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This article by Barbara Fox was published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on
October 20, 1999. All rights reserved.
Freeman Dyson: Ethics & Technology
California’s Silicon Valley, Massachusetts’ Route 128,
and Princeton’s U.S. 1 corridor are all centers for what futurist
Freeman Dyson calls "the new craft industries," built
around computer software and biotechnology. It is the opportunity
to develop these kinds of craft industries in rural areas, he
that will help bridge the gap between rich and poor.
Dyson, 75, is professor emeritus of physics at the Institute of
Study and is a recipient of the national Book Critics Circle Award,
among many others. His latest book is based on a series of 1997
at the New York Public Library, "The Sun, the Genome, and the
Internet: Tools of Scientific Revolution" (Oxford University
$22). He speaks and signs the book on Thursday, October 21, at 6:30
p.m. at Princeton University Store. Call 609-921-8500.
In his 1996 book "Imagined Worlds," Dyson dourly predicted
that developments in the information industry, biotechnology, and
neuro-technology would be "profoundly disruptive, likely to bypass
the poor and reward the rich. If technology continues along the
course, the poor will sooner or later rebel against the tyranny of
technology and turn to irrational and violent remedies."
Now Dyson names the three technologies that he believes can work on
a human scale — solar energy, genetic engineering, and world wide
communication. Cottage industries in these three areas can help
keep their young people at home and thus help cities from becoming
"To make gentrification possible, the villages themselves must
be a source of wealth. How can a godforsaken Mexican village become
a source of wealth? First, solar energy is distributed equitably over
the earth. Second, genetic engineering (with industrial crop plants)
can make solar energy usable everywhere for the local creation of
wealth. Third, the Internet can provide people in every village with
the information and skills they need to develop their talents. The
sun, the genome, and the Internet can work together to bring wealth
to the villages of Mexico, just as the older technology of electricity
and automobiles brought wealth to the villages of England."
to bring craft industries to third-world villages, and Dyson suggests
genetically engineering trees that use sunlight to make fuel. Just
as sugar cane is now converted into alcohol as a substitute for
so Dyson envisions tapping trees to produce an energy fuel. "If
the trees converted sunlight into fuel with 10 percent efficiency,
landowners could sell the fuel for $10,000 per year per acre and
undercut the present price of gasoline. Economic forces will then
move industries from cities to the country."
proceed more swiftly if the scientists in this field would behave
more like astronomers who fashion their own tools. "Two of the
essential tools required for the next revolution in biology, the
sequencer and the desktop protein microscope, do not exist. Why should
biologists wait for some physicist at the University of Washington
to invent them and for some instrument company in Boston or Taiwan
to sell them? They have here an opportunity to be leaders of a
not only in biology but in the practice of medicine."
architecture (to cover the globe, perhaps with the Teledesic system
of satellite communication) and of the last mile (to bring the
to every house, perhaps with Paul Baran‘s Ricochet system,
small wireless transmitters and receivers). But first the
industry must put a higher priority on reaching the poor than on
tools for the rich.
Dyson refers to the career path of one of his daughters,
a cardiologist, when he inveighs against current priorities. Like
doctors who forgo strenuous jobs in public hospitals for more
private practices, telecommunications executives, he says, are more
likely to focus on new software products rather than on making current
programs more widely accessible. "The top end of the market drives
the development of new products and the new products remain out of
reach of the poor."
three fields could change society. "Ethics can push technology
in a new direction, away from toys for the rich and towards
for the poor."
Dyson draws from books by his offspring — George B. Dyson‘s
"Darwin Among the Machines: the Evolution of Global
and Esther Dyson‘s "Release 2.0, A Design for Living in
the Digital Age." He quotes books by two researchers associated
with Princeton University: Edward Tenner‘s "Why Things Bite
Back: Technology and the Revenge of Unintended Consequences,"
and Lee M. Silver‘s "Remaking Eden."
His theories are also illustrated by his experiences with famous
who work in, or pass through, Princeton. Reading this elegantly
volume is like spending the evening with someone who "knows
in town" and — better yet — can put those people into
a global context.
Dyson uses a visit from Alexander Wolszczan, a radio-astronomer
from Penn State, to illustrate how the scientific process is supposed
to work. In 1992 Wolszczan had used new software with old telescopes
to discover the first family of extra-solar planets, and when he
astronomers at Princeton, "The proceedings were informal and
friendly, but there was high tension in the air. Each astronomer who
doubted the reality of Wolszczan’s planets took a turn as prosecuting
attorney. Wolszczan came through the ordeal victorious, (his) skill
and integrity overcoming all opposition from his more senior
Among Dyson’s intriguing theories concerns the liberation of women.
He refers to Tenner’s idea that a step forward in technology for some
tends to bring an unexpected step backward for others. In this vein,
the invention of household appliances liberated the servants but had
a deleterious effect on the academic careers of women. In the 1950s,
middle class women had far less time, he theorizes, for academic and
other pursuits. "To achieve even partial liberation, women have
replaced the old domestic servants with day-care centers, cleaning
ladies, and au pair girls imported from overseas."
