[iDC] Discussion: The Edupunks' Guide

Simon Biggs simon at littlepig.org.uk
Tue Aug 9 10:39:25 UTC 2011

Hi John

On GM and nuclear power I generally agree with you John. However, I am not against nuclear power because I am against nuclear technology. I am happy for nuclear research to be undertaken. I am against the commercial and military exploitation of such technology, in the first instance because of nuclear power's contribution to the weapons cycle and nuclear waste and in the second instance because nuclear weapons are part of the problem, not the solution.

As for GM - I have no problem with the technology itself nor with research undertaken into it. Nor do I have a problem with research into the human genome, smart implants, nano-systems or other emergent technologies. I am however against the commercialisation of such technologies, due to the manner in which it locks farmers (and others) into a controlled loop economic model controlled by a small number of multinationals. This is not a question of the technology but the socio-economic context in which it is applied. Therefore this is about politics, not science.

The danger of being against a technology per se is that we risk a Luddite reaction that may serve us up to the dangerous forces gaining traction in the US and elsewhere - the Tea Party, religious cranks, creationists and other dangerously ignorant groups. It might be possible to not take sides in this argument (that may become a war) and keep one's hands (seemingly) clean. But is it wise?



On 9 Aug 2011, at 02:31, john sobol wrote:

> On 8-Aug-11, at 2:34 PM, Simon Biggs wrote:
>> I will sustain my question concerning how the model Anya proposes  
>> goes beyond the instrumental (satisfying the immediate learning  
>> needs of the student) and offers a means to build the sophisticated  
>> and large scale knowledge making platform we require on a planet as  
>> large and diverse as ours. I do not see this in her argument. If  
>> Anya's model was generally implemented I think we would be looking  
>> at a regressive situation. In this respect I think her proposal is  
>> well motivated but naive.
> Hi Simon,
> it is in my opinion gravely naive on your part to assume that on a  
> planet as large and diverse as ours we 'require' the sophisticated  
> and large scale knowledge making platform that is 'academic  
> research'. On the contrary, in light of Fukushima and the global  
> climate cataclysm and the overall assault on our bio-diversity being  
> driven by PhDs in and out of university, it should be clear that  
> radical changes are required to save us from an unsustainable  
> economic infrastructure fuelled by the very research culture you  
> champion. Not that very useful work isn't being done. But useful -  
> ultimately - to whom?
> You mentioned Peter Higgs and his work on the 'boson'. Now, I do not  
> know the man personally, much less anything substantial about  
> theoretical physics. He is obviously quite brilliant and he may also  
> be an absolutely great guy. But I do note on his wikipedia page the  
> following:
> "Higgs was a CND activist while in London and later in Edinburgh, but  
> resigned his membership when the group extended its remit from  
> campaigning against nuclear weapons to campaigning against nuclear  
> power too. He was a Greenpeace member until the group opposed  
> genetically modified organisms."
> It is a free world (for some of us) and Peter Higgs can think what he  
> likes. But by the same token it is my opinion that blind and  
> unwarranted faith in the 'need' for genetically modified foods and  
> nuclear power is the blind spot in 'your' model, Simon. And given the  
> choice between the two pedagogies under consideration - and taking  
> into account the almost certain knowledge that sooner rather than  
> later the well-educated TEPCOs and Monsantos of the world are going  
> to do us all in - I prefer to take my chances with the alternative in  
> the rather desperate hope that there may be time to change a few  
> things that matter before it is too late.
> js
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Simon Biggs | simon at littlepig.org.uk | www.littlepig.org.uk

s.biggs at ed.ac.uk | Edinburgh College of Art | University of Edinburgh
www.eca.ac.uk/circle | www.elmcip.net | www.movingtargets.co.uk

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