We Have the Technology! Now What?

While there was a short-lived fear that fans of the Simpsons and American Idol might lose their TV shows at the turn of the decade, the recent deal cut between Fox and Time Warner Cable is not the first case of a cable provider paying a network to broadcast its shows. According to the Washington Post, CBS already receives payment from Time Warner Cable and Dish Network, but Fox’s move (a company of News Corporation) has gotten a lot of attention because it is part of News Corp.’s ambitious plans to bring profit back to the media business. God bless’em.

No, I suppose it’s not that simple. I have not heard, however, a valid counter-argument to Murdoch’s repeated claim that providers of news and television shows should be compensated financially for their work. In our rush to grab up as much free music, movies and news as we can, we’ve conveniently forgotten that it takes money, sometimes a good deal of it, to produce education and entertainment media.


The typical rejoinder to Murdoch is that technology has progressed beyond his 20th Century business model, that you can’t put the genie back in the bottle, that future of media is free, etc. Just look at the music industry, they say. Conspicuously absent in such analysis is whether or not technological advancement should be used in this way: to provide free media to everyone everywhere.

Technology progresses faster than the evolution of human values. Atomic weapons, for example, occupied the political main stage even though everyone was well aware that their use could terminate our species and perhaps life as we know it. “Ought” cannot be inferred from “is”. The progress of our technology does say something about our species, but what is more important is how we decide to use the tools we fashion.

We cannot un-invent the atomic bomb, but we can think ethically about its technology. Similarly, we cannot take back the technology that distributes media freely, but it’s time we start thinking ethically about it.

​There are two kinds of failure – but only one is honorable

Malcolm Gladwell teaches "Get over yourself and get to work" for Big Think Edge.

Big Think Edge
  • Learn to recognize failure and know the big difference between panicking and choking.
  • At Big Think Edge, Malcolm Gladwell teaches how to check your inner critic and get clear on what failure is.
  • Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
Keep reading Show less

Why is 18 the age of adulthood if the brain can take 30 years to mature?

Neuroscience research suggests it might be time to rethink our ideas about when exactly a child becomes an adult.

Mind & Brain
  • Research suggests that most human brains take about 25 years to develop, though these rates can vary among men and women, and among individuals.
  • Although the human brain matures in size during adolescence, important developments within the prefrontal cortex and other regions still take pace well into one's 20s.
  • The findings raise complex ethical questions about the way our criminal justice systems punishes criminals in their late teens and early 20s.
Keep reading Show less

Apparently even NASA is wrong about which planet is closest to Earth

Three scientists publish a paper proving that Mercury, not Venus, is the closest planet to Earth.

Strange Maps
  • Earth is the third planet from the Sun, so our closest neighbor must be planet two or four, right?
  • Wrong! Neither Venus nor Mars is the right answer.
  • Three scientists ran the numbers. In this YouTube video, one of them explains why our nearest neighbor is... Mercury!
Keep reading Show less

Mini-brains attach to spinal cord and twitch muscles

A new method of growing mini-brains produces some startling results.

(Lancaster, et al)
Surprising Science
  • Researchers find a new and inexpensive way to keep organoids growing for a year.
  • Axons from the study's organoids attached themselves to embryonic mouse spinal cord cells.
  • The mini-brains took control of muscles connected to the spinal cords.
Keep reading Show less