Re: Doomsday Bug, WAS: Goo--was Nuke etc.

From: Anders Sandberg (
Date: Wed Jan 10 2001 - 17:01:52 MST

"Michael S. Lorrey" <> quoted:

> The incident highlights how easy it could be for some with
> bio-engineering knowledge to create a murderous virus for which there
> would be no cure or effective
> vaccine, New Scientist said.

Well, to make a very murderous virus from scratch isn't easy - it
would take a lot of trial and error or careful planning to really come
up with something nasty. But now somebody has done the trial and error
job. I think we need not worry much about maniacs coming up with truly
new stuff, but rather applying already known bad stuff.

It should be noted that it is not obvious at all that an IL-4 smallpox
would be a huge threat to humans - it could be, it could be just as
troublesome as smallpox or it could be *less* troublesome. It all seem
to depend on some higher order properties of the immune system.

> It suggests tougher vetting of research proposals; a greater effort
> to train students in biological subjects about potential dangers
> arising from lab work; and encouraging greater openness among
> biologists to discuss the misuse of genetic engineering.

The problem with this case is that none of the proposed solutions
would really help. It was not an expected result at all, and
presumably any panel of experts that studied the research proposal
would not a priori be able to say that it could be dangerous. You can
protect yourself against expected dangers, and you can add safeguards
against unexpected dangers; none of the above solutions (except for
increasing awareness to some extent) will fix that.

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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