Fwd: Nanotechnology and the Law

Hagbard Celine (hagbard@ix.netcom.com)
Fri, 29 Aug 1997 10:52:00 -0400

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To: transhuman@logrus.org
Subject: Re: >H [Fwd: Nanotechnology and the Law]
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From: Anders Sandberg <asa@nada.kth.se>
Date: 28 Aug 1997 23:28:20 +0200
In-Reply-To: Hagbard Celine's message of "Wed, 27 Aug 1997 21:14:29 -0400"
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Hagbard Celine <hagbard@ix.netcom.com> writes:

> My hope is
> that list members with opinions as to how (if at all) the government
> will or should react to the prospects of nanotech will peruse this
> article and express their thoughts on the matter.

I think the article you mentioned is interesting, but a bit fumbling;
the legal problems of drugs vs. medical products are obvious but
solvable, while the far-future aspects were treated a bit too light-
handedly. Uploading isn't the first thing to worry about once we
have nanotech.

As I see it, the main legal problem will be that matter has become
as malleable as software, with the acompanying problems of intellectual
property. We still have not solved that problem even today, and it
will likely get worse. How do you get paid for information and ideas,
when they can be copied endlessly? How can you enforce copyrights
on software or physical objects.

In the long-term future one could imagine a shareware economy, where
creators get paid by others on a voluntary basis; since physical
scarcity has become irrelevant it is no disaster to be uncreative,
you can simply live on the products other design for fun. In this
scenario the software and designs are free, and there is no need
for copyrights. Unfortunately this is very far from our current state,
and might be an unlikely state to end up in.

Another big problem currently being analysed on the extropians list
is of course how to avoid dangerous nanotech. How do you enforce
that replicators all need a rare, artificial "vitamin" or cannot
replicate in nature (current genetic research seems to manage it)?
What about weapons laws? What is a weapon is largely a matter of
creativity, and with nanotech some weapons might be created just
before use (should we outlaw weapons designs?) or apparently
tame nanotech used as a weapon. Can one distinguish between different
kinds of nanotech, so that one kind can be labeled weapon and another

Apropos drugs, even early nanotech can make drug production trivial.
This can have interesting consequences for the War on Drugs, organized
crime (what happens if the junkies can download a freeware design for
heroin?) and for creative neuronauts, who can develop drugs which
are devices (and hence not under the jurisdiction of the DEA in the US?).
Perhaps one could clarify the law, to outlaw all systems that in
some artificial way interface with the pleasure and motivation
centers of the brain (with allowances for medical use).

Anders Sandberg                                      Towards Ascension!
asa@nada.kth.se              http://www.nada.kth.se/~nv91-asa/main.html
GCS/M/S/O d++ -p+ c++++ !l u+ e++ m++ s+/+ n--- h+/* f+ g+ w++ t+ r+ !y