Mohamed (https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/thr-esq/european-court-ind...). Gun violence appears to be leaving the ghettos and moving into more civilized neighborhoods.

    Is it an authoritarian power that feeds, houses, and medicates its population? China does a lot of this. Hunger is down dramatically. People are still largely free to go about their daily lives.

    Is it in-between? I don't know. The EU is starting to fray there. Nationalist movements are seeing that countries have to give up their current individual identities to conform with a Brussels/German worldview. Is this wrong? How are you to say?

    My whole point in all this is that you've alluded to some truth claim as an attack on Google. Can you a) clearly define your truth claim, at least to yourself, and b) say why it's more true than the Chinese view that people are sheep and need a shepard? The Left in the US holds this view to varying degrees. That's why we need all this regulation. No one should be free to buy plastic straws.

  • DanBC 5 days ago

    > Court ruled that no one is allowed to speak against Mohamed

    No they didn't. They said you're not allowed to incite religious hatred by focussing attention on one particular religious figure from one particular time when the practice was common.

    If that commentator is interested in paedophilia she will have made comments about the practice of child marriage among Christians -- something still happening in the US today. She did not mention any other region because she's not interested in attacking paedophilia, she's interested in attacking Muslims.

  • virmundi 5 days ago

    Her argument was cogent and to the point. In Islam Mohamed is the ideal man. You should emulate him as a result. You see in Pakistan younger brides as a result. We in the West call that pedophilia. She said that. Oops, stating theological facts are now tantamount to hate speech. Welcome to your free speech world, EU. War is Peace. Silence is speaking.

    The greater part of the ruling is that you can't say something that might incite to violence a 3rd party. If I say that Manchester is a terrible team, am I not at risk of loosing my free speech? Many of those footballer fans are violent, as shown by numerous riots. Clearly making them fussy is a risky thing. Am I liable if some adults fair to act rationally when the honor of their team, of which they are not personally members, is attacked? According to the EU court, maybe.

    Child marriage is not now, nor has it even been common in Christianity. There are fringe groups that endorse it, and they are rare. They are operating well outside of the bounds of the historic teachings of the church. This is not a no-true-scottsman argument. There are teachings of the churches throughout the ages. If someone behalves in a manner that countermands those teachings, they are an apostate (assuming they still claim fidelity to the great religion). You've created a false-dichotomy in order to remove the true issue here: as the West embraces Muslims with open arms, you're going to run afoul of cultural differences. The West can either say, "No, you many not mutilate a 9 year olds vagina and marry her!" Or it can say, "Sure, why not?" At present, the vanguard of the process such as Sweden, is already ruling on such unions [1]. It is a thorny issue, but the EU will do what it always does: capitulate to invading forces.

    https://www.quora.com/Did-Sweden-legalize-child-marriage-and...

  • mLuby 5 days ago

    Ensuring your citizens are safe, fed, housed, and healthy is the bare minimum for any government (Looking at you, SF). "Peace, land, bread", you know?

    But any time an entity is afraid to be challenged, it is selfishly choosing its own survival over the possibility that there exists a better provider for its citizens. That part is the "not best" part, and it's also the part Google is accused of helping with. If Google was secretly working with the PRC to improve Chinese citizens' medical care, there wouldn't be any concern.

  • virmundi 5 days ago

    How do you know that the entity isn't better than its people? The long term stability of governments correlates with general wellness. Technology helps make the government more stable.

    If 90% of the population's standard of living improves at the expense of the 10%, is that wrong? Where is the line? Even when a rising tide raises all boats, there are many who will still get swamped. Should we stop forward progression due to that?

  • tomp 5 days ago

    Does it? The government of North Korea is far more stable than the government of e.g. Slovenia. Still, I'd never switch countries from the latter to the former.

    (Well, maybe it correlates, but then I'd argue you're just optimising the wrong variable...)

  • mLuby 5 days ago

    Are you describing a situation where government A is objectively better for its citizens but they want government B (which wants to supplant A and is objectively worse) more than A for some reason?

    I'm not following how your second paragraph is connected to the question of governments protecting themselves at the expense of their citizens' well-being. It sounds like you're talking about the trolley problem, and tying that to some notion that we can halt 'progress'? What do you mean?

  • virmundi 5 days ago

    I’m saying it is not obvious that an authoritarian government that suppresses a minority for the betterment of the majority is bad.

  • tomp 5 days ago

    Technically, EHRC isn't part of the EU (it's part of the Council of Europe). I agree with your point though, I was terribly disappointed by that decision, and I think that all EU countries should quit EHRC immediately.

  • detaro 5 days ago

    Because the ECtHR decided that member states have (relatively) lots of freedom in how they regulate speech pertaining religion, instead of pushing through a rule centrally? Typically, people dislike european institutions for the opposite.

    GPs framing of this as "EU Human Rights Court ruled that no one is allowed to speak against Mohamed" is very misleading, the court ruled no such thing. (I still don't like how that case went, on all levels, but it's no-where near extreme as some people claim)

  • tomp 5 days ago

    Then what's the point of a centralized human rights court? "Well member states can decide whom to murder." Or maybe I just think that freedom of speech is a human right while EHRC does not.

  • detaro 5 days ago

    Freedom of Expression is a human right, but the Convention on Human Rights explicitly argues for restrictions of free speech in this section, and the court allowed countries to follow that. The countries are the ones that decided on that Convention, despite criticism of that specific part of it. The court works in the framework provided to it by the Convention, which is fairly clear on murder, less so on free speech. IMHO it would have been good to strengthen that somewhere in the 65 years since, but the countries haven't done so - and given the geographic reach of the convention, it seems unlikely to happen. Could maybe be done on an EU-level, or in a new sub-treaty.

    IMHO no need to go from "this treaty isn't as absolute on free speech as I'd like" to "what's the point of any of it then?".

  • nsedlet 5 days ago

    Agreed. Perhaps this is an unfair reading, but it feels like the implication is that if there aren't technological solutions to problems, then technology companies don't play an important role in those solutions.

    But Google has so much power to help, and in fact is better-positioned than almost any organization to help - and in fact has a duty to do so given that it helped create the problems. For instance, Youtube is one of the biggest sources of propaganda and uncivilized discourse there is.

  • Spooky23 5 days ago

    That's reductive argument. Who decides who is worthy enough to hold "humanity's best interests" at heart?

    That's a subjective judgement that depends on who, where and when you are. Kipling's vision of "humanity" and its interest is very different that Mao's, which is in turn very different from yours.

    Technology makes things more efficient, but doesn't change the act. Getting your head bashed in by a caveman, cut off by a 19th century cavalry sabre wielded by a horseman, or vaporized by an explosive shell has the same end result.

    Do you equate the person who whittled the caveman's club, raised the cavalryman's' horse or operated the supply train that transported the shell with Google?

  • fwip 5 days ago

    The company making bombs is the same as the company making software to deliver those bombs via drone.

    Both are working in service of making it easier for the government to kill people.

  • Aunche 5 days ago

    If that's the case, the person financing the bombs and war are to blame as well. You can't really get away with avoiding taxes, so you can get a pass on that one. However, you probably own a smartphone that was largely manufactured in China. Buying imported goods enables Chinese oppression much more than introducing a search engine that just maintains the status quo and siphons some money away from China.

  • lern_too_spel 5 days ago

    > and China to be more oppressive until its workers protested.

    No such product launched, so no enabling has occurred. You might be confusing Google with Apple here, but Apple's workers haven't protested, as far as we've heard.

  • vetinari 5 days ago

    DARPA and NSF MDDS grants were the money that kickstarted Google back at the Stanford University. Later, they took investments from another three-letter agencies.

