Further, on nanotech

ImageIt’s a popular sentiment, I suppose, and one that’s been around for quite some time. This version edging toward an extreme, but not without sturdy logic.

The religion of economics provides an idolatry of rapid change, unaffected by the elementary truism that a change which is not unquestionable improvement is a doubtful blessing. The burden of proof is placed on those who take the “ecological viewpoint”: unless they can produce evidence of marked injury to man, the change will proceed. Common sense, on the contrary, would suggest that the burden of proof should lie on the man who wants to introduce a change; he has to demonstrate that there cannot be any damaging consequences. But this would take too much time, and would therefore be uneconomic. Ecology, indeed, ought to be a compulsory subject for all economists, whether professionals or laymen, as this might serve to restore at least a modicum of balance. For ecology holds that an environmental setting developed over millions of years must be considered to have some merit. Anything so complicated as a planet, inhabited by more than a million and a half species of plants and animals, all of them living together in a more or less balanced equilibrium in which they continuously use and re-use the same molecules of the soil and air, cannot be improved by aimless and uninformed tinkering. All changes in a complex mechanism involve some risk and should be undertaken only after careful study of all the facts available. Changes should be made on a small scale so as to provide a test before they are widely applied. When information is incomplete, changes should stay close to the natural processes which have in their favor the indisputable evidence of having supported life for a very long time.

(From Basic Ecology by Ralph and Mildred Buchsbaum)

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