Iraq and the Pathologies of Primacy
The Flawed Logic That Produced the War Is Alive and Well
We are on the verge of great changes in the international structures and effects of that most pervasive of mass media, television. We are passing from the era of the low-powered distribution satellite, which transmits programs through the filter of a broadcaster or a cable system, into the era of the Direct Broadcast Satellite (DBS), with a higher-powered signal which can go straight into the individual home.
Under a DBS system, all manner of nations, or even all manner of companies which make franchise deals with nations, will have the technical capacity to arrange these direct transmissions to the public the world over. This signal can be transnational and unfiltered. The transmissions have scant respect for existing markets, for national boundaries, for copyright and artistic properties, or for the established political and power structure of broadcasting.
DBS will, in effect, create proximity between far-flung points; all countries across oceans and cultures could become as Canada to the United States, as Ireland to Britain, as the other islands of the Caribbean to Cuba. The economics of communications satellites are not distance-sensitive. They destroy geography. The transmission cost is in sending the signal up and down rather than across. For a satellite with a signal range which spans a continent or an ocean, distances within the cone-like or oval shape of the area reached by the signal-the so-called cone of transmission-become of little economic importance.
Direct Broadcast Satellites, even allowing for cultural differences, barriers of language, and the high cost of entry into the business, make possible an unregulated invasion into traditional domestic markets. With a working DBS, we could all become each other's neighbors, with everything that implies, to be enriched, influenced and irritated by each other. In that sense we may all become Canadians now.
Such proximity has serious implications for the business and political structure of broadcasting. It will have long-term social and international policy implications, opening the way, at least technically, for exchanges of values, information and propaganda of unparalleled impact. We are used to arguments about cultural dominance and the free flow of information, but these have usually been in the context of the Third World and North-South competition. By contrast, the changes that are now building up may initially have their greatest impact within the industrialized world, in the rich television markets of Europe in the first instance, but eventually including the United States. Nations, even advanced nations, risk losing control over the development of their own systems of television communication.
Similar possibilities have long been present with international radio transmissions, but with much less importance. Government-sponsored short-wave and medium-wave broadcasts are a common-place in the Third World and much of Europe, though crackly and unreliable short-wave reception patterns have never made much of an impact within the United States, where a variety of clearer transmissions are available. But television has an impact (and costs) different by several orders of magnitude from radio. The emergence of unregulated television access, therefore, poses problems of law, politics and economics far more profound than any of the familiar conflicts over radio.
So far, responsible government officials do not appear to have recognized these implications. Their discussions of communications technology focus largely on the desire to build high technology industries, to promote employment and to be seen to be modern. The motives of governments are confused. They know communications are important, but have little basis for understanding how to proceed, which technologies to encourage, how far to intervene, or whether to let the supposed magic of the marketplace sort things out.
A rational approach to this new set of questions-which involve not just governments and broadcasters, but also policy analysts and citizens-requires an understanding of just what this new technological development is, and how we got there. We can next consider the promise and delights, but also the difficulties and problems that would be raised, or made more serious, by the widespread introduction of DBS systems. Then we can see how a DBS industry might develop out of the present confused state of policy, and look at possible policies that might be pursued by individual nations or groups of nations to get the benefit, while avoiding some of the dangers, of the new technology.
As might be expected, television broadcasting developed in diverse ways throughout the world. Europe, for instance, focused mainly on national network systems with little emphasis on local stations, while in the United States local stations were brought together into networks. In both cases the transmissions were initially dependent upon land-lines from telephone companies, and local relay transmitters.
From the 1960s the industry moved to the use of communications satellites, as these became cost efficient, in order to send signals from one broadcaster to another, who in turn arranged onward transmission to the public either directly or through cable systems. (Next year NBC will transfer its entire national transmission system to its local stations from land-lines to satellite.) These point-to-point communications satellites have spanned the oceans and the continents, but they have emitted low-power signals to large and expensive reception dishes, professionally controlled and licensed.
The possibility of higher-powered transponders operating from satellites emerged over a decade ago, with the corollary that the new signals might be received by cheaper and smaller dishes, within the economic and technical reach of individual households.
