Sun's Bill Joy doubts good things will come in small packages

Sun's Bill Joy doubts good things will come in small packages

By William Jackson

GCN Staff

MAY 8—Bill Joy has drawn a line on what he is willing to contribute to the future of technology.

"I won't work on nanotechnology," said Sun Microsystems Inc.'s chief scientist, who has been a major contributor to Unix and co-authored Java. Joy is on the lecture circuit with a cautionary message of the dangers of unchecked technology. He gave a talk Friday cosponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency at the Arlington, Va., headquarters of the National Science Foundation.

Joy stirred controversy with an article earlier this year in Wired Magazine in which he warned that advances in computing, genetics and nanotechnology could result in the creation of species of intelligent, self-replicating and evolving robots that could out-compete humans. Joy said Friday this could pose a greater threat to the human race than nuclear weapons, and he suggests limiting some research because certain things are too dangerous to do.

President Clinton has proposed spending $274 million in fiscal 2001 to support nanotechnology research, which is technology on a scale of less than micron. (A micron is one-millionth of a meter; a nanometer is one billionth of a meter.) Joy said although nanotechnology promises great benefits, nanotechnologists are ignoring its dangers.

Joy said he is interested in working on highly reliable systems, which he said offer more promise as defensive and protective technology and less risk of danger.

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