    Is it any wonder they did what they did?

  • SquishyPanda23 5 days ago

    Part of me can't help but read this a little cynically.

    They're starting to articulate a shift away from Larry Page's idealistic view of making information universally accessible and useful and toward tempering expectations about what technology can do.

    After that they'll pivot increasingly toward a position that lets them justify the drone and censorship programs without the baggage of Page's original naivety.

    Again, that's an overly cynical take. But it's kind of hard to avoid reading that as a possibility.

  • yourbandsucks 5 days ago

    I see it differently. Achieving broad, idealistic goals requires careful and strategic thinking and that's what he's expressing here.

    I'd argue you're being overly naive rather than overly cynical -- real-world trade offs have downsides, and require deliberation. They're not solvable with sloganeering or absolute purity.

  • SquishyPanda23 5 days ago

    I'm not sure. He's specifically saying technology can't achieve idealistic goals, even with careful and strategic thinking.

    It requires "humanity" to achieve those goals. So if idealistic goals aren't achieved, it's not because Google did the wrong thing, it's because Google's users didn't do the right thing.

    So it's a diversion of responsibility away from Google, which frees them to take a less vision-directed and more financially-directed approach.

  • yourbandsucks 5 days ago

    Well, you're right that he's a CEO and of course any communication has been carefully calculated.

    But that doesn't mean that he's an empty vessel. It sounds like he's thinking about it and trying to weigh upsides against downsides, even if Google would be disproportionately blamed for the downsides.

  • pokemongoaway 5 days ago

    Not sure why you're tempering your position by calling it cynical. That's just a judgement. What evdience is there that it is cynical (and inaccurate)? Your analysis is in line with the trend, and few speak up without tempering their critiques. The rise of leftism makes no attempts at tempering it's effects - just like it did not in Russia or China.

  • Zarath 5 days ago

    A.k.a. we're a technology company so obviously we still need to believe this, but we're going to co-opt technoskepticism to pretend like the technology we create isn't part of the problem

  • 5 days ago
    [deleted]
  • Agathos 5 days ago

    Even in context, I think saying 'technology' as a shorthand for 'the particular technology Google is selling' is sloppy and lazy.

    But then I've long thought that about the whole 'technology sector' shorthand. As if construction, agriculture, manufacturing, medicine, etc. were not technologies.

  • mkirklions 5 days ago

    Thanks to my engineering abilities + Google + Reddit, I learned embedded systems and built a dishwasher that cleans and sets your dinner table.

    Until the world gets violent, technology is solving problems. Even then, it will be the politicians, not the programmers who caused this.

    EDIT: HN whales, I'll never understand your silence.

  • dumbfoundded 5 days ago

    Technology absolutely solves humanity's problems. There's pretty much no problem that given a large thoughtful effort, technology has not solved. The problem is that humanity is bad at choosing where to invest in technology. Our society has been set up so that orders of magnitude of more money is spent on advertising technology than clean energy, sanitation, sustainability, and ethical food production. Technology is not the problem.

    People act like somehow the technology has a mind and it wants us to be free or some bs. Silicon Valley isn't special. It's part of the same system to maximize short-term profit and the whimsical wants of billionaires. Technology would absolutely solve humanity's problems. That is if we put our money where our mouth's are.

  • voidhorse 5 days ago

    You're certainly correct that the major problem is social, economic, and structural, but I do think there are some technologies that are inherently tricky to justify regardless of the economic structures they arise in.

    The atomic bomb is one obvious example of a technology that seems to be inherently bad not only for humanity, but for biological life itself.

    You could argue that the problem of the bomb is more-so a problem of finding a bad technical solution to the problem of war, but it's quite difficult to think of a beneficial application of the atomic bomb, and thus, very difficult to justify its invention from a moral/valued standpoint.

    I think it's also a problem that we seem to treat technological progress as a glorified end for humanity—we find it very difficult, for whatever reason (perhaps economic as you point out) to have the courage to admit when something shouldn't be invented, even if it presumably can be. I think part of this stems from the co-opting of science by technology, and science's silly claim to be "value-free" and neutral—which has had some disastrous consequences. If I'm engaged in a value-free enterprise, I have no reason to stop and wonder what devastation or havoc my creation might one day wreak, I'm doing it, after all, in the name of science, or progress, of unreflective pursuit of an end I can't forsee.

  • albertgoeswoof 5 days ago

    The atomic bomb is a bad example- the reason we haven’t had ww3 is due to nuclear weapons. MAD basically means that no rational actor will fire a nuke at someone else who also has one, so we’re all paralysed and need to fight wars in other ways (the Cold War, proxy wars eg Syria, trade wars, cyber warfare, propaganda etc), all of which are less impactful than the world wars we would have without MAD

  • voidhorse 5 days ago

    But this is a counter factual argument and unsound. You don’t know we would have necessarily had more wars/ other world wars without deterrence theory kicking into effect. You’re also not accounting for the arguably inhumane weapons technologies that have been developed because of the deterrence situation, or that the bomb hasn’t prevented us from developing (eg, drones, and in some nations biological weapons). Furthermore, you’re really cheapening the lives of all of those who were victims to the bombs in Japan, and also diminishing the horrible humanitarian crises that have arisen out of the very proxy wars you’ve cited.

    Just because it has “prevented ww3” is not a very adequate or admirable reason to ignore the other negative effects that you yourself admit have been caused by the bomb. This is the fundamental weakness of utilitarianism, which turns human life into a commodity and effectively nothing more than a calculable value which is not a very dignified image of mankind.

    I’m open to arguments about the positive effects of the bomb, but not counter factual as that ignore the very real conditions of pain, war, and violence that are still occurring. The bomb’s effect as a deterrent being a positive thing is not very convincing—really the only thing it protects us from is the bomb itself, which wouldn’t be a problem had the bomb not been invented. Sure major economic powers are less gung-ho to engage in war directly but I’d argue the proxy wars they engage in now are more morally questionable then direct action against each other as they now use lesser developed countries as pawns of sorts, and the civilians and economies of those nations suffer while the big boys get to play an even “safer” (for them) little war game.

  • defterGoose 5 days ago

    "it's quite difficult to think of a beneficial application of the atomic bomb, and thus, very difficult to justify its invention from a moral/valued standpoint."

    Large, efficient explosives in space is an obvious one. We will need to crack open asteroids to mine them or blow one up so it doesn't collide with something eventually. I hope.

  • craftyguy 5 days ago

    > blow one up so it doesn't collide with something eventually.

    The one thing worse than a large asteroid heading for you is dozens of medium-sized ones and thousands of small ones all heading for you.

  • nafey 5 days ago

    This is often repeated but I doubt if this is true. There will be more surface area exposed to the atmosphere for one. Notice that this falls apart if you end up dividing it in millions of smaller pieces

  • babuskov 5 days ago

    It would probably be better to use the explosion to nudge its trajectory instead.

  • srtjstjsj 5 days ago

    That's simply not true.

  • craftyguy 5 days ago

    [citation needed]

  • TeMPOraL 5 days ago

    > You could argue that the problem of the bomb is more-so a problem of finding a bad technical solution to the problem of war, but it's quite difficult to think of a beneficial application of the atomic bomb, and thus, very difficult to justify its invention from a moral/valued standpoint.

    Well, we know why it was invented in the first place, so it's justification is based on what you think of the II World War, and United States' involvement in it.

    As for direct beneficial applications, those are after-the-fact, but two comes to mind:

    1) Nuclear propulsion as currently the only feasible way we know of to move large masses through interplanetary space in reasonable timeframes.

