Re: Nanotech Arms Race

Eliezer S. Yudkowsky (
Mon, 25 Jan 1999 16:45:11 -0600

Billy Brown wrote:
> It still wouldn't make them possible. To get power out of the reaction you
> have to be able to capture the radiation produced by the fusion reaction,
> and convert it into a useful form of energy. To do that you need a barrier
> of fairly dense matter at least a few inches thick. A nanoscale reactor
> would simply irradiate the area - there would be no way for the nanobots to
> capture a significant amount of energy from the reaction.

My suggestion for inertial confinement fusion wasn't intended as a "nanofusion" power source, but as a method of constructing fusion weapons without carrying around a lot of uranium. I specifically originated the suggestion when someone purported to prove that nanotechnological attacks would be less powerful than modern weaponry, which is absurd.

I also wanted to demonstrate that war nano can easily use nuclear weapons against an "active shield", as part of my generalized thesis that nanowar tilts the attack/defense balance even farther towards attack than the existing nuclear weapons standoff.

If I really wanted to be speculative, with respect to "nanofusion", I would ask why you couldn't focus nuclear reactions so as to catch individual neutrons, or perhaps arrange materials so that a solid barrier of neutron-catchers existed instead of a haphazard crystal. I'd expect nuclear reactions to be considerably more efficient once we start working close to that scale.

--         Eliezer S. Yudkowsky

Disclaimer:  Unless otherwise specified, I'm not telling you
everything I think I know.