Re: will the government allow the public direct access to nanotech??

From: Robert Bradbury (
Date: Thu Jan 20 2000 - 03:31:40 MST

On Tue, 18 Jan 2000, Terry Donaghe wrote:

> I like your idea about "untamperable" assembler boxes,
> but it raises a question for me. What's to stop a
> group of people from cranking out almost free
> unlicensed potentially dangerous assembler boxes?

Probably not much other than a lot of hard work. It will get
into a question of whether or not we have ubiquitous surveilance
and moderately intelligent AI agents. If we do, I suspect it
would be much harder to avoid being "spotted" as having a pattern
of purchasing that could lead to an unlicensed box. It raises
some interesting issues. Currently the government would be free
to observe the delivery person deposting packages to your doorstep.
Given some good optics they can probably read the return
address on the package. An interesting question would inolve
whether or not "airborne" monitoring cameras have the right to
"hover" outside your door?!?

Then of course you could get into the interesting uncharted realm
of whether or not your purchases occur in the private space or
public space. [In theory, commercial transactions are regualted
in the public space, though current debates about taxing authority
bring this into some question.] If commercial transactions are in
the public space, then one could argue that the government should
have access to them. I believe Eric thinks that once the transactions
occur in the "encrypted" space, then the government will be locked out.

Now, it would be very interesting if individuals moving towards
an unlicensed box were contacted, not by say the government, but
by a "citizens" board. Failing to explain yourself adequately to them
would allow the government to simply publish your purchasing
pattern so your neighbors knew what you were up to. Say this
would allow your neighbors access to a set of reserved "defense"
designs and perhaps a pool of public funds reserved for the
manufacturing of defense technologies. I think individuals displaying
this behavior pattern would find themselves surrounded by some very
strong walls relatively quickly. (Kind of changes the whole flavor
of things when you don't have to imprison someone, but simply build
the prison around their property... Leave the property and you find
yourself being monitored by hundreds of sky cams. If these strategies
were developed in advance, then someone wanting to pursue the development
of an unlicensed assembler, might have to devote some serious thought
to what exactly was the purpose of their "experiment".

> The appeal of having something not controlled by "the man"
> will be too strong to resist for many.

True, but you kind of have to look at it like "seat belts". Many
dislike them, a few would argue that they even sometimes kill people.
But the solutions to the objections are to develop belts that stretch,
disconnect when submerged in water, other passive restraints, etc. --
not to eliminate the requirement that individuals should be protected
in situations where they are unable to protect themselves (due to
reaction time requirements & forces) that exceed human "norms").

> And why choose Box A which will only creates from approved templates
> when you can choose Box B which will create (just about) ANYTHING?

Well, the AA (almost anything) boxes are probably much cheaper than the
E (everything) boxes for one reason. Remember, I've argued against things
being "free", you still have matter and energy costs. If JoSH's papers on
manufacturing scaling are any indication, the bulk production of AA boxes
would likely make them very very inexpensive. On the other hand E boxes
will probably be much more difficult to obtain or construct. (Presumably
AA boxes will not manufacture parts for E boxes.).

You probably also have to look at the question of why people object
to goverment and want to circumvent government regulations. Taxes
as we know them probably don't exist. Environmental "guidelines"
probably do make a huge amount of sense and would probably be generally
accepted and supported by people. Why? Because your survival and
personal livelyhood might depend on it. What would be your productivity
and survivability in a completely chaotic environment? It seems that
for people to operate (productively) they have to know the local rules
of the game. So there would always be a large amount of local pressure
for defining and maintaining the rules. If the enclaves idea takes hold
you can expect there to be a huge number of rule sets. It would seem
that there should be few barriers to moving between enclaves other than
the risks of moving to and operating in different environments. So
there might be an environment where "E" boxes are the norm. I suspect
however that only "ion" streams go into this environment and "bit" streams
come out of it. That type of segregation makes it relatively safe.
In my mind most of the motivation to build E boxes would be either
"revolt" or "curiosity". But if one sees the sense of having only
AA boxes in your environment and a crazy environment exists where E
boxes are allowed (the wild wild west), then it seems you have removed
most of the reasons for building E boxes in an AA enclave.

There is probably no "market" for E boxes in an AA environment.
People would look on those producing or selling E boxes the same
way they look at someone who plays Russian roulette with a gun.

> It will only take 1 single unlicensed box to ruin your whole scheme.

Not really, mass is mass and the production rates of E and AA boxes
are likely to be very similar. So unless you can make an argument
that the ouput of E boxes can trump the output of AA boxes in a
serious way (E matter destroys AA matter exponetially, E matter
is much cheaper, etc.) I don't see how a few E boxes would be
particularly dangerous. The "gravity" in an AA enclave would be
to eliminate them as quickly as possible.

> The entire create a design, submit it, get it approved and
> transmit it will add a lot of cost which will be
> nonexistant with the unlicensed boxes.

*Maybe*. If its mostly done by unconscious agents, it isn't
very expensive. Humans only probably have to get involved for
the really novel stuff. Since the costs of stuff are *way* below
the survival requirements and the "wealth" of individuals is very
high (caveats to Robin's scenarios) and since you have this extremely
long lifespan, you are probably very interested in preserving the "popular"
culture. You will want to make *sure* design and production is safe.
Since there is the E enclave out on Charon if you really want to build
E boxes, the society is probably happy to pay for your transport to Charon.

I think it comes down to whether you get situations where it is possible
to construct more E boxes than AA boxes in a local environment where the
outputs can interact with each other in short light-times. If that
situation is avoided, then I think you can maintain the relative level
of restrictions & chaos in your local environment. The import laws
are going to be quite interesting however.

> Once someone has their unlicensed box build them a dangerous nano-swarm
> to protect them, how are you going to get it away from them?
Well a few km of highly reflective aluminum in space focusing about 10,000
suns of energy on their location is the first thing that comes to mind.
If they have the sense to build a highly reflective roof on their E-box
plant, then I'd probably be partial to neutralized iron ion bombardment.
You have to keep in mind that dismantling planets is a my primary profession.
Mopping up inventors that don't agree to the local rule sets is simply
a side line. Messy work, but the pay is probably pretty good.

Next question....


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