Re: Goo prophylaxis:consensus

Forrest Bishop (
Thu, 4 Sep 1997 17:15:18 -0500 (CDT)

Hal wrote:
>Damien Sullivan writes:
>> [Issue of nanotech power preemptively taking out its neighbors]
>> I raise the possibility of disagreement precisely because our ethical
>> systems militate against it so strongly. Our evolved morality may know
>> more than you do.
>This is an interesting question. ...
>If we think of ethics as distilling our experience of the long-term
>consequences of our actions, then this suggests that there is something
>mistaken with the reasoning in favor of preemptive strikes.
>A recent historical example would be the situation immediately after
>WWII, when the U.S. had sole possession of the atomic bomb. There was
>undoubtedly debate

Yes, there was.

>about using this power preemptively against the USSR,

>Indeed, the cost of not conquering the Soviet Union was considerable:
>the Cold War; years of mistreatment of its population and its ecology
>by the Soviet government; justification of American excesses as necessary
>to stop the Red menace.

There is also an argument that the Pax Americana _bolstered_
the Soviet Union, and delayed its natural collapse. The continuous
military threat posed by America gave the Soviet government justification
for their totalitarian practices. Do note that almost every escalation in
the Cold War (Nuclear War 1) (first atom bomb, first use in warfare,
first H bomb, first stockpiling, first nuclear sub, first MIRVs,
etc., ad naseum.) was made by the US.

>The result would be a nightmare Borgism, a nearly mindless plague whose
>only goal was conquest, spreading throughout the universe. This would
>all flow from that first step of destruction.

>Consider, in contrast, an entity which takes the harder road from the
>beginning, seeking to embrace diversity and work with competitors who
>are its equals. Its survival is less certain; the resources it will be
>able to command directly will be more limited. But the diversity which
>results will be a positive benefit in and of itself. And the need to
>deal flexibly and creatively with competitors will arguably make it
>better prepared to deal with surprises which the universe throws at it
>in the future.

This is what I was trying to drive at in the information loss objection.

>Granted, this is a pretty fuzzy argument. In particular, the notion
>of being tainted by evil actions sounds melodramatic and old fashioned.
>But as Damien says, our ethical systems do embody a considerable history
>of experience, even when wrapped in mystical or religious trappings.
>An ethical meme which kills its host is less likely to survive. So we
>should not ignore our ethical views too easily. Evil actions may have
>subtle negative consequences which we tend to overlook.

Thank you, Hal