Re: Goo prophylaxis (was: Hanson antiproliferation method?)

Nicholas Bostrom (
Sat, 23 Aug 1997 17:16:15 +0000

Anders Sandberg wrote:

>If I
> notice that something is building TNT out of matter in my vicinity,
> I'm not going to stay around...

Hmm, for concretness, let's assue you are the size of a house. With
nanotech, the time it takes to assemble sufficient TNT to blow a
house to pieces would be much less than the time it would take to
move the house.
Ok, so you put wheels on your house, or wings and a jet engine. But
the aggressor could do the same; and at least today, small missiles
can usually catch up with big warplanes. Or even better: He could
build TNT all over the place to begin with, so you have nowhere to
Perhaps he can't build TNT all over the place, because there are
other people living there, secluded within their own walls. We can
call this the bee-hive scenario; there are still independent,
humanoid beings, and each has her own cell, the cells being packed
side by side in a three dimensional structure. The surface of hive
is a heat emitter and energy collector... No, I need to think this
through before I write about it. I might do a nanotech strategies
paper when I have finished the ones I am working on now (one of which
is on what a superintelligence could be expected to do etc.).

> If you know what defenses I have, then I'm vulnerable (think of the
> AIDS virus, which uses the immune system), but if I have a system
> which you know fairly little about, then it is harder to design a
> workable attack (hint: never let your enemy get fingernail clippings
> or spittle, he can use them to bring down black magic on you!). So it
> might be a good idea to design *and* evolve your defenses to make
> them unique. And a good basic structure would give you time to act
> ("Oh shit! My immune nanites can't stop the infection. Let's call
> tech support...").

Why design *and* evolve? I mean, obviously they would evolve if we
first design one version and then an improved version; but why would
they evolve in the sense we were discussing, i.e. by sexual
reproduction and natural selction? If there is an advantage in having
a system that is unknown to your enemy, then change the design often,
or include random elements. This avoids seriously maladaptive
offspring, introduces the unknowability exactly where it matters,
and is quicker. Besides, natural evolution would often be
predictable by the enemy if he knows the fitness landscape.

> > (2) What if new chemical reactions are introduced? Will complicated
> > higher organisms still be viable? Exactly what properties of the
> > system does this depend on? Does anybody have any idea of how to get
> > a handle on this problem?
> Very broadly, the question seems to be if diamondoid mechanosynthetic
> or a aquaeous carbochemic biomass has the lowest chemical energy; the
> biosphere would tunnel to the lowest if given a reaction pathway. I
> guess diamond is the stablest, since cells cannot digest it, but it
> might be too energy-intensive for nanites competing with each other
> to digest too (thick diamondoid sediments on the ocean floors; in
> time they will form a very fun form of "chalk").
> I think complicated organisms are still quite viable, since they have
> the advantage of fast cultural evolution before biological evolution.
> It doesn't matter if their biology is about diamond or water.

I would find it very interesting if you could expand a bit on this.

Nicholas Bostrom

*Visit my transhumanist web site at*