The International Telecommunication Union, a specialized agency of the United Nations with 158 member countries, is the treaty organization attempting to regulate international transmissions. Direct Broadcast Satellites first came before the World Administrative Radio Conference (a body convened by the ITU) in 1971, but there was no apparent sense of urgency. In later meetings the issue was joined more directly, in the context of a North-South debate over allocation of broadcast frequencies. In the forefront of industrial powers, the United States argued for an evolutionary, "use-as-needed" approach to the assignment of frequencies in the appropriate segment of the electromagnetic spectrum. But the majority succeeded in establishing the principle of assigning guaranteed frequencies to individual member-countries, whether they were in a position to make early use of their assigned facility or not.
In the second half of the decade the World Administrative Radio Conference set about the task of applying this principle to Direct Broadcast Satellites. Over American objections, on the grounds that the technology was still evolving and that any widespread DBS deployment was a decade or more away, the European, African and Asian members of the Conference accepted and worked out an allotment plan in 1977 and 1979. Individual countries in their hemisphere were assigned specified positions in outer space (orbital slots) in which DBS could be placed, authorized to broadcast on certain frequencies at certain signal strengths. Each nation was given a cone of transmission that would cover its own territory with as little overlap as possible into the territory of others. Exceptions to this principle in Europe were granted to Andorra, Lichtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, San Marino and the Vatican, all of them so small that spillover was inevitable, and exceptions were also made for regional groupings in Scandinavia and among Arab states.
As it turned out, the U.S. argument that technology was likely to change rapidly was correct. In the last five years reception technology has advanced significantly, with both the size of the dish and the cost of the associated electronics dropping dramatically. These developments have had the effect of enlarging the scope of the cone of transmission. They also blur regulatory distinctions, for instance, between high-powered DBS and mid-powered satellites, which operate under different rules but are still capable, arguably, of delivering a proper service to individual homes.
These mid-powered satellites are one of three types of equipment relevant to this discussion. More familiar low-powered satellites operating in the C Band, which have been with us for a long time, are used by professionals to transmit to very large receiving dishes. The newer mid-powered satellites in the Ku Band may not have been designed for transmission to individuals at all and may not even be transmitting on frequencies initially designated for direct broadcast to individuals. They have been considered point-to-point or Fixed Service facilities rather than facilities for general Broadcasting Service. With improved reception technology, however, it is in fact practical for an individual household to receive even mid-powered signals on a reasonably small dish of two to four feet in diameter. (Admittedly, some argue that, in business terms, it is better to work with less power in the sky and slightly larger dishes rather than what they would regard as excessive power in the sky and very small dishes.)
These emerging technical distinctions have given rise to great confusion, since the international regulations in Europe, for instance, concerning the third kind of satellite, classified as Direct Broadcast Satellites, are different from the regulations covering the mid-power, point-to-point satellites. The trend of the technology and the drive of the marketplace could be making a nonsense of the regulatory structure.
In the United States it is different. So far there has been little attempt to interfere with mid-power satellite plans to use frequencies designated for point-to-point communication in order to achieve direct broadcast. DBS allocations were ultimately made for the Western Hemisphere in 1983, but in a practical sense there seems to be no barrier to entering the market by the side door. By and large, any satellite transmission you can see that you are intended to see is DBS. This is a down-to-earth definition, but one that is not yet officially recognized in Europe. The question is whether official recognition will turn out to be all that important in the real world of market pressures-maybe only if it bends.
Today, if the problems of initial cost and acceptable programming can be met, it is technically possible for all Europe, and other parts of the world as well, to become a morass of overlapping signals from satellites assigned originally to cover mainly one national area. And the likelihood is that further improvements both in transmission and at the receiving end of direct broadcasting will be achieved. Already today, for example, the cone of transmission of the allotted Irish satellite could readily cover Britain as well as Ireland, while that of Britain could cover not only Britain and Ireland but also much of continental Europe. Moreover, a Direct Broadcast Satellite, beyond the edge of its normal transmissions, can become a communications satellite to larger dishes. So you add this simple ability to pull a distant foreign signal into a local cable system and send it into individual homes from there. The cable system can easily amortize the cost of very expensive and sophisticated equipment to do the job.