    2) Russians did some experiments with large-scale landscaping using nuclear bombs. Not sure what's the opinion of specialists in earth sciences, but it looks like a pretty useful tool to have.

  • voidhorse 5 days ago

    1.) As for the first point, propulsion is not the same as a bomb. Yes the mechanics are the same, but what this example points out to me is that the context and concept behind an invention is an important component of the invention itself. Most people would consider nuclear propulsion and a nuclear bomb to be entirely distinct inventions, even if the mechanics are the same. And indeed there are some mechanical/physical considerations that make the inventions distinct. Blast radius considerations, for instance, are entirely different if one is constructing a bomb (in which case they might be maximized instead of minimized, etc.) as are the considerations that go into constructing the container that will house the explosion/reaction.

    2.) As for point 2, Look into the nuclear fallout in Kazakstan (for which the soviet tests are responsible). Unless there have been significant developments in controlling the effects of nuclear bombing technology and more recent tests (which there may have been, idk) I would hardly think anyone familiar with the environmental side effects from those experiments would recommend it as a good landscaping tool.

    One could make a similar rebuttal as the above to space applications based on the environmental impacts nuclear bombs have on earth. We don't know much (afaik) about the negative side effects using nuclear bombs in space could have, even if they're useful asteroid detonators. Radiation takes quite a long time to dissipate. This would be one reason for dissuading its use in terraforming activity, at least without extensive consideration and analysis.

  • jbob2000 5 days ago

    Arguably, the dropping of the atomic bombs saved more lives in the long run by forcing the Japanese to surrender and end the war, full-stop.

    And arguably, nuclear weapons are keeping the world at peace. Sure, everyone has them pointed at each other, but it’s that threat that keeps us honest and peaceful. Just like how drivers in Chicago are courteous and never honk their horn - you’ll get shot if you drive like a dick.

  • jeremyjh 5 days ago

    > Arguably, the dropping of the atomic bombs saved more lives in the long run by forcing the Japanese to surrender and end the war, full-stop.

    This was a popular myth that Truman started. In fact, if we’d told the Japanese we would let them keep their emperor, they almost certainly would have surrendered. The Soviets had just entered the war in the Pacific and we wanted to end it before they captured much territory. Ironic since the Japanese had no intention to risk a Soviet occupation either.

  • manfredo 5 days ago

    This, in turn, is a popular myth often promulgated by apologists of the Empire of Japan (but also reiterated by others, I'm not saying you're among the former). The terms proposed by Japan during the latter period of the war included not only keeping the emperor, but also the existing government, immunity from war crimes trials, and keeping much of their colonial territory (namely, Korea).

    The Empire also planned to resist a speculated US and Soviet invasion as leverage to negotiate better peace terms. The expected Japanese casualties (that is, the Japanese military's own estimates) of this planned defense numbered in the tens of millions. The Japanese high command deemed this an acceptable number of casualties and went forward with the planned defense.

  • dragonwriter 5 days ago

    > In fact, if we’d told the Japanese we would let them keep their emperor, they almost certainly would have surrendered. The Soviets had just entered the war in the Pacific

    Er, no.

    The nuclear bombs were dropped on August 6 and August 9. The USSR announced it's declaration of war at 11pm Trans-Baikal time August 8, and began invasion at 12:01am August 9. So, at the commencement of the atomic bombing, the Soviets had not just entered the war.

    > and we wanted to end it before they captured much territory.

    So, what you are saying is that he Soviet entry into the war, absent the nuclear bombings, would put pressure on the US to grant Japan more lenient peace terms. Maybe that's true, but I'm not sure how that's an argument against the bombings.

  • jeremyjh 5 days ago

    What I'm saying is the Soviet entry into the war by itself was enough to push Japan into an (almost) unconditional surrender to the US, so the bombings were unnecessary. The timing was not coincidental, they had agreed on a Soviet entry within three months of V-day in Europe at Yalta. While Stalin probably didn't know about the bombing, Truman almost certainly knew the specific date of the invasion of Manchuria in advance and it likely established the timetable.

  • throw2016 5 days ago

    Dropping a nuclear bomb on a civilian population is an act of madness, doing it twice is is beyond ethical discourse.

    We are just 70 years out but these crimes against humanity will haunt for generations to come.

  • masonic 5 days ago

    Conventional bombing killed far more on the Japanese mainland than both atomic bombs combined did.

  • throw2016 5 days ago

    You do not see the difference between conventional warfare between armies and dropping untested new weapons on mass destruction on civilian populations?

    This is a deliberate calculated war crime. Hundreds of thousands of people were burned, suffocated and boiled to death in seconds let alone the radiation for no good reason. No educated person is unaware of the horror of launching a nuclear bomb on a civilian population. This is an act of evil.

    How many countries have used nuclear weapons? Why do you think nuclear weapons are controlled and treated as a separate class of weapons under strict control?

  • masonic 4 days ago

       between armies
    
    Conventional bombing was not limited to "armies" in WW2 at all, least of all by the Japanese.

    Again, there were more Japanese civilian deaths by conventional bombing than by both atomic bombs combined.

  • srtjstjsj 5 days ago

    Strange example. Chicago is famous for its rude drivers and honking. http://chicagoist.com/2009/11/27/ask_chicagoist_whats_up_wit...

  • rifung 5 days ago

    > The atomic bomb is one obvious example of a technology that seems to be inherently bad not only for humanity, but for biological life itself.

    Is it really inherently bad if it's just generating a lot of energy? Couldn't that technology be used to generate electricity?

  • craftyguy 5 days ago

    It could, but the primary reason it was developed was to generate a lot of energy to kill as many people as possible.

  • TeMPOraL 5 days ago

    Then be very careful to not extend the negativity over the entire field of nuclear physics. Atomic bomb is a very specific weapons technology. Mastery of fission and physics at atomic scale does great good already - from energy to medicine - and holds potential for even more.

  • craftyguy 5 days ago

    > Then be very careful to not extend the negativity over the entire field of nuclear physics

    I never did, perhaps you are replying to the wrong person? I was just pointing out that creating the atomic bomb was a very negative thing. Even though other many other fields in nuclear physics came about because of the bomb's development, there's nothing that says they couldn't have come about without developing an atomic bomb in the first place.

  • andrepd 5 days ago

    >Our society has been set up so that orders of magnitude of more money is spent on advertising technology than clean energy, sanitation, sustainability, and ethical food production.

    >It's part of the same system to maximize short-term profit and the whimsical wants of billionaires.

    Maybe we should organise our production, decision-making, control and incentives structures differently then, rather than sticking to an old, disastrously inefficient, enormously wasteful and unfair model. Maybe some democratic, social system, if I do make myself clear...

  • dumbfoundded 5 days ago

    Theoretically yes, but I think it's difficult to achieve in practice. We probably don't need massive systemic changes. These are the changes I think would massively improve the US:

    1. Campaign finance reform. Money != free speech. Citizens United is a disaster.

    2. Ranked voting in federal elections. A two-party system isn't that great.

    3. Get rid of the Electoral college & make Gerrymandering illegal.

    4. Shut the revolving door. I'm not sure about the best way to solve it so this is one proposal. Make appointed government officials sign a non-compete for the industry they work in. You shouldn't be able to go from Verizon Exec to FCC Chairman to Verizon Exec.

    5. Increase regulation for large companies. Reduce it for small companies. Facebook/Google should have similar regulatory standards compared traditional media companies.

