Re: Goo prophylaxis

Nicholas Bostrom (
Thu, 28 Aug 1997 11:21:46 +0000

The Low Golden Willow wrote:

> On Aug 27, 11:07pm, "Nicholas Bostrom" wrote:

> Hal's right; we are having a problem agreeing on scenarios. I don't
> associate "gray goo" with "nanopower". I've been mostly assuming gray
> goo is disassmblers run amok. If not, how is the source controlling and
> protecting itself from the nanites? (How are the nanites not eating
> themselves?) Plenty of room for perversion, here.

I agree with your agreement with Hal, that we have problem agreeing
on scenarios. As I have explained earlier, I don't think that the
problem of accidental goo is very interesting, for we can design away
the possibility of mutation. I am therefore focusing on deliberately
designed destruction-goo; in the simplest case we can assume a
religious fanatic that wants to destroy the world. The basic issue
has been whether a private (non-global) immune system can deal with
this threat.

> } > } As I said, if it covers a whole continent you can't do that.
> } By getting up very early in the morning, before anyone else was
> } awake. But seriously, the point is that it could happen so fast that
> } nobody has time to do anything about it before its too big to be
> I don't think they can spread that fast.

A low tech scenario, which would not allocate any sophisticated
mobiliy to the nanites themselves, would be that somebody sprays them
over a forest from a small aeroplane during the night. Most people
would not want to do that, of course, but it suffices that there is
one such individual in the world and then we are all dead.

> And if you accept immune systems
> fighting nanites then you can't assume the organism is in a sea of goo,
> because to make that sea the nanites would have had to eat lots of other
> organisms with immune systems.

No, they could eat dead organic material, or inorganic material.

> Personally I'm still suspicious of this conception of nanites. Little
> atomic manipulators made of a single type of material

No, nanotechnology makes use of many types of materials.

> trying to be more
> capable than whole slews of complex enzymes, often dependent on
> different transition metals, crawling around in a vast variety of
> environments, and being able to take over the world in their first
> generation.

No, not in their first generation. Even when nanotech itself is
mature, the "little atomic manipulators" have to multiply themselves
many times over before they reach macrosopic quantities.

Nicholas Bostrom