Re: Goo prophylaxis:consensus

The Low Golden Willow (
Fri, 5 Sep 1997 10:58:12 -0700 (PDT)

On Sep 5, 4:54pm, "Nicholas Bostrom" wrote:
} The Low Golden Willow wrote:

} > } 2. Hostile attack goo cannot be allowed to gain a sizable foothold;
} > "Sizable" is vague.
} If we assume that we need to cover at least 99.99% of the earth with

I don't assume that at all.

I do grant that in practice most of the world will be protected by
somebody's immune system, just as much of the biosphere is today. Not
because of any conscious effort, but because life (nano-equipped in this
case) will extend itself, occupy whatever it can, and carry its immune
systems with it. But I don't think mindless goo occupying 10% of the
planet's surface would be an irreversible disaster.

} 2. In a multipolar world, the whole earth must be protected by one
} immune system or another. If only cities were protected, attack goo
} could easily extinguish all intelligent life.

True by default these days, since cities haven't figured out how to feed
themselves yet. If we skip over that barrier, however, protected cities
will outevolve attack goo precisely because they are all the intelligent
life. See below.

} formulation to make sure that the sea could avoid making itself
} available as dinner. But is there such a minimum technology that
} would do the trick no matter how advanced the island? I suppose there
} is (design space limited),though it might be very high up on the
} technology ladder. Sooner or later, the sea would reach that level of
} technology, and then it would defeat the island, unless the island
} had made itself into a sea by that time. So we reformulate:
} In the long run, an island cannot defend itself against a sea.

<Boggle> The _sea_ will "reach that level of technology"? This is a
sea of mindless goo, no? Even if it's backed by someone intelligent,
we're still talking one lab versus a city -- more likely, many, many
cities. It is the city which needs a minimum level of technology --
concrete moats and waterhoses in one of my scenarios -- to fend off the
sea while *it* advances such that it can fight off the sea with
increasing ease, and later regard it as so much raw material.

You've also ignored my claim that as the first nanotech is likely to be
based on nearly pure carbon even vast seas of it will be controllable
through burning.

I'd also like to provide a much more basic reason why it would be
completely irrational for the first "nanopower" to try to wipe out the
world so that they can take over the universe. What are they going to
do with the universe? They're a nanotech research lab. Do they know
how to use nanotech to make food? Perhaps they can just copy that (hope
they copied some ethnic restaurants first) but what will happen when they
catch a disease? Develop cancer? Or Alzheimer's? Will they know how
to build an airplane -- they can copy one, but can they modify it? Can
they build a spaceship? Drextech is a miraculous tool, but it will take
knowledge to apply, knowledge a nanolab will probably not have.
Particularly if nanotech comes before AI or detailed neuro-knowledge.
If the lab waits for the latter, other labs will develop nanotech. If
it strikes to exploit its temporary lead, it won't know what to do with

"Do you think so little of the art of carpentry, than any man can pick
up a hammer and build a barn which does not fall down, no matter how
much he hits his thumb and curses?" -- a mage to his student, by Robin
McKinley. The world is complex, and civilization more so. Nanotech is
not a genie which can replace it all.

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

Prowl, run, howl at the full moon
I can't do it right, don't know why I try.
Soon the moon will be rising
Oh woe is the life of a werewolf.