  • zeroname 5 days ago

    > Technology absolutely solves humanity's problems. There's pretty much no problem that given a large thoughtful effort, technology has not solved. The problem is that humanity is bad at choosing where to invest in technology.

    In other words:

    Technology would solve humanity's problems, except it doesn't, because humanity is bad at choosing the right technologies.

    Or, more succinctly:

    TECHNOLOGY does not solve humanity's problems.

  • fwip 5 days ago

    You've entirely missed the point of the quote, and in fact, you're agreeing with him.

  • patrickaljord 5 days ago

    > Our society has been set up so that orders of magnitude of more money is spent on advertising technology than clean energy, sanitation, sustainability, and ethical food production. Technology is not the problem.

    The problem is that in order to invest in "clean energy, sanitation, sustainability, and ethical food production" you need a huge amount of capital. A good way to build capital is to invest into technologies that bring a lot of profit such as advertising, you can then use this capital to invest in more noble, less profitable technologies (in the short term at least) such as new medicines, better transportation etc which is what Google is doing to be fair.

  • dumbfoundded 5 days ago

    That's not true at all. Your thinking is dangerously wrong.

    If you feel that these companies like Google are in it to make humanity better, you really need a better understanding of people. Google, Exon Mobile, Phillip Morris, and every other public company work in virtually the same way. They maximize profit. If you work at one of these companies and you don't help the company make more money, see how long you keep your job. Google is just in a different market. You may respond with why does Google invest in self-driving cars or 4g weather balloons? Very simply, to make more money. I'm not saying you can't make money from doing things to help humanity or that you shouldn't but let's be very clear, Google is not a person with a conscious. It's a system set up to make money and it will disappear as soon as it stops.

    From a planning perspective, hoping large systematic changes will be brought corporations completely ignores history. The military has been behind virtually every significant technology at least in the United States. Even technologies created by corporations almost always have some sort of public assistance.

    Our problem now is that corporations are seeping deeper into the centralized decision-making network we call the government. The whole point of government is to have a centralized power that can avoid the local maximums of profit motive. Corporations, in their bid to continue their existence, erode our public institutions. If we really wanted to, we could have the government mobilize trillions of dollars to solve any problem we wished. Capital may be the problem for figuring out fusion but it's certainly not the problem for clean energy, sanitation, sustainability, and ethical food production.

  • andrepd 5 days ago

    An extremely lucid and concise comment. You are spot on, especially when it comes to how corporations have pushed to erode and corrupt the allegedly "democratic" government institutions.

  • sjg007 5 days ago

    One reason of many as to why we need campaign finance reform.

  • WalterBright 5 days ago

    > The military has been behind virtually every significant technology at least in the United States.

    Not jet engines, rocket engines, transistors, ethernet, search, cloud computing, encryption, agricultural revolution, airplanes, steelmaking, telephones, electric power grids, movies, electric light, LEDs, microprocessors, Linux, vaccines, railroads, automobiles, television, radio, food preservation, tractors, printing, vacuum tubes, microcomputers, on and on.

  • craftyguy 5 days ago

    > There's pretty much no problem that given a large thoughtful effort, technology has not solved.

    Technology has failed over and over to provide an accountable, verifiable, and secure election process.

  • dumbfoundded 5 days ago

    No it hasn't. Paper works great. So great in fact, many security experts recommend returning to a paper backup system (1). The reason we don't have a secure election process is because no one with the power to do anything has any incentive to fix it (a bit of an over-generalization).

    (1) https://www.cnn.com/2018/11/05/opinions/to-keep-our-votes-sa...

  • WalterBright 5 days ago

    Washington state has an excellent system where all ballots are on paper and are mailed in. It's not perfect, there was a gubernatorial election where they kept "recounting" and "finding" more ballots until the correct person won, but it's a lot harder to corrupt than those hackable electronic machines.

  • nickvanhoog 4 days ago

    That's the point. How does technology solve that incentive problem?

  • tomatotomato37 5 days ago

    Technology != Computers

    Mass producable pens and paper, decent locks, and nationwide logistic networks have made elections accountable, verifiable, and secure decades ago.

  • craftyguy 5 days ago

    > Technology != Computers

    In this context (an article written by Google's CEO, about technology on computers), it arguably does.

    By being pedantic, you might as well extend technology to everything up to, and including creating fire and making very basic hand tools. The article clearly isn't about that.

  • dumbfoundded 5 days ago

    You should google technology then. It obviously includes every tool and yes, even fire. Do you think rocket ships are technology?

    If you're saying computer technology has failed to solve election validity, that's a fair observation. It probably could if it was done correctly but the government has their best CS people working on spying on us while our elections are outsourced to idiots.

  • munificent 5 days ago

    The technology for elections is there. It's people who have failed to get it in use.

  • craftyguy 5 days ago

    > The technology for elections is there

    But not technology that guarantees what I mentioned previously.

    > It's people who have failed to get it in use.

    Some have, but some have resisted, for good reason too, because it fails to guarantee the things I mentioned previously.

  • tychomaz 5 days ago

    What about evil?

  • lordnacho 5 days ago

    I disagree. Technology is the very solution to our problems, the driver of social change.

    Why? Because our social instincts don't change terribly fast, being coded in DNA. Our hardware/OS is more or less what it was when the last ice age ended. Nobody has extra arms or hearts. People still use "look each other in the eye" and other old school tropes to decide if they are comfortable with a new person.

    The only thing that changes us is when some guy figures out you can melt certain ores and turn them into sharp tools. Or when some lady finds out the seeds she harvested from a certain grass can be nurtured into new plants.

    Innovations like this change the economy and allow us to organize society differently. People no longer need to spend a large part of the day washing clothes. These days you don't even need to know how to farm or hunt. That means you can do other stuff while still having your needs met.

    The only way to solve our social problems is to try to think of better ways use the planet. That's technology.

  • WhompingWindows 5 days ago

    "the only way to solve our social problems to think of "better" ways to use the planet?"

    I am skeptical. What if instead of designing new tools and new ways of exploiting natural resources, we also shifted our cultural mores and practices to encourage more efficiency and less waste? New shiny tools are great, but there's something to be said for maintaining what's already laid down and properly utilizing what's already available.

    There is a book on this dichotomy of environmentalists vs technologists, and how one group advocates efficiency/conservation and the other advocates innovation/change. I think both schools of thought are needed to move forward to the best outcome, wouldn't you agree?

  • lordnacho 5 days ago

    > encourage more efficiency and less waste

    That's exactly what we can do with technology. How are we going to clean up all the plastic? How do we build a house that doesn't leak heat? How do we avoid putting all that carbon in the air?

    The answer is always going to be this: someone thinks of a new way to arrange things in order to achieve these goals, in a way where we get more goodness (utility, health, happiness, etc) out of the same blue sphere.

    > There is a book on this dichotomy of environmentalists vs technologists, and how one group advocates efficiency/conservation and the other advocates innovation/change. I think both schools of thought are needed to move forward to the best outcome, wouldn't you agree?

    Yes, they are two sides of the same coin. When the tech exists, society (ie environmentalists in this case) can plausibly push for new behaviours.

  • zeroname 5 days ago

    > There is a book on this dichotomy of environmentalists vs technologists, and how one group advocates efficiency/conservation and the other advocates innovation/change. I think both schools of thought are needed to move forward to the best outcome, wouldn't you agree?

    Both technologists and environmentalists are subordinate to economics and human psychology. People don't care about the environment until they're wealthy enough to do so and they're deeply suspicious about new technology.

  • mikemotherwell 5 days ago

    "Technology" could mean silicon, or it could mean rules, or it could mean processes. It could mean lots of things. In this context, I think it means silicon and the internet, as opposed to, say, "melt certain ores".