The new range of DBS possibilities-both high-powered and mid-powered-has predictably led to intense interest in the past two years, not only on the part of governments but especially among private entrepreneurs who might be licensed by nations to use all or part of their allocated orbital slots. For example, in considering future commercial telecasting, the Irish government has admitted that Britain is the prime market to be targetted and has sought proposals to help it develop and extend its system. The Australian press magnate Rupert Murdoch is reported to be among those interested in taking the Irish path into the British market. The Irish could well make a partnership with American interests-or with anybody else. Similar possibilities are being studied by a number of other entrepreneurs, some seeking to reduce costs by using mid-power DBS transponders that would nonetheless reach a worthwhile audience and some hoping to bend rules and operate on frequencies allocated originally not to true high-power DBS but to point-to-point Fixed-Service communications.
The disorientation foreshadowed by the DBS technology is strikingly political, but commercial and legal as well. The possibilities for direct or indirect propaganda are immense. What happens if this powerful ability to communicate should become the vehicle of deliberate policy of one nation toward another? East Germans now see the television signals of West Germany and vice versa, Belgians pull French and British television into their cable systems and the Dutch draw from the Germans, while Jordan and Israel beam their respective newscasts to each other. Through cable systems the signal of the Soviet distribution satellite, Horizon, is already technically available in households of Western Europe, and for professional reasons the signal is monitored in Britain and in the United States. We are facing a world of many more signals of higher power and easier availability. Direct attempts at propaganda, however, may be the least of our problems.
Television programs tend to reflect the values of the country of origin. Even if nonpolitical in character, they are not value free. They may be designated good, bad or indifferent artistically, but the real point is that they are not yours. So if a nation believes that it has a culture of value, and one which should be healthily reflected in the dominant media, it has a new problem. Nations with tender new communications systems can become dominated by strong ones.
For some small nations there may be another side of the coin. Under international agreements, all nations can have certain rights to pieces of the frequency spectrum. As a legal entity, however small, the island of Bermuda, for instance, has been allocated two orbital slots for DBS. These are like property rights in outer space. If you have no need or no money to build your own house, there may be someone else who will pay to pick up the option. Of course, your property only has value if it is a convenient path into a more lucrative market, if nobody can find another path, and if you make a deal at the right time. What is given by regulation can be lost if the regulation collapses.
To take an even more intriguing example, a search through the literature will reveal that the government of Andorra, with the agreement of the two co-princes (the Bishop of Urgel and the President of the French Republic), has given permission for the study of an Andorran Direct Broadcast Satellite. The World Administrative Radio Conference of 1977 allocated a position (at 37 degrees West) to that legal entity. Andorra is, not surprisingly, looking for partners in this venture, and the Andorran market itself is hardly likely to be the attraction. In earlier days, when Andorra was offering radio frequencies to outside companies, one of the applicants was a Muslim group trying to reestablish Islamic influence in Spain.
One of the first things the new commercial and technical possibilities threaten in Europe is the notion of public service broadcasting. For many reasons, some of them idealistic and some bad and repressive, West European countries have tended to government control of their broadcasting, both in its standards and in its quantity, and to fund it with public money. Government broadcasting authorities also controlled imports, taking the pick of the American product. By and large, Europe has put its faith in a system which relied on the reallocation of resources in the name of the public good, by financing the bread from the revenues of a limited number of circuses.
Once the restraints of regulation and nationally controlled transmission technology are removed, established business practices are disrupted, as witnessed by the concern expressed in reports of the European Economic Commission on such matters as the breakdown of national standards on the control of advertising. The problem of copyright arrangements to compensate the owners of the programming rights is complicated, but pales into insignificance when compared to the potential cultural and social impact of satellite development. All this is so if one considers simply the interaction of the desire for more entertainment and the desire to make money-ignoring the potential for deliberate propaganda.
This can happen today in the smaller developing countries receiving the signals of even the existing low-powered point-to-point satellites. Take the case of an island in the Caribbean or in the Pacific. So far their residents have had access to short-wave radio from afar, their own local radio, possibly a small-scale television service that buys syndicated old programs from Hollywood. Now that same island can buy a satellite dish (even if individual homeowners cannot yet afford it), and pull in signals from other lands to feed the hunger for entertainment that has already been stimulated by video cassette machines and bootleg tapes. "Pirates" of the Caribbean basin are growing fast. Their booty is rebroadcast on local stations without much thought of copyright or payment to the owners. Some islands have experienced visits from American businessmen who have taken local entrepreneurs up upon a high mountain, shown them a satellite dish and offered to build a domestic cable system. This may have glamour, but should hardly be high on any sensible list of priorities for economic development.
