Indestructable Humans, Libertarian migrations, etc.

Robert J. Bradbury (
Sat, 12 Jun 1999 12:46:38 -0700

A recent letter regarding moderating the extropian list and a review of some of the recent postings on the list leads me to offer the following comments:

(a) In my reading of "Nanomedicine", it seems to be getting clearer and

      clearer that as the process of "borg"izing humans occurs, they become
      less and less affected by things we normally consider to be personal
      weapons.  It should be feasible to re-engineer, first starting with
      genomic modifications, and then moving onto nano-assist devices
      the normal response to penetration by high speed projectiles so that
      in most situations they do not represent a threat (assuming non-brain
      penetration and/or a diamondoid skull reinforcement).  If you are
      engineered to this level, then current personal weapons become
      about annoying as bee stings.  The ethics however, of engineering
      such "enhancements" into children, who are presumably incapable
      of "consenting" to them, will be very very difficult.

(b) Once humans have personal defense systems at the limits of physics,
the only things which are potentially harmful are weapons at the limits of physics. These areas will be, I suspect, subject to intense debate when one discusses who should or should not be able to posess such weapons. For example, personal particle accelerators (if feasible) could be used to disable all on-board nanodevices (through high radiation levels). Such a device would presumably cook the cells as well. A self-targeting, high-velocity, high-capacity explosive device would function to perform sufficient atomic disassembly to permanently incapacitate the individual and be a favorite with the military. High-velocity aerobot ensnarement nets would presumably be the weapon of choice for law enforcement officials.
(c) Personal defensive nanoenhancment obviously represents a benefit to
individuals and a threat to the population if available to criminals. Would a standard punishment for convicted felons be to de-enhance their defenses? Could this even be done without dismantling them? Is the first stop of a felon after release the local black-market defense restoration shop?

(d) It would seem that the ultimate deterrant to criminal activities (of the

      form where weapons are required to coerce behaviors) would be the
      requirement of guaranteeing that a victim have no personal "backups".
      Would an individual "backup", upon downloading, make it his mission
      in life to get revenge for the premature death of the original "self"?

      Or would s/he/it care?  Are we back to the days of wild-wild-west
      justice since multiple backup copies are presumably cheap and
      they can keep being reactivated until they get the job done?
      It would appear that criminal activity would only continue if
      you believe you have a guarantee for a reasonable chance of success.
      [If the criminal has backup copies as well, this could escalate in
      a manner similar to net-news wars!]  If you lose that belief (as is
      likely to occur with rape and to a lesser degree murder), due to the
      establishment of DNA databanks and the difficulty of not leaving DNA
      evidence,  then those types of crime(s) should disappear.  Will we
      only be left with "berserker"/"terrorist" type crimes where the intent

      is to sacrifice oneself?

(e) It appears that in the nanotechnology era, there is no problem having
sufficient resources for survival so long as the population density does not exceed 1 person per sq meter of surface area on the Earth. [Humans need ~100W of power, 1 sq meter provides ~1000W.] Nanotech harvesting of power in space makes even this limit *very* soft. Movements such as "open source" nano-designs and solar power would allow everyone to have a very nice air-car, house/mansion/castle, personal health/defense nanoenhancements, etc. for *FREE*, so *why* exactly would anyone need or want a "personal weapon"?

(f) In the scenario outlined in (e), it seems that the only reason for

personal weapons is to protect yourself from (or initiate the overthrow

     of) an oppressive government.  However, since in a nanotech world
     migration to a less oppressive regime seems relatively rapid and cheap,

     one would presume that oppressive governments would rapidly find
     themselves without any citizens!  Examples are the relocation of
     individuals from high-tax (opression by law) to low-tax countries and
     the continuing declines in the population of Russia over the last 6-8
     (primarily due to the shift of wealth to an oligarchy (opression by
power &
     greed) and a lack of a plan to allow the creation of wealth for the
     individual (opression by ineptitude/inexperience)).  Does anyone
     (of libertarian leaning) not believe that there would not be a mass
     migration of libertarians to Mars if a colony based on such principles
     were established there?  It would seem that the logical next step in
     evolution of the search for religious/political freedom would be the
     establishment of colonies with governing rules/systems that go beyond
     those we use now (in perhaps many different directions).  In light of
     the fact that the problem would currently appear to be the fact that
     "frontiers" are closed, then one chould view NASA and other space
     agencies (through activity in the wrong direction or inaction) as
     of a club that includes Russia's FSB(former KGB) where the sum of their

     their work to date is to limit personal freedom.  In contrast,
     like the Dept. of Defense, DARPA, NSF, NSA, etc. should be viewed as

     those who will "set us free", since they have/are/will provide the
     funding for the development of nanotech, better software & hardware
     for communications, AI, etc.  An interesting paradox in our general
     perceptions, I believe.

I apologize if most of this has been hashed through before.

Also, Volume I of Nanomedicine can now be pre-publication ordered at (all disclaimers you can possibly imagine apply).

[If you have a strong opinion in response to this and would like my thoughts, please cc:]

Robert Bradbury