Science & Consequence

A couple of weeks ago I was having lunch with a mathematician I know and he was talking about his struggles to work out citizenship in the US because his home country of Germany forbids dual citizenship unless a very strict level of hardship can be proven. However, his lawyer said that because he could not receive things such as NSA grants without US citizenship and not being able to receive such things would be considered a legitimate hardship, the German government might make an exception. At the time of this conversation, I flashed on Good Will Hunting, recalling the scene in which Will turns down a seemingly super-sexy, exclusive and lucrative offer from the NSA because of all the terrible intended/unintended consequences his work would likely produce.

Today, just by chance, I came across this Kurt Vonnegut interview discussing Cat’s Cradle and the lack of conscience scientists often display in their blind pursuit of scientific or mathematical truths and their blithe indifference as to who will use their work and how. Vonnegut, who learned this the hard way between the nuclear bomb and a tenure at GE, was so articulate on this so far ahead of everyone else.  It’s a bit of a raw piece of video so beware: