Re: Indestructable Humans, Libertarian migrations, etc
Sat, 12 Jun 1999 13:57:06 -0700

Robert J. Bradbury, <>, writes:

> (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.
Another way of making yourself safe would be to put your body into a deep, hardened, heavily protected underground bunker, and interact with the world through teleoperated robots and virtual reality. > (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.
You are probably right about the debate aspect. The same issues arise as for guns today. However the problem is more general in a world with widespread nanotech.
If this technology is available to anyone in unconstrained form, then it will be possible for people to create a variety of weapons which can be used for criminal purposes. So the real debate is over whether general purpose nanotech should be widely available. And many of the same questions must be considered in terms of practicality (if nanotech is outlawed...) and utility (does it do more harm than good).
> (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?
This would be very speculative. I suspect that traditional punishments such as ostracism (kicking them off the colony), incarceration, and pain would be employed. > (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?

Again, I think there are too many possibilities here to speculate fruitfully. You seem to be assuming that threat of death is the only form of coercion possible. In fact, threats of damage to irreplaceable objects (historical artifacts, etc), threats of imposing pain on the victim or on those important to him, and similar methods of coercion will still be possible even if death as such becomes meaningless due to backups.

There is also the ultimate coercion which involves cracking the software (wetware) which protects the autonomy of the victim, and making him your slave. Future technologies may make this a real threat.

Also, I wouldn't assume that DNA tracking and similar methods will automatically mean that physical crimes will be solved. We don't know what forms of countermeasures will be possible. There could be a whole body "condom", a thin nanotech layer which prevents stray biological samples from being left behind. There could be fake DNA broadcasters which the criminals use to leave millions of fake clues. It is just too early to say which side will win in these offense/defense wars.

> (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"?
This would be a population of approximately 500 trillion, about 100,000 times greater than at present. At present growth rates this would take many centuries. Over that time period I am sure we would see enough changes that our extrapolations are not very meaningful. In particular I would assume that we would be utilizing solar system resources long before reaching such a population density. But as for your general point that nanotech gives "enough for everyone",
we have discussed this before and it seems that for some people there is never "enough". There will still be some items which are valued more than others, and some people will have more of those valuable things than others do. This will lead to envy and the desire to have more, even in the midst of plenty. After all, the lives of middle class westerners are unimaginably rich by the standards of our cave man ancestors, but they still want more. So I think we have to assume that the potential for crime will still be present, no matter how rich we become.
> (f) In the scenario outlined in (e), it seems that the only reason for having

> 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 wealthy
> 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 years
> (primarily due to the shift of wealth to an oligarchy (opression by power &
> greed) and a lack of a plan to allow the creation of wealth for the average
> 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 the
> 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 the
> "frontiers" are closed, then one chould view NASA and other space
> agencies (through activity in the wrong direction or inaction) as members
> 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, organizations
> 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 greatest
> funding for the development of nanotech, better software & hardware
> for communications, AI, etc. An interesting paradox in our general
> perceptions, I believe.
This classification seems a bit short sighted to me. Nanotech has as many dangers as promises. Rushing to nanotech may bring about a utopia or it could end the human race. It is far too simplistic to judge activities solely on the basis of how much they work to speed the development of nanotech. This is a matter which we must approach with great care and respect. I do agree with your point that we would benefit from a move into a system with colonies that explore a wide variety of conventions for social interactions. Hopefully these new technologies will allow us to provide diverse environments so that people can live in the society that they want. As I wrote earlier, all partisans in the gun debate should be able to find worlds where their philosophies hold sway. Hal