Who, if not the Europeans, who, if not the Germans, is in a position to talk about the power role that models can acquire over reality? Wars have been fought over them and whole generations incited to violence in their name. We have studied the images and the language which gave the pioneers of the industrial revolution their confidence and we have encapsulated its life cycle — from the discovery of electricity to the sinking of the Titanic — in parables.

But now, as President Clinton said when his government's nanotechnological initiative was launched this February, we are at the threshold of the "third industrial revolution." Surely, then, it is time to ask how the agents of this revolution perceive themselves and the roles they are playing, to ask what influenced them as children, who their role models were and what are their goals? It is not Joy but rather Jeremy Rifkin who describes the situation as follows, in "The Biotech Century": "Never before in history has humanity been so unprepared for the new technological and economic opportunities, challenges, and risks that lie on the horizon. Our way of life is likely to be more fundamentally transformed in the next several decades than in the previous 1,000 years. By the year 2025, we and our children may be living in a world utterly different from anything human beings have ever experienced in the past." Rifkin's own term for this transformation is "remaking the world."

People have always wondered what kind of people Hollywood's galaxies would one day produce. We know now. The first generation is already there. Joy, the founder of Sun-Microsystems and one of the prime movers behind the transformation now taking place, claims to have been influenced and motivated above all by "Star Trek." The office of Rick Rashid, Microsoft's head of research, is full of "Star Trek" memorabilia. Venter feels a deep affinity for Christopher Columbus as well as for Jules Verne's Captain Nemo. Two years ago, MIT Press published a book called "HAL's Legacy: The Computers of 2001 as Dream and Reality." In this book, several scientists discuss whether HAL really could exist and the technology which would be necessary to make it happen. More important than their crushing conclusion — that computers will not even be able to talk the way HAL talks in the film — is the following message: HAL is fantasy, not science.

Previous | Page 1 2 3 4 5 Next