Dyson documents his position by citing the dismaying record of women
in the very prestigious permanent faculty positions at the Institute
for Advanced Study: One woman was an original faculty member in the
1930s, but it was not until 1985 that a second woman received a
— Barbara Fox
Go where the investors are. That’s a good marketing
model, one being followed by Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, which plans
for several satellite offices, all emanating from its Lenox Drive
headquarters. Jeanne R. McPartland will open one at the
Montgomery Center, on the second floor of the Sovereign Bank building, on Wednesday, October 20, at 5 p.m. The festivities will move to the
Country Club at 6 p.m., where McPartland will join two other financial
advisors, N. Chris Pratico and Edward Kubick, to discuss
"Wealth Building Strategies for the New Millennium." Both
events are free; call 609-688-3250.
Jeanne Rothar McPartland grew up in New York City, majored in
at St. John’s University, Class of 1969, and earned a master’s from
Buffalo State. After teaching high school biology she took graduate
business courses at the University of Toledo and switched careers.
"In teaching, I had learned a lot of good platform skills, and
I had a natural tendency to financial services," says McPartland.
"I had a deep interest in the stock market because as a very young
person I had my own portfolio," she says. McPartland had been
manager of Dean Witter’s Palmer Square office when it moved to Lenox
Drive; then she had the job of associate national marketing director
for personal trusts and 401k plans at a national office in Jersey
City. Governor Christie Whitman appointed her as a public member of
the state board of accountancy. McPartland lives in Bedminster with
her husband, who works for J&J’s OrthoDiagnostics. They have three
children, two in college and one in medical school.
McPartland leased this 1,400 square foot-office through Hilton Realty.
She has two assistants and three "registered representatives"
or brokers for this full service brokerage. Clients who prefer to
do their own trading are referred to another Morgan Stanley Dean
entity, Discover Brokerage.
Why Montgomery? "We did a number of demographic studies and
that it is one of the fastest growing townships and has one of the
higher per capita incomes." The company is also considering
to downtown Princeton, Pennington, Flemington, and Freehold.
A community leader, a successful alumnus, and a
entrepreneur will receive Spirit of Edison Awards at the Great
Ball to be staged by Thomas Edison State College on Saturday, October
30, at 6:30 p.m. at the Hyatt. The awards will be presented to
L. Carnevale, John McCann, and Alfred E. Mann. Costumes
masks are optional for the silent auction, cocktails, dinner, dancing
and entertainment. $250.
After retiring as chairman of the Walter B. Howe insurance company,
Carnevale set up his own consulting practice. He has been on the
board of directors for 13 years and was chairman for five years.
is Nick’s enthusiastic `spirit’ for Thomas Edison State College that
has enabled him to encourage board members to actively participate
in the many spectacular events and fund-raisers sponsored by the
over the years," says George Pruitt, president of the
McCann majored in finance at the college, Class of 1990, and is
director and chief operating officer for New York-based Lynch, Jones
& Ryan Inc. He is chairman of the college’s "Investing in
Mann, who lives in Los Angeles and has bachelor’s and master’s degrees
from UCLA, founded his first business in 1956. In all, he founded,
financed, and operated six technology companies including four
— Pacesetter, Siemens InfusionSystems, MiniMed Inc., and Advanced
Bionics, plus two other companies, one in electrophysics and the other
in semiconductors. Pacesetter is now the second largest company in
the pacemaker industry. Mann worked with Siemens when he sold
to Siemens, and this partnership resulted in the development of a
hospital infusion pump. Minimed produces implantable pumps used by
60,000 diabetics. Advanced Bionics is working in the area of
hearing in deaf people. Scientists at his foundation produced the
technology that resulted in the cochlear hearing implant.
"The awards are presented to recognize community leaders and
whose creativity, commitment, and entrepreneurial spirit reflect the
pioneering genius of Thomas Alva Edison," says Pruitt. Pruitt,
who is quite a community leader himself, has just been elected to
the top volunteer position at the Mercer County Chamber of Commerce.
The March of Dimes hopes to raise $40,000 this year
by selling its "Blue Jeans for Babies" button or stickers,
which entitle wearers to dress-down at work. Each button costs $5,
which goes to research in gene therapy, prevention of premature labor,
and prenatal care. T-shirts can also be purchased for $10. Corporate
sponsor Source One Personnel in Lawrenceville and Princeton is also
offering all BJFB participating companies one free hour of temp
for every $100 they raise. Call 609-655-7400, extension 207.
Lawrenceville’s Main Street Project is hoping to raise
money for further civic improvement in downtown Lawrenceville by
engraved bricks. The bricks will be installed and extend along Main
Street from the intersection with Craven Lane to Gordon Avenue. Call
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