Re: Goo prophylaxis

Dan Clemmensen (
Thu, 28 Aug 1997 19:04:58 -0400

Carl Feynman wrote:
> (3) Drexler and Merkle are two very (very!) smart guys. They have labored
> for years, and designed what? Some bearings, a transmission, a PLA, and a
> Stewart platform? And you claim this shows how easy it is? I'd hate to see
> an engineering task you considered hard! If we keep working at this rate,
> we should see a complete assembler in around a millenium.
BUt please consider DNA sequencing as an analogy. The first sequences
done by incredibly labor-intensive analyses, yielding, after many years
of effort, analyses of strings of 50 or 100 bases. A technician can now
sequence 100 bases in an hour, compare the result to known patterns,
cross-check for similaries, and eat lunch at the same time. Yes it
takes years to build the first tools, but after you have the tools
you can automate them and operate at the next level of complexity.

As with DNA sequencing and semiconductor design, the fundamental
tools for nanotech are physical, but after the fundamental tools
are available, subsequent advances in design efficiency depend
primarily on software.

Drexler, Merkle, et. al. are design the equivalent of transistors
and resistors. After you have enough basic building blocks, your
design can proceed to the next level. Yes, better building blockk
will enable better next-level designs, but the first small set of
building blocks, the set that can be assembled by an assembler
built from that set, will IMO also provide a basis for "Goo".

The problem with defensive nanotech IMO has never been a lack
of potential capability, but rather stems from the lag time
between the introduction of the goo and the devevelopment of
the defense. the goo can replicate and overwhelm the defense
before the defender has time to design an effective counter for
tbe goo. The existing immune system works because it can learn
to build a new kind of defense from standard parts very quickly.
When it cannot learn fast enough, it fails.

In the scenarios we are discussing, the first goo will be
designed either by accident or deliberately, by humans at
human design speeds. It will have to be countered by
human design efforts operating at human design speeds. Design
of a flexible nano-immune system capable of adaptation to a
full range of threats is an entirely different level of
design complexity. Thus the problem is that the time from the
beginning of the attack until the deployment of the defense is
long enough that the defender is already dead, or assimilated,
or whatever.