# How Much Knowledge Is Too Much?

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Perhaps we might agree to disagree on the Higgs for a bit, and try to examine a broader picture.

Why do we not sell firearms to children? We realize they don't have the judgment to handle such power.

Knowledge development gives us ever more power. How much power can we handle? Are we proposing that there is no limit to the power we can manage?

I heard a story on NPR about genetic engineering. The story used this analogy. Computing used to be really expensive, required huge equipment, and was limited to big organizations. But now everybody has a computer on their desktop, or in their pocket. According to the story, the same process is unfolding in genetic engineering, and it will be increasingly available at a cheaper price to more and more people.

Nuclear weapons started off being limited to a few big powers, and are now moving down the chain to smaller countries. We might guess that at some point non-state entities will join the game. One small nuke in Washington DC could decapitate the U.S. government and perhaps launch a global crisis. We all now know there are plenty of people who'd make that happen if they could.

We like knowledge because it empowers us. That's great, but it also empowers the violent and insane. Generally we're staying on top of things so far. But the bad guys only need to win once big to bring everything crashing down. An engineered bio-war virus created by a single person in some obscure little lab might be enough.

If you think we can handle the current challenges of this nature, how about the future? If our game plan is "more is better" when it comes to knowledge and power, we've only just begun on this journey.

Can we manage an ever escalating range of issues of this nature? Are we that smart? Smart enough to develop power, yes? But smart enough to manage it? We created a technological civilization, but are we smart enough to prevent it's wastes from substantially changing the environment we depend on? So far the evidence suggests we're not.

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Based on this comment, I will presume you have no idea how so many countless of the most profound advances we've experienced resulted from accidents. Research focused on specific benefits tends to mi

I'm worried we're not spending enough money in science.

The only way we can make a wise decision about anything is if it is an INFORMED decision. That means we need to understand what actually happens in the universe and the relationships involved.   Wit

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Your position is both circular and self-defeating. You're arguing for us to remain ignorant because we're not yet smart enough not to be.

FWIW, your analogies are pretty crappy, too.

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Characterizing a challenge is not meeting that challenge.

Who said anything about being ignorant? I've argued only against an unexamined reckless accumulation of knowledge and power.

Are you suggesting developing knowledge and power 100X faster would be great? How about 1000x faster? Shall we give every school kid the ability to create new life forms?

If the Higgs discovery eventually allows us to dematerialize things, should we make that available to everyone? Do you want the North Koreans to have it? How will you stop them from having it? Oops, Seoul is missing, does anybody know what happened to it?

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You can't force the genie back inside the bottle. There's no putting the toothpaste back in the tube once it's been squeezed out. Burying our heads in the sand like an ostrich will not change anything, but it will decrease our ability to handle these technologies and this knowledge more wisely.

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Typist, you are lumping all scientists into some group called, "atomic weapon makers," this is complete bullshit. Many of the scientists involved in the atomic weapon programs (not just the US) lobbied to their governments to halt the further developments of such nuclear weapons. Ironically the man responsible for the Tsar won the Nobel Peace prize lol, for his protests against the use of nuclear weapons. Also I'm rather glad America developed the weapon before anyone else. The way things have gone, considering we are still alive, makes me contempt.

Now, like it's been said before, just because we don't know of any tangible benefits that would directly result from any type of funding, doesn't mean we should abandon it. We do research so we can know things that we did not know before, and as our understanding of the basic principles that govern our universe grows, the results will eventually be beneficial, as they have so often in the past. This is why Carl Sagan stressed for funding to be given to basic research in higher education. Science is overlapping. Would you have funded Maxwell? Based on what you have said, I guess not.

"Maxwell’s equations have had a greater impact on human history than any ten presidents". -Carl Sagan

Plus, we are more than capable of doing two things at once. We are working towards eradicating poverty and giving youths access to school, at the same time as conducting research.

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Typist, you are lumping all scientists into some group called, "atomic weapon makers," this is complete bullshit.

