Re: Hanson antiproliferation method?

Nicholas Bostrom (
Wed, 20 Aug 1997 23:37:42 +0000

Eric Watt Forste wrote:

> the world government were to limit itself exclusively to military
> affairs and the prevention and suppression of outbreaks of open
> warfare (local civil wars, and the like), leaving all other affairs
> to substantially smaller regional governments with free intermigration,
> then I might assent, but I don't see any path in that direction,
> and anything much more intrusive or activist than that is likely
> to provoke and escalate more disputes than it settles and resolves.

We will of course never have an "ideal" world government, but we
should be willing to pay a high prise in terms of inefficiency if
that will reduce the risk of total annihilation.

What are your grounds for thinking that a reformed, democratic United
Nations would provoke and escalate mote disputes than it would

Many wars seem to originate in differing interpretations of some
legal or historical circumstance. I have often thought, oh, if there
only were an impartial arbiter to which the rivalling nations could
submit their cases, and a responsible international force that
could implement the judgements.

The only realistic candidates in the foreseeable future are either the
UN or a coalition led by the USA. I think it is dubious that most
people would accept the USA as an international Dad in the long run.
I would suggest a reformed UN in which the USA and the other powers
had an influence that were in some proportion to their real power.
This would presumably also lead to an inefficient bureaucracy that
wastes a few billion dollars per year, but so what?

> Nicholas, were these thoughts by any chance sparked by Eric Drexler's
> Extro-3 after-dinner quotation from Leon Trotsky? "You may not be
> very interested in war, but war is very interested in you!" or
> something like that.

No, these are issues I have long been worried about. Drexler
has told me that he intentionally de-emphasises the darker scenarios
in his speeches and publications for strategic reasons. One
of the reasons why Drexler is the person that I admire perhaps more
than anybody else is that he has not only realized how good the
future could be if things go well but he is also fully aware of how
serious the risks are.

Nicholas Bostrom
London School of Economics
Department of Philosphy, Logic and Scientifc Method