Re: Nanotech Restrictions (was: RE: Transparency Debate)

From: phil osborn (
Date: Sat Apr 08 2000 - 00:07:44 MDT

>From: Adrian Tymes <>>Subject: Re: Nanotech Restrictions
>(was: RE: Transparency Debate)
>Date: Wed, 05 Apr 2000 19:59:09 -0700

> takes a different mentality to lead an army of ignorant
>buillies, than to oversee a group of educated scientists. Quite
>probably, almost any person on this list - on the slightly inaccurate
>assumption that this list is representative of people who are at least
>slightly informed about the most powerful new technologies of today -
>would not stand to have suggestions for improvements ignored and
>unappreciated day after day if a better option (defection to the other
>side with lots of classified info) were available.
> > Overally, I think your model explains part of why we do not see hordes
> > of well educated terrorists. But I still see enough engineers with
> > good knowledge of engineering and an apalling lack of sociology to
> > make me suspect there are other reasons too.
>The pursuit of knowledge and true power makes one less interested in the
>pursuit of power over people?

This line of argument is probably one of those more likely to yield real
results. The same problem is faced in bringing up baby SI's. Either there
is or there isn't rational grounds for something that we would recognize as
morality, as in ethics - such as, the non-aggression principle.

The other part, without getting into any of the details, is that the
rationality of being ethical may in fact be contextual. Eg., lieing in a
society in which aggression is rare and one is not being threatened for
telling the truth may be unethical and immoral, whereas lieing as a Jew in
NAZI Germany may be morally correct. In fact, in societies such as that, a
rational ethics may be so impossible to derive on a moment by moment basis,
that the processing costs outweigh any possible benefits, and crude, first
approximations and main chances rule.

If these two general perspectives are accurate, then the questions become
related to what would be - in ideal circumstances - a rational ethics, and
what kind of society can support it. I believe that these are two of the
main, if not most important questions, and, having partially resolved both,
I am working on systems to bring such a society about, i.e., social
infrastructure, such as an explicit universal social contract.

In a contractual society, in which - given my other assumptions -
presumeably all rational people could be convinced of the advantage of being
ethical, a lot of the really bad scenarios that would otherwise require
draconian measures, such as a police state to stop nanoterrorists, would be
limited to a probably small minority of very irrational people, who would
likely be identified fairly early as creating high risks for anyone who
dealt with them long term. Thus, those people would be watched and would
probably pay high insurance premiums and find themselves unwelcome in many
social settings.

Contrast that to our present situation, in which our monopoly state creates
artificial divisions via its criminal law - eg., drug laws, "cult"
persecutions, etc. - and sets group against group, making ethical morality a
questionable virtue, and ensuring that there will always be no lack of
potential terrorist to deal with. The drug war alone has virtually
demolished morality in the U.S., as it promotes all sorts of deceptions,
together with the pernicious idea that it's ok to jail people who themselves
have injured noone, because of the undesireable social consequences if
others were not deterred. How the Lockeian "founding fathers" would have
had a field day with that one.

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