The Caribbean has been in the forefront of this phenomenon because of the easy availability of nearby U.S. signals. But islands like Tonga in the Pacific are among those which have also received offers from eager foreign entrepreneurs.
The prospect of every man with his own satellite dish, receiving television programs from, literally, heaven knows where, has so far sent the nations of Europe, in the first instance, into a search for defensive alternatives.
Faced with losing control over the television signals entering their countries, and thereby over the whole structure of their broadcast communications, they have the option of imposing restrictive laws or setting up external barriers in the market place-for instance by establishing technical standards incompatible with those of other countries and making it uneconomical to try to overcome them.
This is, of course, less of an embarrassment for totalitarian countries. They will not have too much difficulty in inhibiting the manufacture or importation of the essential electronics, although the Soviet Union is already confronted by pirate viewing of unauthorized video tapes by the elite. But, for a democracy, overt acts against freedom of communication are not politically popular, and the market forces behind the flow of information and the purveying of entertainment are very strong indeed. They have political power.
Historically, as we have seen, most of Europe's existing television systems have been highly regulated and deliberately confined to a limited number of channels, but that is changing. If the choice from outside can no longer be barred, one strategy is to multiply the choices from inside. The precedent of the Radio Luxembourg experience may be helpful. In the 1950s, popular commercial programming from Luxembourg, complete with hit tunes and breezy chatter, competed with the long-standing radio monopoly of the British Broadcasting Corporation, with its staid and highbrow image. Later, it was followed by the pirate stations from ships offshore. Rather than lose its appeal to younger Britons altogether, the BBC had to revamp its image and its programming, introducing the popular Radio One. That and the introduction of commercial radio into the United Kingdom brought the audience back to the British rather than off-shore programming. Today Luxembourg may again play a significant role in the development of transnational television signals in this new era, although the costs and risks in such a television venture are very much greater.
Some governments argue that with the new television technology, it must be made economically and technically preferable to pass programming through a new kind of filter. In Europe, most governments appear to have decided that the filter should be a professionally controlled cable system.
With cable, the principle of a national filter is retained, even as the choices of programs multiply. The market can be rigged to inhibit the spread of satellite reception directly by individuals. The trick here is not actually to ban direct reception, but to discourage it by technological standards and an economic structure that makes cable cheaper for the consumer. The cable system, of course, can be regulated because it is a public franchise.
But even if a government is successful in turning its people away from the temptation of direct reception, there is a catch. The alternative, the cable system, has an insatiable and undiscriminating appetite for product. Few nations have the production base to feed the multi-channeled monster. The only source of popular entertainment at the right price is the United States. It has the popular inventory. American entertainment is already universally available, watched by the millions (and deeply resented by the elites) in many countries, but as the volume of transmissions increases, the cumulative effect will be more profound.
The French government has already made it quite clear that it does not intend to allow the unrestricted importation of foreign signals or programming into its planned cable transmission systems, a modern Maginot Line of culture. Under the rules of the European Economic Community, it may have difficulty in discouraging programs from other European countries, but this is not its main concern. The real problem, as the French see it, is to keep out the Americans. So they will set quotas.
Britain intends to expand its cable systems and, having a strong domestic production base, seeks to protect it. But with a touching and recently discovered faith in market forces, the British are of at least two minds about how restrictive to become toward foreign programs and signals.
In West Germany, former Chancellor Helmut Schmidt once described cable television as "more dangerous than nuclear power," but his successor, Helmut Kohl, has started a major investment, through the Deutches Bundespost, to build cable systems with private-sector programming, based on commercial advertising. The Netherlands and Belgium, where cable penetration is already high, are bracing themselves for more signals coming into their systems from abroad, and are likely soon to allow pay television-as distinct from basic cable-for the first time. At least, these European governments argue, at the local cable head where the signals are received and retransmitted down the line into the individual households, some control can be maintained.
In the area of news and information, Ted Turner's Cable News Network signal from Atlanta is already in Japan. Arrangements are being made in other parts of Asia, and he is expected to provide the signal to cable systems and hotels in Europe next year. CNN's incremental costs involve only extension of the signal, and the market is extended accordingly. The local entrepreneur faces the cost of creating a complete round-the-clock service for what seems to be a small and vulnerable market. Recently, when the Canadians sought to establish a domestic cable news service, no one in Canada was willing to try.
