New Clear Vision


constructive commentary for the chronically farsighted


Otherworldy Dreams

October 30, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Ecology, Evaggelos Vallianatos

On Religion and Technology in America

by Evaggelos Vallianatos

Garry Wills, professor of American history and author of Bomb Power, says that the atomic and nuclear bomb remade the country into a National Security State fostering perpetual emergency, secrecy and war.

“Secrecy,” says Wills, “emanated from the Manhattan Project like a giant radiation emission.” Indeed, Wills argues very persuasively that the Manhattan Project turned out to be not merely a “fatal miracle” because it created the “awesome” bomb but also because of the processes it set in place:

“The military-industrial complex, with a poisonous admixture of government and secrecy, had scored a triumph that would show the way to many other governmental activities… The secrecy that had enveloped Los Alamos [building the bomb] would steal quietly across the entire American landscape in the years to come.”

According to Wills, the other inevitable result of the bomb was that it gave the president supreme power. He alone could decide the fate of the world.

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Life After Facebook

September 21, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Community, Culture, Family, Mary Sojourner

Real Connection Takes Work, and It’s Worth It

by Mary Sojourner

“When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.” — Hunter S. Thompson

Writer Hunter S. Thompson was a pro at weird. But he would find Facebook beyond weird. Even as tiny green tree frogs scampered around the edge of his tequila and there seemed to be an aardvark climbing up his leg, he would consider it surreal that contact with dozens of “friends” can morph into two at the click of Delete. That’s the rate of attrition in the five days since I left Facebook — and that’s just the people I shared messages and comments with. Yeah, I knew. Yeah, I’m not surprised. The more time goes by since I last logged into Facebook, the even weirder the few months I spent on it seem. (more…)

Future Tense

September 04, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Devon G. Pena, Economy, Uncategorized

Designer Babies, the Panopticon, and a World Without Ethics 

by Devon G. Peña

“You got to be greedy when others are fearful and you got to be fearful when others are greedy.” — Warren Buffett

Wired is often lauded as a rebellious poke-you-in-the-eye futurist magazine that brings leading-edge, outside-the-box thinkers to the reading public. However, I wonder how many people actually read the entire rag from cover to cover other than die-hard futurists, some research scholars, and men who forgot their Smartphones and are bored while sitting in the waiting rooms of the auto repair shop or a dentist’s office?

While Wired presents glimpses of technology at the edge, it is usually done without depth or analytical prowess. It is more like a snippet or PowerPoint version of Technology Review with a lot of colorful graphics and a semiotic code that could only appeal to Generation X and so-called Millennials. The magazine is therefore neither cutting-edge nor critical, at least not in the sense of any radical expository or analytical discourse; it is actually a rather staidly conservative magazine in the sense of kowtowing to established and worn out libertarian ideologies and a belief that ever smarter and better technology will save us and the world in some soon to arrive future populated by perfectly hard ageless bodies filled with square-jawed genetically engineered intellects. (more…)

Palm Reading

August 06, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Politics, Randall Amster

Will Smarter Phones Mean Dumber People?

by Randall Amster

The road ahead was clearly marked as “closed” and a “dead end,” but the voice from the back seat insisted that we go forward anyway. “My phone says go straight ahead,” counseled the voice, ignoring the driver’s observation that the street was apparently closed. “The GPS in my phone is smarter than you are,” chimed the voice, good-naturedly yet sardonically. Obviously trumped, the driver continued forward — until we inevitably reached the advertised road closure that forced us to turn around and start over.

In itself, such a minor folly is entirely inconsequential and worthy of a little chuckle at best. Yet it’s also indicative of an increasingly prevalent attitude whereby the reliance on “smart” technologies is steadily supplanting human assessments and instincts. By now, such an observation is quite nearly passé, in that we have already given so much of ourselves and our reasoning capacities over to machines in one form or another. But the advent and rapid permeation of personal technologies like so-called “smartphones” raises further concerns that have been less explored during this most recent consumer frenzy. (more…)

Gratitude Adjustment

June 29, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Ecology, Randall Amster

Being Thankful for a ‘Glass Half Full’

by Randall Amster

Modern life presents myriad challenges, from the interpersonal to the global. New technologies steadily replace the values of authentic community with the surface virtues of the social network. The desire for commonplace convenience and affordable abundance is ironically eroding the capacity of the planet to support us at all. People everywhere are grasping for solutions, yet the problems are escalating.

Among the most common coping strategies are those that hark back to some pristine past in which humankind existed in a more sustainable and harmonious balance with itself and nature alike. The scriptural Eden is a powerful image for conveying what humans have lost, both materially and spiritually, but for some it still connotes a sense of backwardness as we forge ahead with the lot of the fallen. (more…)

The War Drones On…

June 05, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Culture, Politics, Randall Amster

Humanizing Our Engagement with Others

by Randall Amster

Drones are all the rage these days, and not in a good way. The increasing toll taken by these robotic executioners is beginning to register with the public, after many years of automated death from above in our adventurist wars. Still, the use of drones is expanding in many places, and not just in the theaters of combat. Drones are used to patrol the U.S.-Mexico border. Local governments and police forces use drones, even if they’re disclosed publicly as part of safety programs or for purposes other than enforcement. Many are equipped with cameras, widening the surveillance society even if not overtly used as tools of destruction.

The issue of expanding automation in foreign combat and domestic policing alike raises many questions apart from the legality of its use in war. Remote-controlled bombing contributes to a greater sense of “action at a distance” that works to overcome a natural human prohibition against killing our own kind — one that soldiers have to be conditioned to surmount. The steady distancing effect of modern warfare continues to push the envelope of our empathetic capacities while enabling remote outcomes with little risk involved. (more…)

Fear the Reaper

June 04, 2012 By: NCVeditor Category: Current Events, Politics, Robert C. Koehler

Balancing the Worst Human Instincts with Our Best

by Robert C. Koehler

The poison seeps slowly into the future. No one notices.

“The Obama administration,” the Wall Street Journal informs us, “plans to arm Italy’s fleet of Reaper drone aircraft, a move that could open the door for sales of advanced hunter-killer drone technology to other allies . . .”

I can’t quite get beyond the name: Reaper drones?

“The Predator’s manufacturer, General Atomics, later developed the larger Reaper,” John Sifton wrote last February in The Nation, “a moniker implying that the United States was fate itself, cutting down enemies who were destined to die. That the drones’ payloads were called Hellfire missiles, invoking the punishment of the afterlife, added to a sense of righteousness.” (more…)