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Reflections on 25 years in technology, ethics, and law
Shackleton never made it to the South Pole. Amundson and Scott made it, but Shackleton’s perseverance, and his rescue of the crew of the Endurance, remains an epic adventure at the cusp of discovery. Three people perished on Shackleton’s various adventures. Scott and three of his crew died in reaching the pole. For years my friend Bill and I have debated the nature of these men who advanced science in one of the last earthly frontiers, but whose hubris caused others to die in their pursuits. I maintain that Scott’s successful tragedy is starkly contrasted with Shackelton’s failures, and the measure of the men is contained in these competing accounts. Shackelton’s adventures were recounted to awestruck audiences on his return. No one was left to recount Scott’s last voyage. Shackleton risked his life to bring all of the crew of Endurance home.
For the past 25 years I have been on adventures in tech, law, science, and ethics. Nothing quite so rugged or dangerous as those of polar explorers, but regardless, my journeys have taken me around the world, exposed me to remarkable characters, heroes, leaders, frauds and scoundrels, and given me an insight here and there to the nature of our 21st century progress and occasional regress. Seventeen years ago I began my first weblog “The Weblog at the End of The World,” devoted mostly to the political landscape at the time. Having been a devoted humanist and technocrat, mesmerized by the remarkable progress we made in the 1990s, that blog reflects my own childhood dreams of technical and political progress marching hand in hand against the backdrop of needless war and regressive politics. The first 4 years of the 21st century were, as for many, a shock and a let-down for me. Nonetheless, we persisted, didn’t we? And there have been bigger letdowns, and not a small bit of progress in between.
I will reflect here on my adventures, having authored and edited a dozen books and over 100 chapters and articles since, the audience I seek here is broader than academic journals. If there is an overarching theme to the past 25 years of my scattered biography it is a continued embrace of empiricism, reason, logic, and facts. In sum: I don’t tolerate bullshit. At times this has earned me enemies, and I expect what I reveal and discuss in these posts will do likewise. I’ve seen a lot of bullshit. Nonsense abounds, a bit more it seems each year, and it ebbs and flows in our culture in waves. Whether we are in for a sea-change in the degree of bullshit and in which direction remains to be seen. My dear hope is that we are about to experience the age of enlightenment guided by reason and science for which we are dearly overdue. I hope these posts, which will range in topics about which I have had some empirical connection and experience, will provide whatever slight impetus I can provide to impel us in that direction.
If you are reading this, it’s likely our paths have crossed already. Please disregard if you have no interest in these musings, and forgive me. Otherwise, I thank you for following. I will strive to provide whatever slight insight I can, couched in reflections of my experiences, weekly.
(Next week’s post: The Rise and Fall of the Dot-Commons)
David Koepsell, Mexico City, Mexico, Jan 3, 2021