Re: Goo prophylaxis:consensus

Forrest Bishop (
Wed, 3 Sep 1997 15:42:07 -0500 (CDT)

Nicholas Bostrom:
Our discussion about the strategic situation after and during the
development of nanotechnology has gone on for a while, and there is
still disagreement on several [issues]. But perhaps we reached a near
consensus on the following non-trivial points?

1. Provided that technological research continues, nanotechnology will
eventually be developed.


Curt Adams:
Molecular based self-replicators better than current bioforms will be
developed: agreed.
These forms will be machine phase: Not agreed (unproven, open question)

'Nanotechnology' is a suitcase word, much of current tech falls within the
definition. I agree with Curt, with the extension that self-rep goo may also take
on a 'mixed mode' (bio/mech++) form, or a form we have not even discussed yet.

2. An immune system wouldn't work unless it was global.

Let's say that no large areas of the earth should be left unsupervised [by] an
immune system. No need to assume that only one immune system exists; I can
easily imagine multiple, overlapping ones.

Curt Adams:
Disagreed. Mine works quite nicely. Any immune system will be defeated at
some point; if it's global then it's all over. Successful nanodefense will
rely on multiple local systems or it will fail.

Just so on both C's. Some of the black goo scenarios have devolved into
fantasy, IMO.

3. In the absence of a global immune system, if everybody could make
their own nanotech machines then all life on earth would soon become

All human life, anyway. Subterranean bacteria may hang on, if only because
nobody bothers to try to exterminate them.

Curt Adams:
Current life: agreed. Life as modified in the age of nanotech: disagreed.

I consider goo to be a lifeform in its own right. If 'everybody' makes their
own new life (goo), the result could just as easily be a New Cambrian
Explosion. Calling goo a machine is correct, but insufficient. We are also
machines, powered by quintillions of rotating motors.

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.

I utterly disagree. .. I haven't been posting with my usual vigor,
but my silence does not indicate
that I have come to agree with you on this point!

Curt Adams:
Two powers: agreed. Multiple powers: disagreed.

Hal Finney:
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.
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

Strongly disagree. To Hal's point- you _do_ lose irreplaceable resources,
namely the information stored in the patterns of atoms that made up your

Hall Finney:
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.

I am not convinced that a Jupiter Brain style SI can retain a single identity
over its extended structure. If its 'seat of consciousness' is distributed over
a volume of space (perhaps in the interest of redundancy), a 'center' (C1) at one
point will diverge by deltaC in time deltaT from a 'center' (C2) at another point.
If the signal propagation delay (deltaT) is long enough, C2 might have evolved
a will and outlook too different from C1's to be considered the same SI.
I think this effect make the development of a planet-wide, single identity
SI very complicated, a Solar System-wide SI very unlikely, and a star-spanning
SI impossible.