Monday, July 16, 2007


Two excellent and interesting articles for your consideration today.

First, from the New York Times: Jury trials come to Japan. I, for one, didn't know that Japan had tribunal-style trials. I found the whole thing fascinating, especially the national campaign to educate citizens (well, technically subjects, I think). The article makes it sound like it is not so much a program to teach the students how to be jurors, but how to express their own opinions.

Chris has written in the past about crime in Japan - the 99.8% conviction rate, for instance, boggles the mind. "If they were innocent, why would they be on trial?" Sounds like a scary place to be falsely accused, and the intimation of forced confessions conflicts with my image of modern Japan as a restrained, peaceful nation. But an amazing social experiment is about to take place, on a national scale, and I hope to hear more about it, both in the news and from my friends overseas.

Next, some hard science via the New York Review of Books. One of the great futurists of the age, Freeman Dyson, writes on biotechnology. Dyson has a history of predicting some off-the-wall things (e.g. Dyson Trees), but the man is indisputably a genius. He was one of the great proponents of Project Orion - flying to Mars by riding the explosive blasts of hundreds of atomic bombs. But the article posits a "domestication" of biotechnology. Just as the computer went from the province of governments and huge corporations to individuals, so could genome design move from the lab to the home. It is an interesting parallel, and it raises some great questions that Dyson discusses. Foremost in my thinking is that if there are malicious hackers that create computer viruses, there will be biotech equivalents. Learning from our history, we should prioritize creating open source anti-virus organizations, like the Nortons or Anti-Virs that help contain digital mayhem.

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