Threats to Innovation Are Everywhere

A panel titled
Rob Hof

A panel titled "Is Technology Making Us Safer?" at the AlwaysOn Innovation Summit last week was thought-provoking enough that, well, I had to think about it awhile. Moderated by Paul Saffo of the Institute for the Future, it featured a cranky George Gilder predicting that technology will solve everything as long as government butts out; a morose Bill Joy, the former Sun chief scientist and now Kleiner Perkins partner, whose current worry is that a nutcase will unleash a global pandemic by letting loose a genetically modified virus of some kind; and Jaron Lanier, who understandably seemed to be tired of hearing about how he coined the term virtual reality.

Anyway, while the fireworks were entertaining, as some writers noted, what sticks with me is Lanier's concern about the future of science and technology, especially in the U.S. He thinks the New Age Left, the Christian Right, and short-sighted corporations and government are all combining to reduce investment in science research. I hadn't thought of all those groups having much of anything in common, but I wonder if he's on to something. What do you think?

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