A recent letter regarding moderating the extropian list and a review of some of the recent postings on the list leads me to offer the following comments:
(a) In my reading of "Nanomedicine", it seems to be getting clearer and
clearer that as the process of "borg"izing humans occurs, they become less and less affected by things we normally consider to be personal weapons. It should be feasible to re-engineer, first starting with genomic modifications, and then moving onto nano-assist devices the normal response to penetration by high speed projectiles so that in most situations they do not represent a threat (assuming non-brain penetration and/or a diamondoid skull reinforcement). If you are engineered to this level, then current personal weapons become about annoying as bee stings. The ethics however, of engineering such "enhancements" into children, who are presumably incapable of "consenting" to them, will be very very difficult.
(b) Once humans have personal defense systems at the limits of physics,
the only things which are potentially harmful are weapons at the limits of physics. These areas will be, I suspect, subject to intense debate when one discusses who should or should not be able to posess such weapons. For example, personal particle accelerators (if feasible) could be used to disable all on-board nanodevices (through high radiation levels). Such a device would presumably cook the cells as well. A self-targeting, high-velocity, high-capacity explosive device would function to perform sufficient atomic disassembly to permanently incapacitate the individual and be a favorite with the military. High-velocity aerobot ensnarement nets would presumably be the weapon of choice for law enforcement officials.
(c) Personal defensive nanoenhancment obviously represents a benefit to
individuals and a threat to the population if available to criminals. Would a standard punishment for convicted felons be to de-enhance their defenses? Could this even be done without dismantling them? Is the first stop of a felon after release the local black-market defense restoration shop?
(d) It would seem that the ultimate deterrant to criminal activities (of the
form where weapons are required to coerce behaviors) would be the requirement of guaranteeing that a victim have no personal "backups". Would an individual "backup", upon downloading, make it his mission in life to get revenge for the premature death of the original "self"? Or would s/he/it care? Are we back to the days of wild-wild-west justice since multiple backup copies are presumably cheap and they can keep being reactivated until they get the job done? It would appear that criminal activity would only continue if you believe you have a guarantee for a reasonable chance of success. [If the criminal has backup copies as well, this could escalate in a manner similar to net-news wars!] If you lose that belief (as is highly likely to occur with rape and to a lesser degree murder), due to the establishment of DNA databanks and the difficulty of not leaving DNA evidence, then those types of crime(s) should disappear. Will we only be left with "berserker"/"terrorist" type crimes where the intent is to sacrifice oneself?
(e) It appears that in the nanotechnology era, there is no problem having
sufficient resources for survival so long as the population density does not exceed 1 person per sq meter of surface area on the Earth. [Humans need ~100W of power, 1 sq meter provides ~1000W.] Nanotech harvesting of power in space makes even this limit *very* soft. Movements such as "open source" nano-designs and solar power would allow everyone to have a very nice air-car, house/mansion/castle, personal health/defense nanoenhancements, etc. for *FREE*, so *why* exactly would anyone need or want a "personal weapon"?
(f) In the scenario outlined in (e), it seems that the only reason for
personal weapons is to protect yourself from (or initiate the overthrow
of) an oppressive government. However, since in a nanotech world
migration to a less oppressive regime seems relatively rapid and cheap,
one would presume that oppressive governments would rapidly find
themselves without any citizens! Examples are the relocation of
individuals from high-tax (opression by law) to low-tax countries and
the continuing declines in the population of Russia over the last 6-8
(primarily due to the shift of wealth to an oligarchy (opression by
greed) and a lack of a plan to allow the creation of wealth for the
individual (opression by ineptitude/inexperience)). Does anyone
(of libertarian leaning) not believe that there would not be a mass
migration of libertarians to Mars if a colony based on such principles
were established there? It would seem that the logical next step in
evolution of the search for religious/political freedom would be the
establishment of colonies with governing rules/systems that go beyond
those we use now (in perhaps many different directions). In light of
the fact that the problem would currently appear to be the fact that
"frontiers" are closed, then one chould view NASA and other space
agencies (through activity in the wrong direction or inaction) as
of a club that includes Russia's FSB(former KGB) where the sum of their
their work to date is to limit personal freedom. In contrast,
like the Dept. of Defense, DARPA, NSF, NSA, etc. should be viewed as
those who will "set us free", since they have/are/will provide the
funding for the development of nanotech, better software & hardware
for communications, AI, etc. An interesting paradox in our general
perceptions, I believe.
I apologize if most of this has been hashed through before.
Also, Volume I of Nanomedicine can now be pre-publication ordered at Amazon.com (all disclaimers you can possibly imagine apply).
[If you have a strong opinion in response to this and would like my thoughts, please cc: email@example.com]