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

From: Michael S. Lorrey (
Date: Thu Apr 06 2000 - 12:18:17 MDT

Anders Sandberg wrote:

> "Zero Powers" <> writes:
> > My fear is that we as a species will not morally evolve fast enough
> > to keep up with our technology. We will be the equivalent of 5 year olds
> > who have learned to manufacture sub-machine guns. Not a pretty picture.
> >
> > I don't know what the solution is, but I'm leaning more and more toward
> > leaving the technology in the hands of Big Brother until we as a race are
> > mature enough to handle it.
> I think this shows one of the major problems in this line of thinking
> - because if Joe Q. Public is not to be trusted with a nanoassembler,
> how can we then trust Big Brother? If humans are not morally evolved
> enough (whatever that means), then the aggregate of humans making up
> Big Brother is also not likely to be morally evolved enough. And if a
> maniac with nano gives you bad dreams, then try not to dream about a
> nasty Big Brother with nano.

Exactly. Government is not God. It is nothing more, and nothing less than a
group of human beings who give themselves power and authority to do more than a
common citizen is permitted to do by the rest of society. Government bureaucrats
are individuals, and are just as, if not more, likely to be corrupted by power
than by an individual who does not desire to be a part of a power hungry
organization. In every instance where government gains power and abilities to
cause more harm than is possible by a single individual, that government always
uses it unjustly on at least an occasional, if not a frequent basis. The only
exception is the use of nuclear weapons, but only in the sense of employment,
not deployment.

> There is also another problem here, and that is that "moral evolution"
> (whatever that is; I agree that we have seen a trend the last
> centuries towards more human-friendly and "nice" moralities, but that
> is no proof of an obgoing evolution towards something "good" and might
> just be my own particular prejudices talking) might not be
> enough. Imagine a world of saints, and one maniac with doomsday nano -
> you get the same problem regardless of the average ethical standing of
> people as long as the product of avaoilable destructiveness times the
> amount of people times the fraction dangerous lunatics becomes large
> enough. To remain safe, you need to keep down the technology, which
> seems very hard to do, keep down the population, which might be doable
> but for other reasons, or keep the fraction lunatics as low as
> possible, which is likely even harder than keeping control over
> technology. After all, you can be a dangerous lunatic without knowing
> it or being apparent to others.

However, expecting one madman to be able to out-develop millions of benevolent
nano-developers is not logical. Any and every offensive technology has a
defense. That is one of the big truths of military technology.

> As I see it, this dilemma is important. It is maybe one of the most
> worrying socio-philosophical problems of transhumanism. Banning
> dangerous technologies seldom works, at least for those that require
> sufficiently small investments to develop. Big Brother is not a viable
> option because of the risk of abuse. Non-human regulatory systems
> like the nanarchy idea debated in the Good Old Days on this list has
> the same problem. It is not clear that balancing a powerful enough BB
> with a transparent society of little brothers is
> possible. Self-regulation probably works better than most people
> realise, but only against threats that do not wipe out the whole
> system the first time they are used.

There are at least a dozen nuclear powers in the world, which include some
countries that the popular press depicts as rather insanely led 'rogue' states.
That nobody in 55 years has used one in conflict is a rather good testament to
how sane and responsible most anyone can be when they gain a better sense of
security and responsibility.

Its a rather easily understandable tautology that actual use of such weapons are
a losing hand for everyone. The 'madmen' that the statists seem so scared of, so
far as I can tell, have no hate for most people, it is typically state authority
and state supported activities that these 'madmen' hate. Terrorism is not done
in a meaningless manner, it always has understandable goals, and those goals are
almost always a demand that a government stop committing some sort of crime that
it has been getting away with. Considering the level of anarchy in the former
soviet states, I would not be surprised if some terrorist organizations did not
already have nuclear weapons.

The main reason most all terrorism exists is because statists refuse to
acknowledge the legitimacy of the claims of abuse by disenfranchised
individuals. Very few, if any, people commit violence for the sake of violence.
Such people are sociopaths or psychopaths, and brain scans can easily detect
such mental states.

I understand the worries of people like Zero and of Bill Joy, I just don't think
the answer is to confiscate everyone's rights when their worries are about only
a few. Develop a means to easily and inexpensively determine sociopathic or
psychopathic states in people minds (f it doesn't exist already, which I think
it does), and mandate that anyone who reaches the age of majority must pass such
a scan to become fully enfranchised to utilize transhumanist technologies. If
you want recertification once a decade and after any accident involving brain
trauma, thats fine too.

Mike Lorrey

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