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

Nicholas Bostrom (
Tue, 26 Aug 1997 15:58:16 +0000

Hal Finney <> wrote:

> Barring nuclear destruction, it is not clear that gray goo will win
> the battle. Gray goo is not interested solely in destruction. Rather,
> it is a replicator like everyone else; it seeks to preserve its own
> structure and function, it seeks to reproduce, it seeks to protect itself.
> It must do these things in order to survive.

I prefer to use the term grey goo to denote whatever nanites cause
indiscriminate destruction. But anyway, nanites could be designed to
be interested solely in destruction.

>gray goo must replicate in order to be effective. A single gray goo
>disassembler will not cause much damage. And whatever mechanisms it
>uses to replicate will be vulnerable to attack just as much as the
>systems which it is trying to "eat".

Yes. The goo might fight a downhill battle, though, towards a lower
energy state? It would be interesting to think about this in more

> My prediction would be a band of "war zones", where the battle rages,
> with surges as one side or the other gets a local advantage. Between
> these zones would be relatively stable regions, dominated by cooperating
> replicators. But the border shifts, and occasionally a stable region
> is overcome.

My intuitions are exactly the opposite. Your prediction seems to
presuppose that the first nanopower won't obtain world dominion, an
assumption I find very dubious. But even if we disregard the genesis
problem, I still doubt that the situation you describe would
be stable, though I don't have any short explanation of why I think
so yet.

Nicholas Bostrom