Conspiracy alert. Unseen forces are at work at the Globe and Mail. Doug Saunders wants to take down the wealthy. Charles Foran wants to demolish "the walls protecting careful constructions of dominance." Margaret Wente now preaches about privilege. Trevor Herriot proselytizes about believing in pie ("If you take too large a piece for yourself, someone else is going to go hungry.") Not so long ago the Globe was Canada's answer to The Economist or the Wall Street Journal, an establishment paper only too happy to leave social-justice activism to other media. Today we are witnessing a great migration—of classical liberals onto the shrinking island that is the National Post.
In 2013 the Guardian proclaimed that "the robot debate is over." In fact, the question of whether robots threaten our humanity is in its infancy—trailing the "dirty little secret" that AI remains an elusive dream. Alarmists appear to have taken an early lead. Columbia law prof Tim Wu thinks impersonation bots are so insidious that they should be outlawed as "enemies of mankind." Prof Kathleen Richardson of De Montfort University, co-founder of Campaign Against Sex Robots, is actively recruiting grad students to the "abolitionist feminist" cause. The robot threat is always imagined as ontological, but the solution is always political. We do not need to be saved from our machines but from ourselves.
It is a painful and pathetic fact that whenever a new technology promises to safely correct "defective genes that cause inherited diseases," alarmist pundits are only too willing to invoke the spectre of "modern-day eugenics" and master-race scenarios heralding "global catastrophe." (Remember Dolly, or stem cells?) The latest cause for hysteria is the news that a team of American scientists led by Shoukhrat Mitalipov has successfully modified a human embryo using CRISPR techniques. Mitalipov's top priority? The eradication of cystic fibrosis and other lethal hereditary conditions. A word to the alarmists: talk to people whose kids have perished from such maladies, or are doomed to do so. Walk a mile in their shoes.