Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Monday 12/07/04Last week's shock revelation that ZDNet UK editor Matt Loney failed to show due reverence to a royal edict concerning his bicycle has clearly hardened the hearts of the Windsors against all things technological.

Monday 12/07/04
Last week's shock revelation that ZDNet UK editor Matt Loney failed to show due reverence to a royal edict concerning his bicycle has clearly hardened the hearts of the Windsors against all things technological. Prince Charles, whose previous forays into the scary world of science have included promoting coffee enemas and carrot juice as cancer therapies, has emerged triumphant from his cameo in "Shrek 2" to join unlikely comrade Bill Joy, ex-Sun tech guru, in calling for care over nanotechnology lest it drown us in grey goo.

You can understand Joy's concern: like any programmer, he'll have had his share of tiny bugs reducing enormously complex systems to a pile of gibbering bits - and would you like Microsoft to be in charge of your immune system? Charles' worries seem more in line with his general unease at the modern world and our habit, post-Enlightenment, of not giving due deference to traditions and status.

Not that there's anything wrong with being cautious about new ideas with potent possibilities. But there is a curious imbalance when one assumes that the products of scientific thinking, born of scepticism and empirical testing, are somehow more likely to go wonky than the idea of sticking several pints of Nescafe up one's bum. One is irresistibly reminded of the classic Onion story along the lines of 'Emily Watkins, 14, has shocked science to its core by disproving evolution'. "I mean, if we're evolved from monkeys, how come monkeys are still here?" she said. "Like, duh!" "How could we have been so wrong?" said Richard Dawkins: "I must repent of my sins at once."

Meanwhile, the Establishment has shown that it's still capable of biting back in other ways. At a BT launch, some mild fun was poked at the company because its chairman, Sir Christopher Bland, has dropped off the medianistas' radar. Two years ago he was fifth in the Guardian 100 Media Shakers list. Last year, sixth. This year: nowhere.

But BT is not taking this lying down. "It gives us somewhere to aim for," said BT spokesman. "And anyway, he used to be an Olympic fencer. He's still got his equipment upstairs and his foils are still sharp. They'd best be careful on that rag."

So that's one for Zorro, two for Joy…

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