I never said any such thing, didn't read the rest.

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I never said any such thing, didn't read the rest.

"Well, shouldn't the discipline that brought us nuclear weapons..." Ok so not all science, just physics? Your argument is, because science (physics) led to the atomic bomb, we can no longer do science that might in some way be bad, or because it costs a lot of money...

You know there are regulations right?

There are inherent risks in almost any new development, that doesn't mean we should abandon it. So far we have been smart enough to manage our power, considering we are not all dead.

Besides, North Korea wouldn't use a bomb on the US. They know if they do, their nation will be obliterated. Also the US owes too much money to China for them to start a war, and America has all their stuff lol.

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Ok, sorry for my impatience. Let's try again.

American Civil War

WW I

WW II

Cuban Missile Crisis

A hundred years of warfare (and near warfare)

See the pattern? Each major war (and near miss) is significantly more destructive than the last, thanks to developments in knowledge and technology.

I'm just asking, what do we plan to do about this? If this historical pattern continues, it won't matter what the benefits of science are, because we won't be here to enjoy them.

For all of human history, more knowledge was better. So it's understandable that folks take this as a given. But is it still true? Or are we reaching a new stage, where we have to be more discriminating, and use some game plan that is more sophisticated than "more is better"?

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There is also another pattern with the example you used. Your chances of dying in combat (or war) has decreased. There are conflicts but it seems that the more destructive the weapon, the less it is used. So if this historical pattern does continue, I'm not terribly worried.

Of course what you say is possible, we could create something too destructive for us to use. Though, this is not inevitable.

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Maybe it would be better if the science community prioritise the more important things first, it would be sensible if the science community used it's own money, i.e 1% of every invention that is produced goes into a fund to benefit science

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Maybe it would be better if the science community prioritise the more important things first, it would be sensible if the science community used it's own money, i.e 1% of every invention that is produced goes into a fund to benefit science

That would leave the non-science part of humanity still paying for the wheel/fire/agriculture; and after we had finished the back payments for that we could start paying off the steam engine, plastics, computers, radio communications ...

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I think it is a fallacy to suggest that the we spend a lot of money on particle physics. It sounds like a lot to the individual but is not a lot when considering the budgets of governments. For example, the UK government, a couple of years ago, let Vodafone off the hook for a tax bill worth £7 billion which is the same cost as the entire LHC (which was spread over multiple countries). Similarly, as a society we spend more each year on ring tones than we spend researching nuclear fusion. A disgracefully small proportion of our income is spent on scientific research and we should be increasing it, not decreasing it even further.

It is even disputed that these facilities cost us any money whatsoever. John Wormersley recently gave an interesting talk on the economic benefits of the tevatron where he estimated that "$4 billion went into the Tevatron and roughly$50 billion came out."

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I claim that there has not been a single scientific discovery that caused more harm than it was beneficial to mankind. Also, as I will show below, mankind was perfectly capable of slaughter and genocide on a massive scale, using only a sharp piece of metal.

Ok, sorry for my impatience. Let's try again.

American Civil War

WW I

WW II

Cuban Missile Crisis

A hundred years of warfare (and near warfare)

See the pattern? Each major war (and near miss) is significantly more destructive than the last, thanks to developments in knowledge and technology.

Nonsense. Pure and utter nonsense. Here's a list of the TOP 10 most deadly conflicts. There is absolutely no relation between the scientific advances and the number of dead people, as shown in this list (source: wikipedia):

World War II , 40,000,000 - 72,000,000 dead. From 1939 - 1945

An Lushan Rebellion, China, 33,000,000 - 36,000,000 dead. From 755 to 763

Mongol conquests, 30,000,000 - 60,000,000 dead. From 1207 to 1472

Late Yuan warfare and transition to Ming Dynasty, China, 30,000,000 dead, from 1340 to 1368

Qing dynasty conquest of the Ming Dynasty, China, 25,000,000 dead, from 1616 to 1662