For many years Canada has faced a special problem, with the bulk of its population strung out from East to West in relative proximity to the border with the United States. The Canadians have had great difficulty in sustaining their domestic production base because of the strength and popular attraction of their southern neighbor's signals. Canada is one of the few countries to have articulated any clear policies to try to deal with its situation. Recently it has decided to license the importation of certain additional U.S. signals into its highly developed cable systems, but is encouraging the marketing of these program services in bundles which include less attractive or economically viable Canadian program services. It has further imposed Canadian content regulations on programming and quotas on foreign imports, and offers special funding for domestic production, all aimed, perhaps more in hope than in expectation, at building up Canada's own communications strengths so as to become less vulnerable to imports.
As technology brings more channels, market forces will grow to dominate and most forms of government control will be eroded. There will surely be some modification and restraints, but the likely way to generate the large amounts of cash needed to expand communications systems, which governments themselves may be reluctant to spend, will be to let people try to make money out of it. Technology and the market impetus will crash against the old barriers of supposed public good, and these, eventually, will fall.
In the new era a nation well served by a creative, powerful and independent communications industry, such as the United States, will be less vulnerable than those which are weak or restrictive in the information and entertainment they serve their people.
But there are questions. The United States, particularly in its over-building of multi-channel cable systems, already shows every sign of expanding capacity to transmit far beyond its capacity to provide an economic base for anything worth watching. This trend is only likely to accelerate as DBS reception becomes a technical and economic commonplace. Good programs cost money. If programs become available from elsewhere, at the right price, they will build their share of audience in a highly fragmented market.
So far, most imports into the United States have been up-market and vaguely cultural, not much of a threat to the dominant American stream of programming. But as the national audience becomes fragmented with many offerings on many channels, old loyalties are eroded and other influences may gain a foothold.
For example, the fastest growing minority in the United States is Hispanic. Where does most Spanish-language programming come from? Certainly not from an indigenous production base within the United States. Much of it is made in Mexico. Spanish-speaking producers in the United States will begin to feel like their Canadian counterparts, undercut by their next-door neighbors. Cuba will attempt, with Soviet help, to go into DBS for the Caribbean and Central America, and to transmit to the United States as well. Similarly, once the audience for Chinese-language programming reaches an economic level, imports from the People's Republic of China, Taiwan or Hong Kong will be increasingly attractive. The opportunities for social and political messages, alongside familiar cultural patterns, are obvious.
The United States has never been confronted with this question in any serious fashion, at least not until now. It has a prosperous and diverse communications industry. Signals from other countries, or indeed competition in programming, have never seemed threatening. But this can change; the United States may not be immune forever, for good or ill.
The factors working to speed up a revolution in transnational television are technological feasibility, which creates its own kind of imperative; the drive for markets; and a defensive need to occupy territory before it is inhabited by others. People also seem to want more choice of television programming, but it is not clear how much they are willing to pay for it, by whatever method of transmission.
In contrast, slowing down the revolution are different national technical standards (some of them newly erected for defensive reasons); business doubts about highly capital-intensive and long-term projects; and obstructive government regulation. There are also copyright tangles and cultural resistance, leading to a problem of obtaining programs that people actually want to watch in enough volume to make the enterprise worthwhile. The question is whether the revolutionaries marching into a supposedly glorious future might trample down the harvest of today.
Very few governments and very few responsible officials seem to have thought the matter through. Even among the few who have addressed it seriously, there is a dismaying mixture of motives in what is proclaimed as a communications policy. Either such naïve faith is proclaimed in market forces that there is, in fact, no policy, or there is a government plan for active intervention for industrial reasons. In some cases there is a confused mix of both. Communications thinking is so muddled up with the need to stimulate or protect certain industries (notably an inefficient European electronics industry terrified of the Japanese), to provide employment, to protect culture, or to placate certain constituencies, that it makes no sense in terms of its substance-which is communications.
Another danger is that aspiring nations may invest in an infrastructure for communications far beyond their real needs. It could become the latest status symbol, like an uneconomic Third World airline. Its effects on national values, cultures and cultural diversities may prove, however, even less well judged and far more serious.
