Re: Goo prophylaxis:consensus

Hal Finney (
Wed, 3 Sep 1997 11:37:34 -0700

Nicholas wrote:

>4. In the absence of ethical motives, the benefits would outweigh the
>costs for a nanotech power that chose to eliminate the competition or
>prevent it from arising, provided it had the ability to do so.

Although several people have expressed disagreement with this, I think
Nicholas has a point.

In particular, the doctrine of comparative advantage doesn't seem
relevant. You aren't going to lose access to the resources represented
by the competition; rather, you are going to subsume those resources
and gain greater control over them.

It is misleading to draw an analogy with the traditional question of
whether it is better to make someone into a slave or to trade freely
with them. Generally in that case it is better to trade, since they will
be more motivated to excel when they can benefit by their own efforts.
Unless very closely supervised, slaves tend not to be hard workers.

However in the context of a nanotech takeover, the balance would be
different. Nanotech slavery can be perfectly effective. In fact, it
would be more useful to think of the conquered resources as now being an
extension of the will of the conquerer, rather than slaves. In fact the
destruction may have involved gray-goo meltdown or nuclear fire, in which
case the intelligences in the conquered region are built from scratch.

It may be that a super-mind does find it convenient or necessary to give
its sub-parts a certain amount of autonomy, similar to Minsky's model
of our minds as a society of interacting subsystems. There could still
be disagreement or conflict among the parts as to the best division of
resources, just as we in our own minds sometimes have trouble making
choices between conflicting possibilities. This would be the closest
one would typically see to a "slave rebellion" in a nanotech era.

The only real objection I can see to this is that the takeover process will
involve some destruction. This could mean the permanent loss of useful
information, and it could also delay the time when the new resources can
be fully exploited. The alternative of mutually beneficial trade could
allow faster conversion to nanotech (since there is no time wasted in
warfare) and would retain more information.

However these may not be very significant factors, particularly if
the conquering power has a strong technological advantage over the
competition. The loss of information may be trivial compared to that
generated by a few hours of nanotech crunching, and conquest may be the
fastest method to convert the new region entirely to nanotech.