Re: Goo prophylaxis

Carl Feynman (
Fri, 29 Aug 1997 23:57:24 -0400

At 03:52 PM 8/29/97 +0000, Nicholas Bostrom wrote:
>The Low Golden Willow:
>> On Aug 29, 1:45am, "Nicholas Bostrom" wrote:
>> } >As soon as the world realizes that there is massive
>> } > power to be had, everyone will work like crazy to catch up.
>> } But the leading power will work like crazy to keep the lead. If they
>> } all work equally hard, the one that starts out with an advantage
>> } should get to the goal first. The main point we are discussing is
>> You seem to be assuming a bunch of isolated powers or labs working
>> toward nanotech, with one having and keeping a vital lead. Setting
>> aside the probability that progress will be too gradual for a massive
>> discontinuity to develop, the non-leading labs can collaborate, applying
>> more brainpowe
>So could the leading lab.

The non-leading labs have a vital advantage: they will know at least the
vague outlines of what works. This will keep them from running down the
multitude of blind alleys that are inevitable in pioneering technology.
Consider the development of super-weapons during WWII: in say 1940, all the
governmets involved faced the question of where to put their resources. The
Germans wasted vast efforts on ballistic missiles and rocket planes, while
the British and Americans worked on A-bombs, radar, and cryptanalytic
computers. If the Germans had known which of these were going to pay off,
the course of the war would have been different and far worse. As soon as
the Americans used their A-bombs, the Soviet Union started a development
effort. Even with their devastated economy and crazed government, they were
able to catch up quickly, exactly because they knew where to put their efforts.

Whoever gets some level of nanotech will have to exploit it to fund further
development efforts. Such exploitation will immediately provide valuable
clues to everyone else in the world about which way to run. While the
leading lab is running down the next set of blind alleys, everyone else in
the world will be catching up with them by the direct route. (If you would
care to claim that it is possible to profit from an advance in nanotech
without providing valuable clues as to its nature, I would be happy to argue
that in detail.)

This is an absolutely standard scenario in the technological competition
between companies. Often the *second* company to manufacture a new product
is the one that ends up dominating the market.

>And it would be more attractive to
>collaborate with the leading lab.

So much the better for spreading the knowledge.