Charlie Stross <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Mon, 29 Nov 1999 09:58:03 +0000 writes:
>Where's this paranoia coming from?
I call it the Henny Penny Syndrome ("The sky is falling! The sky is falling!")
Human beings have a tremendous talent for fear. Probably dating back, past the time when protohumans had their adrenal glands on a hair trigger about the sabre-toothed tiger lurking behind every bush, all the way back to the first effective tactile or chemosensitive escape-response initiator of our bacterial ancestors, which prompted the little bugger to "Swim, swim for your life!" at the first touch (or whiff) of his predatory nemesis. Billions of generations later, the threats of the jungle and primordial soup gone with the prehistoric mists, fear, the mother's milk of survival, is still with us.
What are we afraid of? Whoa! There's a long list. Heights, the dark, the monster under the bed, separation from mom, loud noises. Then, after mom teaches you a certain minimum of things you needn't to be afraid of, anything not on that list remains a candidate for ye olde fear response.
All grown up? Now the bogeyman is a bit more definite: in general it's "The Other" and the "strange", "new", or otherwise "unfamiliar"; in particular it's commies, atheists, criminals, junkies, homosexuals, poor people, rich people, people who speak another language, people of a different color, germs, drowning, nuclear anything, arabs, jews, blacks, young thugs, old perverts, cops, lawyers, tax collectors, spooks, ebola, the yellow peril, terrorists, traffic, unprotected sex, protected sex, big business, and the uncontrollable juggernaut of scientific madness. (I may have left a couple thousand out.)
Eliezer is terrified of nanowar. Den Otter is sure the SI is gonna gobble us all up. Perhaps so. But I'm inclined to think it's mostly the bogeyman lurking in the ancient ancient dark.
And of course, fear is the mother of all motivational tools, so--count on it--there'll be no relaxing. "They" have their fist on the fear button, and they're pounding away relentlessly. Politics, commerce, entertainment. Fear gets your vote. Fear brings in the bucks. Fear gets your attention. The carrot and the stick. Fear is the stick. In our culture we're subjected to a kind of continuous low-level terrorism. Work, pay your taxes, buy things; or something bad will happen to you. Keep moving. Keep working. Don't think about it. Resistance is futile. There is no escape. Rest in peace.
But it doesn't have to be that way. You may not be able to stop the world from running on fear, but you don't have to run along with it. You can get off that train at the very next station. Stop reading the newspaper and watching the tv for a while. When you've risen out of the paranoia, go back and take another look, and you'll see that it's all bullshit. The difference between professional wrestling and the evening news is that the people who watch professional wrestling know that it's staged. Well, guess what? It's ALL staged. Graphic artists, set designers, lighting designers, make-up artists, copywriters, and cinematographers. Lights camera, action, "Here's the News!" "The world's a scary place. Wanna be safe? Work harder." Riiiight.
So, is nanotech dangerous? Of course it is. Any powerful technology is potentially dangerous. Fire is dangerous, electricity is dangerous, atomic energy is dangerous. C'mon, get real. The world is a dangerous place, you could die out there. But you still get up in the morning. Fear blossoms into paranoia. But real danger is something much more defined.
So, regarding the SI community. They'll be sweethearts. They'll help us to do what's right. They'll take their share and no more. Why such restraint on their part, when we're just so many bugs to them? Because the operative factor is not--as we in our self-absorption tend to focus on--our comparative bugness, but rather, their exceeding S-ness. S-intelligent implies S-rational, implies S-moral, and S-ethical. Selfish and destructive are not S-anything, Ayn Rand not withstanding.
And the nanobots? There will be so many layers of technology, rationality, and oversight required to make them work, that sociopaths will be unable to complete the process. And what of the legitimate pathology of deliberate warfare? Well, warfare has its causes. Mostly economic, IMO. So how will nanotech effect the CAUSES of warfare? Nanotech-mediated massive abundance goes a long way towards making warfare, well,... pointless. Quite possibly nanotech will change the world so thoroughly that warfare will become as obsolete as burning witches.
There is no monster under the bed.
Best, Jeff Davis
"Everything's hard till you know how to do it." Ray Charles