For larger and more prosperous lands, confusions of motive could lead to high investment in over-elaborate systems using an inappropriate technology, smothering people with excessive entertainment options, all in an attempt to provide an economic base for interactive home banking systems, energy control, home security and computer chat, things probably attainable by a cheaper technology of less glamour. Many of these services are, no doubt, socially useful if not essential, and one day people may regard them as the norm of a comfortable home, just like tap water. But the real cost must be examined. It is not merely an economic cost.
Simple prudence belongs alongside the business barriers, the high initial investment and continuing high risk, and the regulatory barriers that linger to inhibit the new DBS technologies. People can be misled by a romantic notion of what may be technically possible, to the neglect of what may make good economic sense and what may be politically acceptable. A vast gulf also looms between the vision of those who wish to exploit markets, however crudely, and those who wish to preserve culture, good or bad, with varying degrees of wistful conservatism. Much scholarship has been applied to convergence in the telecommunications industry, data flow, the problem of privacy and so on, but so far little has been done to examine the possible political and social transnational effects of the new technologies.
There are some who will argue that the breakdown of the old order is for the best anyhow, and with a wistful Panglossian air tell you about market forces and technological imperatives. Others, with a more wild-eyed look, and usually planning to use other people's money, will lecture on the new Renaissance, which they claim is about to astonish us, if the market is liberated. They regard regulated television services as today's version of monks laboring over illuminated manuscripts, keeping the mysteries the monopoly of the elite until the age of the printing press. The more conservative school of thought shudders at the possible downfall of responsible and politically accountable mediating institutions (the established broadcasters), which are regarded as a vital part of the social fabric of nations.
As it will probably work out, the revolution will not come fast enough for the revolutionaries. Indeed, many of its active proponents will lose a great deal of money by being too far ahead of the game. The conservatives, on the other hand, will be unable to resist the change altogether. Some good things will be lost; one can hope that some others will be found.
What should be the basis of rational governmental thinking? The first rule should be that "more is not always better," and the second should be that "what is possible is not always desirable."
Governments wishing to give their people more viewing options, by whatever suitable technology, without washing away hope for their indigenous production base, should move, like Canada with its Program Development Fund, to strengthen that base first.
For the larger countries, a reasonable policy would be to move steadily forward into DBS, in a controlled and phased fashion. The sovereign allocations of DBS capacity could be used in transnational cooperation. The British and the Irish, for example, could treat their total of ten orbital slots in a joint coherent development, since all their signals could cover both markets. Such planning could bring economies of scale and maximize new technological opportunities, such as much clearer pictures on larger screens, the system of High Definition Television. Communities should multiply the means of transmission only when they have some reasonably clear idea of what it is that they expect to have transmitted. The riposte to the statement: "I can give you 50 channels" should always be: "50 channels of what?" Any other approach is not only politically irresponsible, it may also be bad for business.
The aim should be to provide a service to the overall public, rather than allowing direct competition for a very fragile market. Cut-throat competition, except in the largest and strongest and most entrepreneurial economies, would create unacceptable losses in the early days of founding a new industry, as each separate company lunged for what they saw as the most lucrative sector. In some cases, commercial prudence will prevent too much of this bloodletting; in others, some degree of government involvement in providing ground rules and early economic help may be needed.
The smaller countries, that have a legal right to their real estate in the sky but no means to develop it, should attempt to assess its value and trade off their rights on a leasehold basis to others to whom it has value and who have the resources to build. They will have to act fast, for people will find other paths into the market and their celestial real estate could lose its lustre. They should use their leverage to obtain the basic infrastructure for a reasonable communications system of their own, nothing too grand or too glamorous, but suited to their real needs and conducive to the preservation and enrichment of their own culture and values. Plenty of alien corn will be scattered around; they should try and nurture some of the home-grown variety.
At the end of the day, the net effect of greater viewer choice, by whatever method of transmission, will probably be good. The more international communication, the better, at least in theory. But this will be so only if there is real choice, enriching to the consumer, rather than a false choice between economic modules labelled as programs, manufactured for largest audience at lowest cost.
Doubtless Siena worried about the cultural impact of Florence, but we now know that that was an interaction full of creativity and confidence. The danger of the unthinking multiplication of television options is that it may homogenize and extinguish local flavor.
It is the Direct Broadcast Satellite and the cable that present a dark scenario. But the technology is neutral. A brighter story is also within our grasp. For it to become reality, we will need more thought, imagination and understanding than has so far been in evidence.