PRECAUTIONARY PRINCIPLE - What's wrong with the Precautionary Principle? What are the alternatives?

An article on Spiked-online examines the tragically ironic risks involved in living in a risk-averse culture. The Extropy Institute suggests a more progress-friendly alternative in the form of the Proactionary Principle

From the Spiked-online article: Professor Sir Colin Berry is not a big fan of the 'precautionary principle': 'If everything we did had to be absolutely safe, risk-free, proven to have no adverse outcomes for anyone or anything, we'd never get anywhere. Buildings wouldn't go up, planes wouldn't get off the ground, medical breakthrough would come to a standstill, science would be stifled…. Shall I go on?' Berry says that when he challenges 'our obsession with safety', some imagine that he is leading the charge for being reckless, for throwing caution to the wind, as the saying goes. He insists that isn't so. 'Precaution is a part of everyday life. It is sensible to do things that minimise risks to ourselves and to others. You shouldn't close your eyes when you cross the road; you should stub out your cigarette before going to sleep.' But, says Berry, problems arise when precaution is transformed into an abstract principle that we're expected to live our lives by. 'Safety is a description of an approach, rather than an absolute state', he says. 'We can never be absolutely safe and free from risk. Indeed, aspiring to such a state brings its own problems.'

Read on: More sorry than safe by Brendan O'Neill

A proactionary alternative to the Precautionary Principle emerged from the recent "Vital Progress Summit" organised by the Extropy Institute: "People's freedom to innovate technologically is highly valuable, even critical, to humanity. This implies several imperatives when restrictive measures are proposed: Assess risks and opportunities according to available science, not popular perception. Account for both the costs of the restrictions themselves, and those of opportunities foregone. Favor measures that are proportionate to the probability and magnitude of impacts, and that have a high expectation value. Protect people's freedom to experiment, innovate, and progress."

Read on: the Proactionary Principle


ECO-FUNDAMENTALISM - Eco-Terror Cited as Top Threat

An article on Wired examines the growing menace of eco-terrorism

According to the FBI, eco-terrorism is the major domestic terror threat in the US, having already caused $110 million in property damage since 1976 (and that doesn't account for lost research, increased security costs, lost productivity and abandoned grants). And in the UK? Well, a leading animal rights fondamentalist organisation (SHAC) was born in Birmingham... read on:

"In the early 1990s, biotech executives and scientists were
inundated by harassment and violence in the United Kingdom
and Europe. In 1996, the violence began spreading to the
United States [...] The FBI has linked much of the harassment
and violence to groups including SHAC (Stop Huntingdon Animal
Cruelty), the Animal Liberation Front and the Earth Liberation

"SHAC's stated purpose is to shut down UK-based Huntingdon
Life Sciences, one of the largest animal-testing companies in
the world, because it uses primates, dogs, rabbits, pigs and
other animals for research. SHAC has targeted Huntingdon directly.
In February 2001, SHAC members beat the company's president, Brian
Cass, with clubs outside his home in the United Kingdom while his
wife and 3-year-old child looked on. He survived and remains head
of Huntingdon. One attacker served three years for the incident."

The threat of international terrorism at the hand of a different kind of fundamentalism was underestimated until 9/11, the article concludes. Do we need to see someone killed by an eco-fondamentalist before this threat to progress is fully recognised and confronted?


ExtroBritannia's June event: Transhumans in Space

The next ExtroBritannia event is scheduled for Saturday the 12th of
June at 2,00pm in Holborn, London. Everyone invited.

This month's theme is: Transhumans in space - space exploration/colonisation and its impact on the human condition


Conway Hall - 2,00-5,00 pm (look for the "Artists' Room")

After the event we will regroup at a local pub (Penderel's Oak) for
a chat over drinks. If you can't make it to the event, you are welcome to join us there after 5,00pm. If it is your first time at an ExtroBritannia meeting, look out for a copy of Kurzweil's "The Age of Spiritual Machines" being displayed on the table we'll be sitting at.


25 Red Lion Square,
London WC1R 4RL
Tel: 020 7242 8032
The Conway Hall homepage


The Penderel's Oak
283-288 High Holborn
London WC1V 7HJ
Tel: 0207 242 5669