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Re: <eyebeam><blast> Item 1

Steven Kurtz wrote:

> Two technological revolutions are currently taking place. The first,
> and most hyped, is the revolution in information and communications
> technologies (ICT). The second is the revolution in biotechnology.
> While the former seems to be rapidly enveloping the lives of more and
> more people, the latter appears to be progressing at a lower velocity
> in a specialized area outside of peoples' everyday lives… 

> If ICT is representative of spectacular product deployment,
> biotechnology has been much more secretive about its progress and
> deployment. Its spectacle is limited to sporadic news reports on
> breakthroughs in some of the flagship projects, such as the unexpected
> rapidity of progress in the Human Genome Project, with the birth of
> Dolly the cloned sheep (and now her daughter, Polly, a recombinant
> lamb containing human DNA), or the birth of a donor-program baby to a
> 63-year-old mother. Each of these events is contextualized within the
> legitimizing mantles of science and medicine to keep the public calm;

The biotech industry has hyped itself to the public more than you know.
The Human Genome Project must be the most hyped project ever concocted.
Almost anyone who reads a paer has heard of it , and its claims of
importance are highly regarded. It's a perfect example of a splashy idea
put up front to gain public support--and hence funding--for an industry
that is top-heavy with career-builders and venture capitalists, but
suffers from a dearth of substantive ideas (remind you of anything?)

> however, the biotech developers and researchers must walk a very fine
> line, because developments that go public can easily cause as much
> panic as they do elation (just as the aforementioned examples did).
> Consequently,  the biotech revolution is a silent revolution; even its
> most mundane activities remain outside popular discourse and
> perception.

The public is always a part of the equation, especially when they're
being led on. Money is key, and the public is there to be manipulated.
Think of NASA. Think of the repertoire of astronomy photographs and
images that have been bled to the public over the years. The image(s) of
the Moon or Saturn you have in your head are not there by accident. Our
layman's sense of what is out there was carefully constructed for us.
IThese industries are highly dependent on their ability to construct a
public face. The Human Genome Project is almost all show. The problem
is, there isn't much of real importance--real headway in terms of
reducing human suffering--going on as they would like us to think.  A
lot of mediocre ideas get substantial funding. And it's not for lack of
know-how....Every  now and then, someone on the inside writes a tell-all
book. There are quite a few biotech examples (try The Million Dollar
Molecule. It actually reads well). The primary problem which afflicts
the sciences, indeed our culture in general, is not a lack in teerms of
tools of facilitation or technological prowess; the problem is a lack of
substance to the inquiries actually undertaken, and a tremendous failure
to support individuals who do have substantive ideas. A lack of desire
to do good, or to support those whose research is to do good, whether or
not their methods of inquiry lie outside the fashions and trends of the
moment. (This is also a problem in the arts.) A good treatment that has
little m0ney-making potential may never be brought to market. Areas of
research that aren't potential moneymakers, seldom get enough funding or
attention. Substance carries little clout, credential and prestige are
only badges.

the AIDS epidemic has engendered the only true "revolution" I can think
of, in terms of how pressure from the social sector can actually change
the direction of technology and its uses. Public perception, gained
through radical programs devised by groups such as Visual AIDS, Gran
Fury, and Act Up, forced  the issue on the medical establishment and has
had unexpectedly positive results.

Anyone have thoughts on this, and how the digital world might overcome
these obstacles, or simply be as easily coopted by careerism, politics
and greed?

Joy Garnett, Senior Library Assistant,The Robert Goldwater Library
Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1000 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY  10028
Tel: 212 570 3707    Fax: 212 472 2872
e-mail: rglib3@metgate.metro.org
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