Goo prophylaxis

Eric Watt Forste (
Fri, 29 Aug 1997 11:23:02 -0700

Eliezer S. Yudkowsky writes:
> Nanotech is powerful enough to utterly subdue the enemy within days.

Um, nanotech (of the sort you're talking about) doesn't exist yet,
so it can't subdue anyone. The English language does have conditional
moods and future tenses, and sometimes their use is appropriate.

Nicholas Bostrom, in a different post, reponded to Carl Feynman's
discussion of the engineering difficulties we will be able to expect
in the development of mechanosynthetic nanotech by pointing out
that optimized designs will not be necessary to achieve self-reproduction.
But as a strategic point, I would expect that non-optimized designs
would be very easy to design countermeasures for (or just blow away
with a blowtorch, as Damien Sullivan suggests). In order for
molecular nanotechnology to present a serious military threat to
existing soldiery, highly optimized designs would have to be
developed. I agree with Carl Feynman's assessment that this will
take much time and many, many engineers. In such research efforts,
open exchange of information is likely to keep traditional published
scientific work at least neck-and-neck with any secret developments.

Of course, if large amounts of tax money are dumped by governments
into secret development projects, such as current cryptography work
conducted in the US National Security Agency, that could tip the
balance in favor of the scenarios that Nicholas Bostrom fears. (One
more reason to thin down the public sector, eh?)

I'm sorry, folks, but certain elements of this thread are starting
to look like disasturbation to me. Seriously, I think ordinary
old biotech is a much more real danger (designer plagues and the
like) to us right now. I would definitely expect some nasty
bioweapons mishaps, perhaps resulting in millions of human deaths,
long before we see any serious threat from molecular nanotechnology.

Eric Watt Forste ++ ++ expectation foils perception -pcd