Re: near-anything boxes allowed to be in the hands of the public?

From: Zero Powers (
Date: Wed Mar 08 2000 - 21:41:22 MST

>From: "Robert J. Bradbury" <>
>On Tue, 7 Mar 2000, Zero Powers wrote:
> > Come to think of it, I don't want you to have a near-anything box.
>Who's to
> > say you won't make assasination nano-bots to resolve a personal dispute
> > between us? Or perhaps you join a doomsday cult and your "god" commands
> > to set nerve gas loose in my neighborhood. To be honest, I don't (yet)
> > trust my fellow man enough to give him almost unlimited power to create
> > whatever his heart desires in the privacy of his own home.
>You are talking about an "everything" box, not an "almost anything" box!

I don't see how an "almost anything" box is much safer than an "everything"
box if with it you can really make almost *anything.* Unless by "almost
anything" you exclude all manner of things such as gases, germs, viruses,
bacteria, programmable replicators, robots, super-computers, radioactive
matter, etc., etc. Sounds like your "almost anything" box would actually be
limited to almost nothing, save maybe a McDonald's Happy Meal or two.

>You should sit back and think about what you are saying though...
>Presumably if you are smart enough to design and manufacture assassin-bots
>you could find dozens of ways to harm someone that do not require
>resorting to nanotech! Opening the bleeder valves of the brake lines
>on the car driven by the targeted individual seems so much easier;
>as would lacing the milk in their refrigerator with doxorubicin,
>afalatoxin or even Safrole, those might take longer. Be sure to
>steal something when you are leaving, so they don't know you came
>by to poison them.

Sure I could do it like that, but for the fact that it would be near
impossible to implement any of those methods without leaving some evidence
identifying myself as the perpetrator, or at least risk being seen by some
nosy neighbor or nano-sized surveillance camera.

>Its highly questionable whether nanotech could ever provide
>non-traceable methods of harm. If you have audit trails on
>the "almost anything" machines

You mean if you have *non-hackable* audit trails. That's a big if.

>and/or extensive nano-enviro-monitors
>(nano-Transparent-Society), it is questionable whether anything
>could get to you to do concrete damage. Since the good guys
>outnumber the bad guys (we hope), presumably there would be quite
>active public and private development of nanodefenses, just like
>we now have locks on our doors and cameras in our banks. Things
>don't change, they just get smaller.

I think you are mistakenly carrying the paradigm of the good old days into
the great unknown nano-frontier. I don't think the number of good guys
versus bad guys will make a hill of beans worth of difference. There are
probably many times more law enforcement officers than there are hackers.
That didn't stop Melissa virus or the recent DoS attacks, and it probably
won't stop sufficiently equipped and motivated nano-crooks. Sure, in the
end the mounties may always get their man, but that won't mean jack to you
and me once our neighborhood has gone gray goo.

Seeing as how the tech will most likely be managed by AI, anybody who can
copy, steal, evolve or purchase on the black market the necessary
hard/software to control their own AI will probably be able to hack all but
the newest and most advanced security measures. Get your hands on an AI
capable of self-optimization and self-evolution and within days you may well
be able to hack every imaginable security device.

>The species as designed cannot be made guaranteeably more trustworthy.
>Doing that requires re-engineering the mind. Which is why, in the
>long run, IMO, higher-intelligence AIs might seek to do away with humans.

I don't know. I think we're more trustworthy than we were back in the age
of empires. Heck I think we're more trustworthy than we were before WWII,
or even before the U.S. Civil Rights movement, or since the end of South
African apartheid or even the fall of the USSR. Maybe not by much, buy
little by little we are evolving into a better species. This trend will
certainly continue. Sure there will probably always be the odd crackpot who
is largely untrustworthy. But, if we can safely get past the demise of
religious fundamentalism (and *that* is probably the biggest if of all), I
think there will be fewer and fewer reasons for any one wacko to be wacky
enough to unleash destruction on the rest of us.


"To infinity and beyond!"
-- B. Lightyear

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