R: NANO: Custom molecules (gulp!)

Eugene Leitl (eugene.leitl@lrz.uni-muenchen.de)
Thu, 2 Dec 1999 15:19:15 -0800 (PST)

Mirco Romanato writes:

> Real wars are not fought with every possible tool.
> ^^^^^^
> In real, modern, war there are limits.

In "normal" wars yes, but there is a runaway effect once one side starts to lose. Military conflicts between nuclear powers will either result in both parties backing off (damn likely, huh?), or escalating into total war, especially considering the race condition of having to destroy enemy's launch capabilities first. Deterrence has worked so far (for less than a half century), but this is not a natural law. The longer the time span elapsed under above boundary conditions, the higher the probability of the checks and balances to become skewed and eventuall fail. See the aftermath of the breakdown of the Soviet Union, the revival of nuclear umbrella plans on the part of U.S. and Russia and the advent of nuclear neopowers, especially China. The same applies to biological weapons, only more so.

> Only an insane and stupid man (or group of men) will trepass them; because
> gain will overwelmed by loss.

There isn't exactly a lack of insane and/or stupid humans around. The technical ability is, if anything, negatively corellated with social skills. Geekdom is rife with borderline personality deficit cases. I might be a highly competent nuke designer, but this doesn't mean I'm the perfect man to marshal its use. The opposite, if anything.

> And insane and stupid man don't rule on organizated structures.

A couple decades downstream all you need is a single moderately wealthy person with a garage setup to wreak global havoc. It is thus of utmost priority to develop and deploy infrastructure for population and environmental screening against molecular weapons of mass destruction as well as capabilities for large-scale rapid manufacturing and deployment of countermeasures against them. Of course, such an infrastructure has the usual janusian properties of being the perfect weapon, so arms race threats loom large again. Am I having fun yet?

> The real problem are little groups of fanatics.

Hopefully, they will be incompetent fanatics.