Nanomilitary policy

From: Anders Sandberg (
Date: Wed Mar 15 2000 - 06:01:49 MST writes:

> The point of this digression is that the military think-tank
> establishment is already developing a mind-set that could evolve
> into one adaptable to "nano-war": The factors described above in
> connection with anticipation of a strategic and tactical environment
> characterized by a tiered deployment of increasingly autonomous and
> smaller and smaller munitions seems capable of evolving into the
> ultimate development of "robo-warfare" at the molecular scale.

Yes, this is my impression too from my encounters with the
military-industrial complex. It might take a long while to percolate
through the various military organisations, but political pressures
towards lower budgets and higher efficiency against new, ill-defined
threats might support it.

The problem with military nanotechnology isn't that it is military but
that nanotech defenses might be withheld or suppressed in order to
promote national security. That military forces are going to apply
nanotech is a virtual certainty. The technologically leading nations
are (not by coincidence) democratic nations with a strong interest in
protecting themselves first and second the ability to exert
force. Hence a lot of work is going to be done on nanodefenses, but
allowing them to spread into the hands of the public or to other
nations might be counterproductive - it would make potential enemies
less vulnerable to their own weapons, and possibly give them the
chance to work on cracking the defenses. This creates a situation
where the military possess defenses intended to be deployed in case of
an attack, but the public may be less well protected especially
against low-level attacks.

A hopeful possibility is to treat nanowarfare from the start as
something akin to bioweapons (there are many similarities). Growing
tanks from local mud might be OK, but pouring gray goo on the enemy
would be regarded as an atrocity. This could shift the emphasis
towards nanodefense rather than nanoffence (there will definitely be a
need for nanodefense anyway, since there will always be outlaw groups
and accidents) and keep much of the defense development in the open.

This is actually something we can start working on right now, by
suggesting good policies on how to deal with nanowarfare and starting
a debate on making direct nanoweapons as politically unusable as
bioweapons. If we start it rather than the luddites, then we can maybe
keep it from becoming "ban all nanotech because it will kill us all"
or "nanotech them all and let God v2.0 sort them out".

Anders Sandberg                                      Towards Ascension!                  
GCS/M/S/O d++ -p+ c++++ !l u+ e++ m++ s+/+ n--- h+/* f+ g+ w++ t+ r+ !y

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