Re: Nanotech Arms Race

Michael S. Lorrey (
Thu, 21 Jan 1999 17:19:18 -0500

Billy Brown wrote:

> Dan Clemmensen wrote of assorted ways to depopulate Earth using nanotech.
> I'll reply to his suggestions in another post - I've got a related point to
> make here:
> I believe I have detected an interesting implicit assumption in your
> scenarios, which is common to nanotech doomsday theories but is not at all
> realistic. You seem to assume that your nanotech is controlled by a
> computer system that can obey commands like "Go grab 2x10^6 comets from the
> Oort cloud, merge them to make a giant projectile, and then smash it into
> the Earth." The computer obligingly does so, with no muss or fuss.
> Now, the AI that runs that computer can already do everything an SI could.

You own implicit assumption which I find weak is that there needs to be an AI to run this system. The thing with nanotech is that you can give the little buggers simple instructions to fulfill, and when done, die. You also assume that if there were an AI, that it would, could, or couldn't be restricted from, developing enough independence to prevent the mad plot to blast the planet. Computers are, despite their power, amazingly stupid devices when they don't have good software. Even the smartest ones can easily be programmed to take no initiative (or, rather, just don't program it to take initiative).

A missing factor in these blast calculations is seismic. Get enough impacts going at once and the shock waves will turn the entire lithosphere (the crust) of the planet to lava. Diamonds burn just fine at such temperatures.... We know that this is an effective strategy because the Alvarez asteroid which killed the dinos created a shock wave that went around the planet and focused in the middle of the Indian Ocean (where the island which is now India was at the time) and turned the area which is now the Deccan plateau to lava....

I would say that 20 asteroids or comets about 20 miles in diameter impacting at once in a dodecahedral pattern would do the trick...

Mike Lorrey