Re: Goo prophylaxis

Nicholas Bostrom (
Wed, 27 Aug 1997 23:07:39 +0000

Carl Feynman wrote:

> At 03:58 PM 8/26/97 +0000, Nicholas Bostrom wrote:

> >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.

> I doubt that
> engineering will suddenly leap from one end of the scale to another. All
> the plans I've seen and heard for getting to the first assembler produce an
> assembler that is far from diamondoid. The hope is to use that to produce a
> slightly better assembler, which will be used to produce the next
> generation, et cetera.
> The stiffer the basic
> material of which the nanotech is made, the more precise an assembler can
> be, and the more tightly bonded the materials it can assemble. More tightly
> bonded materials are stiffer, so it takes a stiff assember to make a stiffer
> assembler.
> Each of these stages is very valuable in its own right, and will open up a
> range of new possibilities. And each of them will require thousands of
> genius-years to bootstrap to the next level. Nobody will get from the first
> to the last level alone and in secret. By the time someone develops
> diamondoid weapons, the world will have years of experience in fighting with
> weapons made out of kevlaroid, quartzoid and sapphireoid.

Interesting. There is no easy way to tell whether you are right. The
maturation time of nanotechnology is certainly an important parameter
in predicting the future. There are two things I could take issue
with. (1) Will nanotech mature slowly? And (2), given slow
maturation, will that mean that a multipolar world order can remain

Why exactly do you think every stage will take thousands of
genius years? (I presume you mean good-scientists years?) Isn't the
design work fairly tractable (Drexler has already produced some nice
designs) and it is mainly the lack of molecular tools that prevent us
from starting building things? Better CAM would help a lot, and it is
on its way.
As you point out, each partial achievment would bring great benefits
to the power that makes it, so wouldn't this mean that it would have
a good chance of pushing further ahead, leaving the competition
If superinelligence (that could perform a thousand genius years in a
short time) comes before nanotech, or is developed at an early stage
of nanotech, then the bottle neck would almost certainly be the
hardware, the molecular tools, and in such a case the maturation
process would be almost instantaneous.

I believe the answer to the second question is No. I think there
would either be a negotiated merger, or the stronger power would
obliterate the weaker, and then immediately rebuild itself, and then
expand spherically at a good fraction of the light speed. A Yes
answer to (2) would presuppose that a negotiated merger isn't made,
and that neither power can know with a great probability that it is
strongest, or that the stronger power has some absolute ethical
prohibition from attacking its weaker rival.
Nicholas Bostrom

*Visit my transhumanist web site at*