RE: Nanotech Arms Race

Billy Brown (
Mon, 25 Jan 1999 09:49:44 -0600

Michael S. Lorrey wrote:
> A rather large engineering team of people who can think and act for
> invented, built and blew the atom bomb, despite numerous ethical and moral
> debates and qualms. I see no reason why a much more programmable set of
> automatons cannot do the same with less muss and fuss....even if more than
> small percentage of the automatons know what the ultimate purpose of their
> was.....

Who brought ethics into this? My point was simply that what we've been talking about is a genie machine, capable of doing essentially anything a full-blown SI could do. If such machines exist, anyone who has one can easily use it to make an actual SI. Therefore, a world where ordinary humans commonly have access to genie machines can't exist - the age of SI/AI/IE would begin before the nanotech age could really get going.

On another topic:
> Sorry, no. You are being hopelessly narrowminded. All that is needed is
> sufficient force to crack the crust of the planet enough so that it breaks
> like an ice floe. The impacts are merely catalysts. Once this is done, the
> destabilizes and becomes inundated with fresh lava, eventually subducting
> everything and a new crust forms. Grey goo gets gutted.

You said:

> Get enough impacts going at once and the shock waves will turn the entire
> lithosphere (the crust) of the planet to lava.


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

I demonstrated that this is not the case - impactors typically do not carry enough energy to melt themselves, let alone the Earth's crust. Now you raise an entirely different argument, in the guise of continuing the previous one.

Well, fracture calculations are a lot trickier than simple impart energy, and I'm not going to attempt one. I will, however, point out that the concept is meaningless when applied to objects of planetary scale. The Earth's crust isn't held in place by mechanical strength (in other words, it is already full of cracks). Gravity is the dominant force here - the crust is a layer of lighter material floating on top of layers of denser rock. To get lava to rise to the surface you need to make it less dense than the surrounding crust, either by heating it or changing its chemical composition.

Now, an impact of any reasonable size isn't going to fracture the crust at all - its too thick, and there isn't enough energy. If you drop something really huge (like Ceres) things might be different - but now we're talking about mega-scale engineering, which is a whole other ball game.

BTW - from what I've seen, the guys who are actually studying the Alvarez impacts and the Decca traps make no claims resembling yours. The closest I've heard is a theory that the impact might have triggered a series of eruptions in an area that was already a major center of volcanic activity - which is a very different claim.

Billy Brown, MCSE+I