    I think the context here is "computer software and the internet doesn't solve humanity".

  • starbeast 5 days ago

    Marketing led design processes don't solve humanity's problems particularly well.

    For anyone who would like ideas on how to get technology to do a better job of following needs, I'd strongly recommend the book 'Design For The Real World' by Victor Papeneck - https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/190560.Design_for_the_Re...

  • davebryand 5 days ago

    He's right. Humanity's problems are solved by humans solving themselves. Each one of us is a puzzle that gets solved in the same way--doing the inner work to quiet our mind and open our hearts. When enough of us are solved, humanity's problems will automatically solve themselves.

    Sundar seems to have done the inner work and understands this Truth. His "Cockroach Theory" is enlightening:

    I realized that, it is not the shouting of my father or my boss or my wife that disturbs me, but it's my inability to handle the disturbances caused by their shouting that disturbs me.

    It's not the traffic jams on the road that disturbs me, but my inability to handle the disturbance caused by the traffic jam that disturbs me.

    More than the problem, it's my reaction to the problem that creates chaos in my life.

    Lessons learnt from the story:

    I understood, I should not react in life. I should always respond.

    The women reacted, whereas the waiter responded.

    Reactions are always instinctive whereas responses are always well thought of.

    A beautiful way to understand............LIFE.

    Person who is HAPPY is not because Everything is RIGHT in his Life..

    He is HAPPY because his Attitude towards Everything in his Life is Right..!!

    https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/cockroach-theory-beautiful-sp...

  • yoavm 5 days ago

    What's the source of this text? I've looked it up and couldn't find one reliable source that shows that Pichai actually told this story once.

  • davebryand 5 days ago

    You're right, I can't find that he actually said this. Guess I'll have to pretend that he did. :)

  • abledon 5 days ago

    This! So much. Was skimming comments for someone to get to the Deeper issue

  • jillesvangurp 5 days ago

    I think I disagree here. Technology is very much a key part to solving most of humanity's problems. It always has been. Technology is what drives humanity forward. You can look at every empire in history and you will find that at their peak they had some kind of technical advantage over others. Conversely, their fall tends to be correlated with losing that edge.

    Silicon Valley thrives on startups spending money on all sorts of crazy stuff that accidentally succeeds once in a while, courtesy of plenty of investor cash to keep that going long enough to find out. The successes are wildly lucrative. There are probably more than a few future billion $ unicorns being nurtured to success in the valley.

    However, as soon as unicorns succeed they turn corporate. I think Google is a great example of this. IMHO there's a clear difference between what Google accomplished technically before and after their IPO. At this point it seems they are mostly milking tech that they built/acquired around or before 2005 (search/maps/youtube/android/ads/etc.). It's not that they are getting nothing done but they are accomplishing far less at far greater cost since they probably spend more than ever on R&D while having increasingly less to show for it. They take less risk with their projects and their comfort zone has shrunk to the point that they felt a need to park their more wacky initiatives under the alphabet umbrella, outside of Google. Of course, this may end up being a clever move if some of those efforts succeed. But I would look outside of Alphabet for likely unicorns.

    This CEO was employed to look after the cash cow while the Google founders focus on the more exciting stuff in Alphabet. He's not there to build the next Google, merely to keep the existing one going. Stagnation is not unique to Google. Many companies suffer from technical stagnation. Very few companies actually survive more than a few decades. In the tech world, things are trending down not up in terms of longevity.

  • hathawsh 5 days ago

    The accurate thing to say is that technology magnifies people's will. People use technology to spread both good and bad messages, to entice people to do better or worse things, to help others or to put them down. The spread of technology means more people have more power to do either good things or bad things. Therefore, it's on all of us to use technology for good and build technologies that help good work flourish.

  • pnathan 5 days ago

    This is a dramatic shift from the mid-90s viewpoint, which held an incredibly youthful optimism that has long fed into Google's culture. I want to bring that to one's attention.

    That said, this also reads like a thoughtful and mature viewpoint; nuanced and understanding the reality of humans colliding with sophisticated technology.

    Historians and philosophers have a lot to contribute to this world; I think there's an increasing awareness of that reality.

  • zeroname 5 days ago

    If you're at the top of Google, one of the most well-financed entities in the world and you actually understand all of its "high end" technologies to a reasonable degree, I think that's going to bring you back down to earth. Plus, coming from another culture brings in some perspective.

  • namank 5 days ago

    He's basically saying "guns don't kill people. People kill people".

    Replace "guns" with "technology".

  • jonnykim98 5 days ago

    Is code truly amoral? Technology is not morally neutral. It embodies a set of values, a framework and an ideology. For instance, Google search engines have intrinsic properties that make them inherently and irredeemably flawed, because they attempt to infer intellectual properties, such as the meaningful content of a web site, from physical properties. Search engines rely primarily on query term location and query term frequency, sometimes boosted by other computable factors, such as link popularity. These pseudo-intellectual technologies such as search engines and metasearchers, are not morally neutral they fundamentally alter exosomatic conditions of our being as sensemaking entities. We now have new intellectual technologies coming to ascendancy: information architecture, knowledge management and intelligent infrastructure. Now is the time to raise questions about their non neutrality instead of abdicating such responsibility - for if anyone has agency it's the firm that designs these algorithms.

  • golemotron 5 days ago

    Is a hammer amoral? You can bonk someone on the head with it or build a house. So the answer is yes.

  • jancsika 5 days ago

    You can't convincingly ransom a hospital on the other side of the Earth by swinging a hammer in your basement.

    You can't remotely exploit life-critical systems by studying which hammers were used to assemble them.

    You can't send streams of hammers through web browsers and persuade the user to mint coins in their spare time.

    You can't hammer a nail in a copper wire outside your beach house and catch a printer on fire in the midwest.

    I have no opinion on the question about the morality of code. But no answer to that question has anything to do with a hammer.

  • loceng 5 days ago

    Can someone explain if "right to be forgotten" laws and processes are equivalent to China's "wall" of censorship and processes?

  • ma2rten 5 days ago

    I will try to give an objective answer.

    They have a different underlying value system. Europe believes in individualism and privacy. China believes in collectivism and harmony.

    Right to be forgotten protects the individual. China's wall protects the government.

  • puzzle 5 days ago

    No matter the values and principles, no matter whether you agree with them or not, at the end of the day both positions are the law in the respective territories. You don't get to pick and choose which laws should be enforced. But you can choose which countries to do business in, of course.

  • Emma_Goldman 5 days ago

    'You don't get to pick and choose which laws should be enforced. But you can choose which countries to do business in, of course.'

    That's - if you'll excuse me - a very amoral and commercial way of looking at things: you don't belong to any society, and don't wish to exercise any control in any society, and the only way in which you can or should exercise your rights is in where you do business.

    It is precisely the rationale of democracy that you DO 'get to pick and choose which laws should be enforced' (to some extent).

  • puzzle 5 days ago

    I thought this whole conversation was in the context of companies like Google? I don't think companies are people. They definitely don't get to flout the laws as they see fit, but they have the right to operate in the markets they choose. Even lobbying makes me uneasy.

    As to the laws, yes, it's up to the citizens to shape and evolve them, through a referendum, elected official, regime change or whatever other way. But once they're signed, they're the law.

  • solidsnack9000 5 days ago

    It is precisely the rationale of democracy that you DO 'get to pick and choose which laws should be enforced' (to some extent).

    We can change the law formally, but rely on people following and enforcing that law in the absence of the formal change.

    It's not for companies or individuals to decide, unilaterally, what laws they will enforce or follow, in any society.

