Re: NANO: Goo color

The Low Golden Willow (
Sun, 31 Aug 1997 22:30:16 -0700 (PDT)

On Aug 31, 3:57pm, Hagbard Celine wrote:
} Anders Sandberg wrote:
} (see the story _Kadath in the Cold Waste_ for a fine take on it
} > (forgot the author, but make a web search for Kadath and Mars, and you
} Sounds like H.P. Lovecraft.

Natch; H.P. Lovecraft doesn't do nano. It's some Web story written
probably in the past couple of years, with a Lovecraft-inspired title
probably because the author wanted to write a story with that title. (I
don't remember any compelling analogy in the story itself, or reason in
the surrounding text.)

On Aug 31, 11:13am, "Eliezer S. Yudkowsky" wrote:
} Anders Sandberg wrote:

} > > "Red goo" is not an acceptable alternate to "black goo" because nobody can
} > > translate it mentally.
} > Huh? I see no problems at all with this term. In our culture red is often
} > associated with aggression and danger, and red goo makes sense.

There's also the Red Cross and the Red Crescent -- perhaps red goo would
be widespread healing nanites?

} it was the opposite of "green goo". "Silver goo" might be as good as "blue
} goo", again because of the instinctive translation; silver is the opposite of
} black in a way that white is not. It also has the connotation of protection,
} particularly if mentioned after "black goo", and does NOT translate to
} ANYTHING malevolent.
} In this sense, I think "silver goo" is superior to blue goo, since - although
} not necessarily protective - it's clear that this goo isn't doing anything
} bad, and if mentioned in the same context as "black goo", it's obvious that
} the "silver goo" is set up to oppose it.

Conversely, I have no idea where silver as protective comes from. It's
been bouncing around my head going nowhere for several minutes now.
First three contacts are silver dragons in AD&D, the black-and-silver of
Minas Tirith, and C.S. Lewis's the _Silver Throne_ (Narnia) which was
associated with malevolence. All of those hits have taken a while. The
closest association I have with silver is magic, and even that's pretty
loose outside of proper context. Siler goo doesn't do anything for me.

} > > "Khaki goo" is just plain silly.
} > Why? It might not be a deadly serious term, but it suggests something that
} > has come out of a military lab and used by the traditional (IMHO soon to
} > be very outdated) armies.
} Because nobody can visualize khaki in the same way they can visualize blue or


I think it may be time to give up on colored good. "Gray goo" may work,
because it's been around for a while, and gray may imply machines, so
gray goo leads to mechanical, well, goo, which has got to creep most
people out. I don't know how well this would translate, though. "Blue
goo" and "green goo" were good for our culture -- policemen in blue,
ecofanatic "Greens" -- but they probably don't translate well. (Hell,
colors don't necessarily translate well themselves, although I'd guess
this isn't a problem in Europe.)

And even "green goo" isn't that good -- sure, it's ecological, but maybe
it's blue goo for the environment, or what gray goo turns into after it
starts mutating and evolving (actually, I like that) or something else.

I fully admit that colored goos are cute, but the very fact we're having
this debate shows that they're not automatically intuitive, which was
the whole point.

"Police goo" and "war goo" give pretty good ideas. (Of course, there
could be benevolent police good and police state police goo. Sigh.)
There's also "plague goo", although whether that should apply to grey
goo (out of control parasitic nanites) or traditional "green goo"
(really a specific form of war goo) I'm not sure.

Thing is, we can afford to use confusing terms when the concept itself
takes explaining. "Grey goo" works becuase you probably have to explain
nano-goo in the first place. After that "police goo" and "war goo"
should be pretty obvious, more so than red, black, or khaki goo.
"Golden goo" might be worth keeping, if the idea of out of control
mining nanites isn't fully suggested by "mining goo". "Plague goo"
could be war goo which used biological attacks. "Gobbling goo" are
nanites which just replicate -- like "gray goo", and it also links to
the Gobbler von Neumann machines in Brin's "Lungfish" (analogous to

Grey goo, police goo, war goo, golden goo, plague goo, gobbling goo
perhaps as deliberate gobblers vs. grey goo. Green goo as a nanite
population beginning to become rather lifelike itself.

Merry part,
-xx- Damien R. Sullivan X-) <*>

"Asia, California and the psychological sciences do not have an
impressive record at making people feel good. In Asia nobody has felt
good for centuries."
-- Russell Baker, _So This is Depravity_