Some tech news part 2

Chuck Grimes cgrimes at
Tue Mar 14 03:13:36 PST 2000

Now what makes for a strange coincidence is that one of originators of the BSD license design was Bill Joy of Sun Microsystems. For a brief intro to the controversy (Richard Brandt v. Bill Joy) see:

Bill Joy is the same guy who just came out with an article in Wired, `Why the Future Doesn't Need Us'. He was interviewed tonight on Charlie Rose, which I was watching while wondering about the future of FreeBSD.

I looked around briefly to find the Wired article to re-post but couldn't find it.

Somebody should post it or the page, because it directly relates to the long standing threads on GM foods and the endless debates around the position of science, capitalism, freedom, and uses of knowledge. (Sort the LBO archive for author, Jim Heartfield v. Carl Remick, or by subject GM, Tree Hugging Nazis, etc. )

In any event from what I gathered of the Rose interview, B.Joy is worried about the convergence of genetics, nanotechnology, and robotics (did he see Matrix and believe it?). Of course what the scientist-entrepreneur missed, reflecting his own quote, `even smart people can miss the consequences of their actions', was that the problem isn't science, knowledge or technology---but the very economic system he has manipulated to prosper in: Kapital. That and of course the patent and copyright policies and laws he was instrumental in creating. (The devil is never who you think he is, eh, Bill?)

So, in an endless permutation on irony, Joy now fears the usual suspects of science and technology, when what he should be frightened of are the consequences of his own bargain with daemon, Kapital: I invent things with science and you make me rich, while society prospers. (Ha, ha, ha, ha, ...goes the chilling laugh off stage, while a poodle appears at the good Doktor's door.)

This was essentially the bargin that UCB made and makes everday through its decisions in the Office of Technology Transfer (OTT). If anyone is interested they can wonder for hours through the dense slime of neoliberal-cum-get-rich-Kapital-cum-Higher Education at:

I was put through this strange labryinth last year as part of a documentation project that covered the rise of the disabled student movement at Berkeley. The deal was I got to tell my version of the history, while UCB got the copyright. So, I had to try to guess how best to handle this so some asshole researcher looking to write the next best seller in the self-help category didn't get the publishing rights. All very obnoxious. My best (uninformed) guess was to retain the stupid copyright. I wasnt' really interested in it, but I sure as hell didn't want somebody to use it for their fun and profit.

But that is not the point here. After wading through some of the copyright, you have to ask what are the concrete implications to something like Novartis funding the research in Plant and Microbiology? I don't know. I think they managed to buy the rights to the entire Arabidopsis genome. If that is true, then Novartis controls one of the key plant species used in genetic research, which means they can probably charge (and control) plenty of the spin-offs in numerous food species like corn, along with the patented and copyrighted lab protocols that accompany those species.

See, the real problem here isn't the science, but the economic (and political) control of the products of science, which are increasingly coming to comprehend everything that lives and breeds on the planet. This still leaves a question about the political wisdom of allowing the GM food hysteria to focus on highly unlikely scare scenarios for the sake of headlines, while failing to address the real problem which is imperial, corporate and private control of all the means to human life: food, reproduction and health.

It takes some time to sort through the threads of this post, which I haven't really connected very well--but they are connected in my mind. It runs from the enlightenment dream of science and progress, through the machinations of capital, then into US imperial dreams of global hegemony, on into the conquest of the earth and everything that lives, all in the name of progress---which of course results in global poverty, human misery on a vast scale, and exactly the future that Bill Joy worries about, while he has basically insured it will occur, etc, etc.

Well, a meandering post piddles out again. I'll just repeat my nightly mantra, fuck kapital, fuck kapital, ...

Chuck Grimes

More information about the lbo-talk mailing list