  • loceng 5 days ago

    Right, and a growing concern is understanding the dangers and unavoidable pitfalls of censorship - even if the people who want to implement the systems have good hearts and mean for the best, it can make it easier for bad actors to take those systems over and silence who and what they want - and it can be subtle; imagine if such censorship existed in the US, and the Trump administration had control over it - do you think we would have heard anything about the Khashoggi trap, torture, and assassination by bad actors in Saudi?

  • ma2rten 5 days ago

    I am not sure what you point is. It's not just a binary thing: we do business in the country or we don't. With any decision you have to see if it's in line with your values or not.

    For me personally, I am fine with passive censorship in China. My wife is Thai-Chinese so I can accept that there is a cultural difference. Where I would draw the line is when a company hands over information about individuals and then those individuals disappear with out any due process.

  • puzzle 5 days ago

    My point is that the law is the law. You can and should work to change laws if you don't like them. But, if you break a law that you don't agree with, there is no broadband in jail (as Eric Schmidt used to say).

  • ocdtrekkie 5 days ago

    They aren't. But Google really didn't want to obey a perfectly reasonable law in Europe, and absolutely wants to do business in China regardless of the social cost, and so is making a false equivalency to try and justify a morally bankrupt position.

    Europe is censoring personal and private information that harms ordinary citizens and is not of the public interest in order to protect European citizens. China is censoring information about the government, people's rights, and major historical events in order to control society. If you remove the absolutist "free speech is always right" position, the former is about protecting citizens and the latter is about protecting the government.

  • Nasrudith 5 days ago

    You are assuming the pretense is accurate about right to be forgotten. Never listen to claimed intentions but actions. Nigh every dictator claims to be "for the people". Actual right to be forgotten sees frequent use from conmen who don't want pesky things like their past crimes giving away the game. I would rather not have memory holes for one.

  • tdb7893 5 days ago

    Equivalent doesn't seem right but the idea is that they are down information that the government tells them to. The difference is just the government rationale for having it taken down (which clearly hugely important).

    I was curious about it and my interpretation of the official company stance is they they can either do their best to give the Chinese what the best search they can or not try to give them any help at all.

  • puzzle 5 days ago

    It's a slippery slope. It certainly gives fodder to China and other countries to say "Hey, look, you have the tools to censor results for X, Y and Z, because those laws say so. Why not ours?" The Canadian case was even worse than RTBF.

  • toomuchtodo 5 days ago

    "Technology can solve humanity's problems, we simply choose to wield it in a manner where it does not."

  • quaunaut 5 days ago

    > But there’s a deeper thing here, which is: Technology doesn’t solve humanity’s problems. It was always naïve to think so. Technology is an enabler, but humanity has to deal with humanity’s problems. I think we’re both over-reliant on technology as a way to solve things and probably, at this moment, over-indexing on technology as a source of all problems, too.

    The headline sounds so much like a copout, and to a degree, I think even the completed statement is. However, when you read the overall interview, I think I share a similar perspective:

    Right now, technology has clearly amplified everyone's voice to vaguely the same level, and as a result has exponentially amplified the voices of fringe groups. And as a society, we have to confront that. But it's a relatively recent problem, and our earliest attempts at solutions have been entirely based on technology, instead of a better mixture of people and technology.

    In other words, we need technology to enable people to better learn, then curate their world, and get involved in ways that show support and organization better than a Like/Retweet button.

    I think we're not far from tools like this being widely available, but we're just at the beginning of such a concept, and the overall reticence society now has to technology thanks to the irresponsible stewardship of its leaders will inhibit technology's ability to fix the problem, too.

  • TangoTrotFox 5 days ago

    What is the difference between today and 20,000 years ago? What's the difference between today and 20,000 years from now? There are of course social and political changes but the key thing that invariably is behind all progress and improvement in society is technology. For instance throughout our entire history as a species we not only had slavery but it often played a key role in day to day life. Then, as we hit the industrial revolution it suddenly began to be rapidly phased out of existence, world wide. By the time it was ended slavery had long since gone from a necessity to a luxury and was well on its way from a luxury to a burden. Technology obsoleted it and society followed. In areas where technology has not completely obsoleted slavery, it still exists to this day.

    Amusingly even Socrates predicted as much thousands of years ago, "For if every instrument could accomplish its own work, obeying or anticipating the will of others, like the statues of Daedalus, or the tripods of Hephaestus.. If, in like manner, the shuttle would weave and the plectrum touch the lyre without a hand to guide them, chief workmen would not want servants, nor masters slaves." Technology is, practically by definition, exactly what solves humanity's problems.

    Though to be fair, this headline is somewhat clickbaity. The article is not really suggesting that technology doesn't solve humanity's problems. But rather than Google, and to some degree the entirety of Silicon Valley, has entered its twilight phase. And as Google has surprisingly rapidly metamorphosized into the next e.g. Microsoft, it's not an unreasonable suggestion.

  • browsercoin 5 days ago

    he's right tho. It facilitates humanity's problems by giving those in the power to abuse with impunity, steroids.

    An entire generation of Chinese kids grew up thinking the Tianmen Square was a god damn festival singing "Wo Ai Beijing Tianmen"

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I6IVg_mpzIQ

  • jfasi 5 days ago

    A bit orthogonal to the point of this interview but:

    > When we follow “right to be forgotten” laws, we are censoring search results because we’re complying with the law. I’m committed to serving users in China. Whatever form it takes, I actually don’t know the answer.

    This is an important point: Google has a lot to offer Chinese users. From providing a trusted search engine in a context where people still trust foreign products over Chinese ones, to simple access to its services which, let's be honest, are pretty solid for the average user. It's fair to criticize the company for trying to find a way to access an environment that will almost inevitably demand some degree of censorship, but it overlooks the real good that that such a presence would deliver.

    Much of the criticism I hear of Google in this case centers on their presumed willingness to tolerate censorship. Pichai makes a good point here: complying with some degree of censorship imposed by a regime is just the cost of doing business in an international setting. No one is howling for Google to pull out of Europe after the ridiculous "right to be forgotten" censorship ruling. You can quibble about where to draw the line; censorship out of a misplaced desire to protect privacy and censorship to prop up a repressive, authoritarian regime are far from equivalent, but in either case it's a cost-benefit analysis with principles on one side and the potential gains for users on the other. This quote suggests Pichai hasn't yet found the best way to do that, or even that he ever will.

    And to those cynics out there who will throw out thirst for profits, I say: if money were as strong a motivation for Google as y'all seem to think it is, Google would have never left China to begin with. They (full disclosure, we) lost tremendous leverage in that market when it became obvious that operating in China was not sustainable.

  • vertline3 5 days ago

    I knee-jerk want to say this guy is bad for censorship, surveillance and so on, but I think he is sort of like Roger Goodell, commissioner of the NFL, he is there to take the unpopular choices so owners can get wealthier without responsibilty.

  • vijay_n 5 days ago

    Technology when in hands of Google certainly won't solve any sort of problems, they may pretend to you that they are solving problems but they will be carving you inside out from the other end.. So one or other way, truth came out ;)

  • sudeepj 5 days ago

    What are humanity's problem exactly? Every era of humans had different list of problems. Problems today (climate change, nuclear weapons, etc) are very different than say 1000-1500 years ago.

    Technology definitely solves lot of problems and some tech enables to scale the solutions (e.g. discovery of antibiotics and tech to mass produce them). But then it gives rise to new set of problems which are much harder to solve. The harder the problems get more collaboration and working together is needed at global scale, which itself is very hard. In this sense, tech can only go so far.