Taiping Rebellion, China, 20,000,000 - 100,000,000 dead, from 1851 to 1864

World War I, 15,000,000 - 65,000,000 dead (*), from 1914 to 1918

Conquests of Timur, 15,000,000 - 20,000,000 dead, from 1369 to 1405

Dungan revolt, China, 8,000,000 - 12,000,000 dead, from 1862 to 1877

Russian Civil War, 5,000,000 - 9,000,000 dead, from 1917 to 1921

The only trend that I can see here is that the larger the countries (or the larger the governmental influence), the larger the death toll. China was always a huge country, and therefore its conflicts outnumber European medieval wars by orders of magnitude. But luckily for the Europeans, they had many small wars. Hell, even in Roman times it is estimated that Julius Caesar and his army butchered up to a million people when they invaded Gaul, which is more than died in the American Civil war when they already had machine guns...

There is no relation with technology at all.

I'm just asking, what do we plan to do about this? If this historical pattern continues, it won't matter what the benefits of science are, because we won't be here to enjoy them.

There is no pattern.

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I never said any such thing, didn't read the rest.

No, you said "inventors of the nuclear death machine". You really want to beg off from responding on a technicality like that?

Here's a thing: at what point would you have had the scientists stop their research, because they knew that one could build a weapon of mass destruction?

Ok, sorry for my impatience. Let's try again.

American Civil War

WW I

WW II

Cuban Missile Crisis

A hundred years of warfare (and near warfare)

See the pattern? Each major war (and near miss) is significantly more destructive than the last, thanks to developments in knowledge and technology.

I'm just asking, what do we plan to do about this? If this historical pattern continues, it won't matter what the benefits of science are, because we won't be here to enjoy them.

For all of human history, more knowledge was better. So it's understandable that folks take this as a given. But is it still true? Or are we reaching a new stage, where we have to be more discriminating, and use some game plan that is more sophisticated than "more is better"?

from

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_military_casualties_of_war

Rank War Years Deaths US Population in First Year of War Deaths per Population

1 Civil War 1861–1865 625,000 31,443,000 1.988% (1860)

2 World War II 1941–1945 405,399 133,402,000 0.307% (1940)

3 World War I 1917–1918 116,516 103,268,000 0.110% (1920)

How many people died in the Cuban missile crisis?

Tell me again how the wars got more destructive? Science, through advances in medicine, has made recent wars cause fewer fatalities over time.

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Using the logic of the group consensus....

I propose we research how to erase entire continents from the face of the earth, based upon the principle that.....

IN ABSOLUTELY NO CIRCUMSTANCE SHOULD WE LIMIT SCIENCE IN ANY WAY WHATSOEVER.

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Using the logic of the group consensus....

I propose we research how to erase entire continents from the face of the earth, based upon the principle that.....

IN ABSOLUTELY NO CIRCUMSTANCE SHOULD WE LIMIT SCIENCE IN ANY WAY WHATSOEVER.

That's a false dichotomy, my friend. There are middle grounds that could be taken, and indeed sometimes are, for instance, repression of an article if the information could prove harmful if given to a terrorist organization.

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Ok, let's talk middle grounds then, I'm agreeable.

How do you propose we prevent, say, the North Koreans from getting the most powerful weapon on Earth? You know, not that could actually happen or anything, but just as an example.

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Ok, let's talk middle grounds then, I'm agreeable.

How do you propose we prevent, say, the North Koreans from getting the most powerful weapon on Earth? You know, not that could actually happen or anything, but just as an example.

Apart from what we are doing already with sanctions, we could do what the US and Britain did to prevent Saddam Hussein from getting the most powerful weapon on Earth, intervene. North Korea is slowly imploding, they can barely feed themselves and are highly incompetent when it comes to rockets lol, so intervening would be unnecessary.

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Apart from what we are doing already with sanctions, we could do what the US and Britain did to prevent Saddam Hussein from getting the most powerful weapon on Earth, intervene. North Korea is slowly imploding, they can barely feed themselves and are highly incompetent when it comes to rockets lol, so intervening would be unnecessary.

