RE: NANO: Institutional Safety

Billy Brown (
Tue, 16 Nov 1999 16:13:43 -0600 wrote:
> I thought it was generally agreed that survivability was a stabilizing
> trait, not a destabilizing one. It means that a first strike will only
> invite a retaliatory attack which you cannot defend against. It keeps
> you in a position of mutually assured destruction. From this situation
> it is possible to negotiate downwards to a wary and watchful peace,
> which is close to what we have today.

It depends on what survives. If starting a war means your entire country is destroyed, but your missiles survive and can therefore destroy your attacker, no one will start a war. If, OTOH, a ruthless government can expect to survive an attack and rebuild, the situation becomes very unstable. There is a temptation to go ahead and use the nukes, especially if advanced technology also makes it easy to rebuild afterward.

Moderately advanced nanotech would allow a society to build entire military bases and industrial complexes thousands of feet below ground, where they would be very resistant to weapons of mass destruction (WOMD). Mature nanotech would allow an entire nation to move several miles underground, with the surface given over to missile defenses and robotic weapons. In this scenario WOMD no longer live up to their name, MAD becomes impossible to achieve, war between superpowers becomes feasible again, and the collateral damage from any significant war could easily sterilize the surface of the planet.

> If nanotech really does increase survivability more than first strike
> killing power then that would be very good news for the prospects of
> peace in the future.

Good new if you are da fuhrer. Very bad news if you are a whale, or an environmentalist. Uncertain news for ordinary citizens - you trade a small risk of complete annihilation for a much higher risk of moderate casualties.

Billy Brown, MCSE+I