  • sullyj3 5 days ago

    Not to be cynical, but there's enormous PR pressure on Google and Sunday Pichai specifically to make this their opinion. Widespread public opinion is turning against silicon valley, and even technological advancement more generally, like a kind of mini-second-postmodernism.

    For sure silicon valley has some serious problems, but humanity is a lot better off generally than it was a few centuries ago, and the reason isn't because we all became nicer people. Discounting technology as a driver of human flourishing is a grave mistake.

  • solidsnack9000 5 days ago

    ...and the reason isn't because we all became nicer people.

    We did become better governed. Not unrelated to technology but not directly a result of it, either.

  • nicklaf 5 days ago

    "Technology is neither good nor bad; nor is it neutral." -Melvin Kranzberg

    What is bad are the neutral to bad actors who propagate technology, without planning or caring for its unintended consequences.

    Technology is an amplifier, and like other amplifiers humans build, it is far easier boost some existing signal when you abdicate yourself from the goal of also maintaining the integrity of the signal: sure, you can get more power if you don't care about noise. In fact, building a perfect amplifier of arbitrary power is probably impossible.

  • gallerdude 5 days ago

    I think technology is all about giving us more degrees of freedom. For a familiar example, video games can provide vastly more experiences as processing power marches on. But this is far from limited to computer-adjacent things.

    Facebook gives a lot more degrees of freedom in relationships with other people, YouTube and blogs and reddit give content creators the most meritocratic markets to have ever existed, the camera on your phone is better and more portable than 99% of old cameras.

  • Emma_Goldman 5 days ago

    You are confusing 'freedom' and 'power'.

    On the most popular analysis, to be free is to be deprived of a personal power which one has, e.g. for some force to interfere and stop you from exercising your capacity for speech.

    We cannot have been unfree to use facebook before the invention of facebook because we never had that power, and because it is not a personal power, but an instrumental power outside of our person.

  • lappet 5 days ago

    I agree with the quote from the article. Think of technology as a tool. If you take email, for example, you can use it for pretty much anything - it solves the problem of communication. But it doesn't inherently solve poverty, racism, inequality or any social problem - it could be used to do that, or it could be used to make them worse. The growth of social media has brought people together for better or for worse.

  • ThomPete 5 days ago

    Technology is a natural extension of humans, so of course, it doesn't solve our problems it's part of our problems and our solutions.

  • lgleason 5 days ago

    The last thing I want is a un-elected, for profit technology company that is more powerful than many small countries moralizing to the world....especially by banning/silencing those it deems to not be "pure enough" for it's platform. On the plus side success tends to breed failure and I think it is beginning to head in that direction.

  • asabjorn 5 days ago

    That is only because technology is build upon science, which captures the belief in a rational God of Christianity that it sprung out of and doesn't capture the ethical aspects. It is a somewhat problematic aspect that anything non-ethical has increased leverage arguably at a much quicker rate than our ability to manipulate the material aspects of our world.

  • bitL 5 days ago

    So technology is turning into a social/philosophical amplifier now; historically any disputes from large or even small philosophical differences were resolved through wars/murders (and it's all going to be about philosophy in an "abundance society" with its surrounding politics), so I can't wait to see what future holds...

  • agumonkey 5 days ago

    It's becoming the new cultural infrastructure.

  • hartator 5 days ago

    If you define “Technology” by having better means to alter the world, you can’t be further from the truth.

  • agumonkey 5 days ago

    Good to hear. Now we can do real work

  • benologist 5 days ago

    I think he means tech companies perversely hoarding hundreds of billions of dollars even while they avoid tax obligations all over the world doesn't solve humanity's problems.

    But as Bill Gates shows, a lot of money clearly can solve many of humanity's problems.

  • ryanmercer 5 days ago

    It creates a lot of them

    - microplastics

    - co2/global warming

    - an increase in cancer from use of various radiation/chemical pollutants

    - rapid transmission of disease via air travel and automobile travel

    - all sorts of negative consequences from the rise and widespread adoption of social media (addiction, depression, bullying, terrorist recruitment, easier avenues for committing fraud, etc)

    Technology is a tool like any other, can be a benefit and a curse. A gun can provide recreation, can put food on the table but at the same time can be used to murder. Dynamite allowed much more efficient (and safer) mining but it also showed that there was the possibility of far more stable explosives than black powder and nitroglycerin which almost certainly directly resulted in many other explosives, like TNT, being developed and used to wage war.

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  • drasticmeasures 5 days ago

    Maybe Google's failure to not make the world worse is being spun into an argument on how all technology has its benefits and evils, but the social benefits from Google's tech appear to be outweighed by its social malefices.

  • auslander 5 days ago

    ... but it does solves our shareholder's ones.

  • qwerty456127 5 days ago

    But it can be used for that. It's just a tool.

  • WalterBright 5 days ago

    > Technology doesn’t solve humanity’s problems.

    But it does. Vaccinations, for example, have solved humanity's smallpox problems. Technology has solved all kinds of medical problems, it has solved the famine problem, and on and on.

  • buboard 5 days ago

    I think the next phrase is more interesting:

    > we are probably, at this moment, over-indexing on technology as a source of all problems, too

    A lot of the real changes in the world (immigration, cultural fragmentation, overreaching governmental power) have been masked by the continuous media infatuation with "social media". While they help people deal with these changes, these media are not the source of good and bad things, people are. From the euphimistically-called arab spring to Trump, social media have been fingerpointed, while ignoring the actual background forces which cause these changes.

  • brianolson 5 days ago

    'Technology' is kinda definitionally something that humans created to solve a problem. I suspect 'big business capitalism' is driving us to solve the wrong problems sometimes.

  • zackmorris 5 days ago

    Just for fun, here are the top 10 problems I deal with every day. Are there technologies that solve these? If not, why?

    1. Getting up in the morning earlier than my body wants to. I think I need to go to bed earlier but find myself watching TV or surfing social media/news.

    2. Much of my work consists of repairing technical debt from stuff done 3-5 years ago with the best of intentions. There appears to be more money in this than architecting new software.

    3. For lunch I go home and make a sandwich. This may very well be the highlight of my day. Is there a sandwich making machine?

    4. I go back to work and work later than expected, usually leaving around 7 PM. The timer says I got 6 billable hours in, but I spent a day to do it. Is there technology that makes billable hours work better or is my efficiency really 50% or whatever. I don't know.

    5. I go to the gym 5 days a week for 1.5 to 2 hours which includes 0.5 hours of cardio. I'm getting stronger but generally always look the same, and so does everybody else. I've been doing this for 20 years.

    6. I go to the store on the way home and always get the same things. I could maybe set up some kind of delivery service. I worry that automation will put grocery stores out of business someday but am sick of going to the store constantly.

    7. I drink a beer and watch Netflix all night. This is awesome. But is this the pinnacle of civilization? I don't know.

    8. I see members of my family roughly once per week or less. They all live within 50 miles. Time becomes an inexorable march of lost days, each lost day growing more pressing in my mind as I fall asleep each night. The future implications of this are too painful to contemplate, so thoughts are troubled and fleeting.

    9. I started a TODO list of inventions, projects I'd like to work on, etc. I stopped when it reached roughly 200 items. That was a decade ago, and I'd be surprised if more than a handful of items have been crossed off. Is there some kind of a machine that can lower my obligations each day to perhaps 2-4 hours so I can work on the things that might actually help the world? Or is this vanity, is it better to wait for them to spring themselves into existence within 2 weeks or 2 years, sometimes by just mentioning them on the internet?

