Manoj Chandrashekar

Software Engineer, Thomson Reuters

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Should the ultimate application of technology become a decisive factor in innovation?

I have seen a lot of flak that an idea gathers because of its potential application in destructive activities. I believe any technology is an idea. And ideas must be respected as ideas and not how they might be used. For that matter, you can kill a person with a fork.

  • Apr 5 2012: Quoting my dictionary: "A technology is the application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes". As such, any technology is not an idea. You are probably thinking of the science research that is the base of a specific technology. In that case, the question is: what is the relation between science and morality?

    In my opinion, the questions that science is trying to solve are not moral questions and a scientific advance is not intrinsically good or bad, however the application of science can be good or bad. For instance, nuclear technology can be used for peaceful purposes or as a weapon of destruction.

    Now, to the case of the mechanical hummingbird, from a scientific point of view it is very interesting research as the mechanics and control for flight at that regime are not fully understood. Moreover, I see this the first step towards much more interesting questions like the ones proposed here:
    http://www.physorg.com/news11015.html
  • Apr 4 2012: It is almost impossible to predict with any reliability what the ultimate or even most common application of new technology will be, back at the time it is invented. But having said that, I, too am dismayed that the majority of good job choices available to creative engineers involve finding more advanced ways to kill people. It's a reflection of our national priorities.

    I do still manage to take heart, to an extent, at the number of "defense" projects that turn out to be a benafit to humankind beyond the basic "benefit" of blowing away your "enemy". I suspect many of the DARPA engineers do too.
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      Mar 29 2012: An idea is still an idea (not an application) - because, DARPA looks at the butterfly and it sees a sneaky surveillance device. Another person may come up with a lesser-evil utilization for it. I'm not supporting DARPA here, let's be clear on that. All that I'm saying is that the purview of an idea lies outside of its ultimate utility.

      Yes, an idea is perceived with an initial purpose, but it does not end there. The wheel was not intended to be just that. It paved way to gears, turbines, and what not? And this is why I said that an invention is not in itself the finality of its purpose. It is only a means to many applications. And if one of those application is evil; it does not mean the idea itself is evil. Radiation kills, still cures. Anti-venom is created using poison.

      I'm beginning to think that since this talk was presented by someone at DARPA, there is a lot of emotion targeted against it. There are many other TED talks with the same theme (http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/en/vijay_kumar_robots_that_fly_and_cooperate.html) which don't receive as much flak.