Redeeming NASA

National Review Online | Published on

By Adam Keiper

It was five years ago this month, on February 1, 2003, that the space shuttle Columbia, returning from two weeks in orbit, was lost over Texas. Seven astronauts — six Americans and one Israeli — died as Columbia broke to pieces in the sky and fell aflame to earth.

The hours that followed brought chaotic press speculation, as NASA officials scrambled to figure out what had happened and how to explain it.

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The March of the Machines

Wall Street Journal, p. D7 | Published on

By Adam Keiper

A Culture of Improvement: Technology and the Western Millennium
by Robert Friedel, MIT, 588 pages, $39.95

There’s a certain dark pleasure to be had by thumbing through the pages of futurist books and magazines from decades past to see how wrong the authors’ projections turned out to be. Flying cars, jetpacks and the Y2K apocalypse never arrived; radio, newspapers and affordable oil haven’t gone away. Sometimes futurism fails for narrow, technical reasons: An avenue of research turns into a dead end, or a technology doesn’t develop as quickly as expected. More often, though, projections fail because they do not account fully for the human factor — the unexpected, unintended complexities of social and political affairs.

This lesson is best taught not by futurists, but by historians conveying something of the contingency of unfolding events. Robert Friedel is one such historian: He can not only impart the lesser-known details of a familiar story but masterfully show how strange and wonderful it is that things happened the way they did. In the past, Mr. Friedel has written about the plastics industry, Edison’s work on the light bulb and (of all things) the triumph of the zipper. In each case, he has shown how everyday technologies were born of creative genius, hopeful investment, clever marketing, shifting social arrangements and, often enough, sheer serendipity.

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Nanoethics as a Discipline?

The New Atlantis, Spring 2007 | Published on

By Adam Keiper

Growing ranks of academics, analysts, and advocacy groups are focusing their attentions on the social and ethical implications of nanoscale science and technology. But what exactly is there for “nanoethics” to study? Adam Keiper considers the contrasts with the emergence of bioethics four decades ago, and casts a skeptical eye at the proliferation of professional nanotechnology criticism.

(Click here to read this entire article from the Spring 2007 issue of The New Atlantis.)

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The New Atlantis, Winter 2006

The New Atlantis | Published on

By Adam Keiper and Christine Rosen, et al.

The latest issue of The New Atlantis includes major essays on Man, Mind and Machine and the challenge to define what is “human”; a search for the connection between domestic tranquility and our domestic technology; how the blogger “Davids” are slaying the mainstream media “Goliath”; the scientific corruption at the heart of the Korean stem cell scandal and much more.

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The Age of Neuroelectronics

The New Atlantis, Number 11, Winter 2006, pp. 4-41. | Published on

By Adam Keiper

 

The potential merging of mind and machine thrills, frightens, and intrigues us. For decades, experiments at the border between brains and electronics have led to sensationalistic media coverage, vivid science fiction portrayals, and dreams of cyborgs and bionic men. But recently, this area of science has seen remarkable advances—from robotic limbs controlled directly by brain activity, to brain implants that alter the mood of the depressed, to rats steered by remote control. Adam Keiper explores the peculiar history and present directions of this research, and considers the challenges of staying human in the age of neuroelectronics.

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