Such efforts have had some success, it's true. Are you proposing that such success can be maintained in all cases forever?

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Such efforts have had some success, it's true. Are you proposing that such success can be maintained in all cases forever?

Since maintaining anything forever is an impossibility, your question is ridiculous. Nothing is certain.

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typist,

And you forget the value of working together for a common goal.

What are the benefits of a sporting event, or the Olympics?

Should the money have been given to bums on the street? (well the scalpers got theirs)

Every pursuit we have has an intrinsic value. Why spend 100s of thousands of dollars searching for a lost child? The little one does not even have a job to pay us back.

I look at all the crap, clothes, fancy kitchen counters, drugs, alcohol and millions of other things that people with money, spend it on. What is the value to humanity of someone buying a 15th antique automobile? Probably a good deal of "trickle down", ie. gives the antique car dealers a livelyhood. And someone has to build the garage and make the ceiling tiles.

Or what is the value of YOU seeing the Grand Canyon? Its already been seen...a lot. And your seeing it, isn't going to make it any better.

Maslows hierarchy of needs.

I would imagine as each of us fullfills a level and turns an eye to the next, so do groups, and society as a collective.

And as Inow has described, scientific research helps fulfill our needs on all levels.

The Higgs, and the better we get to know it, can only open doors, and lay before us, new possibilities.

The dangers, we will handle, as they present themselves.

Knowledge is power, but it need not be misused. There is always "everybody" to keep an eye on each other.

Sure there will be wars. There will always be competition over scarce resources, battles of ideology, and strong willed people forcing their will on others. But there will always also be people working their way up Maslows chart. Together.

The celebration is on. As far as I am concerned. Your worries are misplaced.

Regards, TAR2

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I'm worried we're not spending enough money in science.

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Using the logic of the group consensus....

I propose we research how to erase entire continents from the face of the earth, based upon the principle that.....

IN ABSOLUTELY NO CIRCUMSTANCE SHOULD WE LIMIT SCIENCE IN ANY WAY WHATSOEVER.

Your argument is nothing but horse feathers, if not for nuclear weapons we would probably be on WW10 by now, nuclear weapons made wide spread warfare to dangerous to be practical. The power to wipe out continents would almost certainly make other advancements possible as well. What would you do, put us all back in caves, with a sharp rock and living in fear of cave lions? There is no way you can predict how advancements would be used but we humans have made some stunningly good decisions, not waging nuclear war was one of them.

We have weapons that are far more dangerous than nuclear weapons, and far easier to make, when it gets to the point that going to war on another country is almost certain to cause damage to your self as bad as your enemy it gives most knowledgeable people pause and despite the childish nature of the behavior of large groups of people reason has won out as knowledge has increased.

Nuclear weapons have come to the point that they are almost nothing but phallic symbols too large to use and only good for masturbation fantasies...

In fact i think it's quite possible to assert that ignorance is far more dangerous than knowledge, in modern terms the people who want to limit knowledge are far more dangerous than those who seek it...

The most dangerous people on the planet are religious fundamentalists who want to take things back the middle ages, which religion doesn't matter it's the dehumanizing influence of ignorance that is dangerous...

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A quick summary..

1) There's a well documented pattern of 5,000 years of wars fought with ever more powerful weapons.

2) There is no credible theory that can demonstrate that this pattern has permanently ended.

3) If the pattern of wars fought with ever more powerful weapons has not permanently ended, it's only a matter of time until the accomplishments of science are swept aside, at the hand of the tools that science has given us.

In order to defeat this thesis you are going to have to demonstrate why the cycle of sanity/insanity which has existed since the beginning of recorded human history is now over.

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In order to defeat this thesis you are going to have to demonstrate why the cycle of sanity/insanity which has existed since the beginning of recorded human history is now over.

Mutually assured destruction.

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