Re: Modern Technology: Out of Control?

Charlie Stross (
Wed, 21 Jan 1998 09:29:25 +0000

On Wed, Jan 21, 1998 at 09:34:41AM +1100, Weslake, Brad BG wrote:
> Also, I am looking for a technology which does not seem to be
> acknowledged by government in policy (yet...) but which may provide
> dilemma in the future. Would Artificial Intelligence be appropriate? As
> a computer science undergrad this would be my preference, but if anyone
> has any better suggestions I would gratefully receive them.

MEMS. (Micro electromechanical systems; mechanical systems -- as opposed
to electronics -- that you can make using a chip fab.) Time scale: 1-5
years; it's already working in the lab stage and commercial applications
will be coming to a street near YOU real soon now. Impact: Not quite as
big as nanotechnology, but grossly underestimated. (Imagine: your
friendly neighbourhood police department has robot drones with high-
definition low-light TV cameras so that it can fly round suspicious
neighbourhoods looking for drug deals. Meanwhile, the drug dealers are
tooling up with labs capable of producing etorphine by the milligram --
that's all you need -- that fit in an innocuous-looking PCMCIA card in
a laptop. And their guns shoot guided bullets. Oh, and did I mention
the 20-watt turbogenerator a centimetre in diameter and two millimetres
thick that ARPA is paying the development costs of?)

This one seems to have blind-sided even the SF writers who went hog-wild
over nanotech a decade ago, but it's real and it's here today the way
personal computers were 'here today' in 1975.

-- Charlie