    10. Weekends are the hardest. The yawning mouth of obligation to family, friends and home maintenance stretches like a tunnel to infinity from which no light can be seen brimming from its depths. Holidays become a 2-3 month marathon of reactionary mode optimizing of the things that must be done like last year. A point is reached at which the distraction of daily minutia frees the mind from worrying about the things that will never be. As if all the technology in the world led to a place of maximum distraction, dilution and ineffectualism, each layer cementing the exhaustion beneath the one before. Where is the technology that gives me the time, that pays me the money so that I don't have to run the rat race anymore? If that doesn't exist, then is what we have now really technology?

  • voidhorse 5 days ago

    Technology solves some problems. It also creates some problems. The fundamental issue lies in the fact that we've lost sight of the ends technology is supposed to be in service of, and the development of technology for technology's sake (or more often, for economy's sake) has become the unconscious, inarticulate end of the world's major players.

    As Sundar states, it is not that technology in itself is, in its essence, problematic, nor has it become the source of all humanitarian issues. The issue is an apparent incapacity or unwillingness on the part of most of the participants in the technological sphere to question the ideologies that underlie the development and deployment of particular technologies. Compound this with technology's tight coupling to the prevailing global economic structure and you're dealing with an aspect of human life that is as thorny and difficult to comprehend as it is constitutive of modern existence.

    Here's a question: to what extent do algorithms mirror human reasoning and to what extent does human reasoning (at the macro level of social patterns) begin to mirror the predominant algorithms in use today? One's exposure to particular phenomena in a systems context is more or less dictated by the algorithms and structures the system employs (its rules and ontology). This is why an overly technified approach to social problems, such as politics etc., reduces the depth of social understanding and interaction. Because technical systems ultimately have to serve economic ends, whatever moral or social ends they might serve are eclipsed.

    Social technologies are geared toward keeping users happy or blasting them with advertisements because doing so serves the economic ends necessary to keep said technologies functioning. Unfortunately, keeping users happy is often counteractive to other ends which we might reasonably say rest on morally and socially superior ground. Individual experience becomes systematic and "algorithmic" to the extent that the only inputs that remain in a grossly technological society are filtered through fixed patterns of technological interaction.

    Twitter's character limitations, for instance, not only affect the system of twitter itself but conspire with its popularity as a means of social interaction to place strictures and limits on the very nature of modern social interaction. Thought, so often subject to truncated expression through mediums like Twitter, itself becomes truncated. Dialogue, which is given no space on social media platforms where people "comment" and "react" but never discuss begins to disappear as a meaningful, commonplace social practice. Thoughts and opinions are radicalized and tribalized. We participate in fixed echo chambers comprised of fellow individuals whose membership was not determined through a complex social process, but rather through an algorithmic process, which dumbs down the quality, depth, and sophistication of group formation and interaction.

    Systems originate as expedients to serve some historical end and soon, by extension and unreflective adoption, dictate behavior, and dictate the ends.

  • viach 5 days ago

    Well, but at least technology makes these problems less annoying.

  • transpy 5 days ago

    Specially when your bedroom light fail because of bad wifi or when your roomba's AI doesn't recognize your cute dog's poop.

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  • krmboya 5 days ago

    I'm likely to get some downvotes for posting this, but the title reminds me of this talk [1] by the well known man called Billy Graham. The three problems technology cannot solve:

    - Human evil

    - Human suffering

    - Death

    [1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=90mj79GqWhc

  • phamjamstudio 5 days ago

    It was a good talk worth sharing :)

  • Glennross 5 days ago

    (Please try to respect the netiquette when voting.)

    Empty words by Sundar Pichai employed to achieve a desired effect in Google's benefit.

    The airplane is an example of a technology that has brought us closer together and helped advance the ideal of an interconnected global "village" and which I'm contrasting with the promise made for Google's products -- but don't get hung up on my example, because my argument is directed at Google.

    Maybe it's just Google's tech that has failed to deliver on its promise for a better world.

  • rcMgD2BwE72F 5 days ago

    These might be empty words in Sundar Pichai's mouth, but the underlying idea is not: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pharmakon_(philosophy)

    It's time for Silicon Valley (I actually mean supporter's of https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientism actually) to learn what Classical Greeks discovered a long time ago.

  • dna_polymerase 5 days ago

    Could you elaborate on the Pharmakon in this context or point me at any resources to get a better understanding of it?

  • rcMgD2BwE72F 4 days ago

    What makes a remedy a _good_ thing isn't the thing itself but the way it is used. That's therapeutics. A badly used remedy can easily become poisonous. It's the same with _any_ technology, e.g the Internet, smartphones, IA…

    I'd recommend reading Bernard Stiegler, a French philosopher whose work has yet to been translated to English though (as I just discovered). I think this English interview might be a good introduction: http://krisis.eu/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/krisis-2011-1-05....

    Note that he often gets political but it's really worth it though if you're interested in the way technology is being designed and adopted by mankind (he's also focused on the Anthropocene but that's another topic). His annual conferences at Pompidou Centre / IRI (specially the ones about IA – https://enmi-conf.org/wp/enmi18/, in French unfortunately). I'd recommend his seminaries on philosophy (via his School of philosophy http://pharmakon.fr/wordpress/le-projet/the-school-of-philos... and via the Ars Industrialis non-profit) but they aren't yet translated. Again, sorry for that.

  • sudhirj 5 days ago

    The airplane is what enabled delivery of both nuclear bombs, as well as atrocities against the population in Vietnam and Syria.

    All technology has no inherent moral compass, and allows for both desirable and undesirable effects, often in tandem.

    Google has done more to make information accessible than any other company, and by extension has also done more to make misinformation accessible.

    It takes a moral compass to use technology morally and ethically. There simply isn't a substitute, and technology itself will not provide one.

  • ryanmercer 5 days ago

    >The airplane is what enabled delivery of both nuclear bombs, as well as atrocities against the population in Vietnam and Syria.

    And if used long enough, will allow for rapid regional/global transmission of an epidemic/pandemic. The World of Warcraft 'Corrupted Blood incident' is actually a virtual example of this that shows just how quickly something highly contagious could spread in the real world https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corrupted_Blood_incident .

    But at the same time it allows things like getting medical diagnostic agents that have a usable life of a day or less to get where they need to be, donor organs to be moved quickly to recipients, etc.

  • Benjammer 5 days ago

    He is both implying that "Technology" === Google, and that Google shouldn't be held accountable for any human problems.

  • Glennross 5 days ago

    (Please respect netiquette.)

    Sundar Pichai of Google must also have Google in his mind when he speaks about technology.

    Google is responsible for its actions.

  • Emma_Goldman 5 days ago

    The aeroplane has also made the world a far more insecure place (e.g. the UK was protected from contintental Europe by the English channel and her navy before the advent of the air-age) and a far more dangerous place (e.g. look at WW2, the dropping the atom bombs, the Vietnam War).

    It it also, ahem, playing a leading role in our environmental self-destruction.

  • DiffEq 5 days ago

    You could say that about a lot of things, telephones, radio, cars, trains, etc. These, with the plane, have been used for great things for sure. But these tools have also been used for terrible destruction. So much so that Churchill lamented the existence of the airplane.

  • paganel 5 days ago

    > global "village": the airplane.

    That technology has also allowed for bad things like Guernica, Nagasaki&Hiroshima and the napalm fields of the Vietnam War.

  • hinkley 5 days ago

    Let me tell you about the time they wanted to put my software for commercial jets on a military plane... I bowed out and my software is purely safety related, but I’m sure it’s out there carrying around guns and bombs and military vehicles.