Re: Hanson antiproliferation method?

Nicholas Bostrom (
Fri, 22 Aug 1997 16:10:40 +0000

Eric Watt Forste
> UN committed genocide against the Bosnian Muslims by enforcing an
> arms embargo against Yugoslavia at a time when most of the organized
> Yugoslavian armed forces, and almost all of their materiel, was in
> Serbian hands. You credit them with stopping, three years later,
> a bloodbath that they (inadvertently?) laid the groundwork for.
> Aided and abetted by the United States, of course.

The UN intervention was delayed too long. But for all I know, if it
hadn't intervened at all, the killing might still have gone on today,
or one of the combatants might have won and done terrible
things to the defeated people.

> A green plague of ten different high-latency fatal strains of
> virus will be quite useful to small potatoes terrorists. I
> don't think the size of the potatoes is at issue here. Small
> potatoes can be quite deadly, especially nowadays.

I agree. Still, the bigger the powers that fight, the sooner they
will start to have access to weapons of mass destruction. So even if
we can't eliminate all the small conflicts as well, we might be able
to delay the use of, say, destructive nanoreplicators untill adequate
defences have been developed.

> > UN itself would not need to be impartial (though it would presumably
> > be much less partial that the parts that are fighting), it would
> > only need to implement the decisions of some independent tribunal.
> I still don't understand why you think that "world government"
> or transferring more power from the current nations to the UN
> would increase the likelihood that large civil disputes would
> be settled by the decisions of an independent tribunal. If the
> disputants don't accept the decisions of the tribunal (and they
> often don't) what is the difference from the current situation?

The difference is that UN would be there to enforce the decision,
whether the disputants accepted it or not. If somebody issues a
"resolution", Sadam Hussein would wipe his ass with it; but a cruise
missile is something that needs to be taken into account.

> Military troubles are worst in the poorest nations. Allocating
> political power by GNP will do almost nothing to soothe these
> troubles. Better to keep poor countries and rich countries politically
> decoupled from one another. What you are proposing is to arrange
> for the rich countries to rule the poor countries (that's what your
> "representation according to 'real' power seems to come down to),
> which I guarantee will lead to war. It's been tried already.

A clarification of my earlier statement: I only said that it might be
advisable (I am not really certain of this) that a nation's
representation in the UN is "in some proportion" to its real power.
This would mean that real power would be taken into account, but
other factors, such as population size or the extent to which a
nation would be affected by UN decisions would also be given a role.
The overall result would almost certainly be that poor nations were
given somewhat *more* influence than they have in the real world

Hey, let's take a step back and look at it this way. You have your
own values, involving, perhaps, personal freedom, immortality, to see
the ones you care for prosper etc. Surely you won't accept that
some fucked up religious extremist lay these values in ashes by
releasing some self-replicators, or that the inhabitants of your
city are gassed as a result of a failed blackmail attempt by a wicked
dictator. Yet these things will happen unless they are actively
prevented. One way one might try to prevent them is by having a
global organization with legislative powers that surveils the use of
the most dangerous technologies and prevents irresponsible agents
from acquiring them. The only enteties in the real world even
remotely resembling this are the UN and a US led coalision. In my
original post I asked if someone had a better proposal, and I hope
that someone has, but so far I have seen none.

Nicholas Bostrom