cc:Mail Link to SMTP Undeliverable Message
Sat, 06 Sep 97 07:24:33 +0200

--simple boundary
Content-Type: text/plain; charset=US-ACSII
Content-Transfer-Encoding: 7bit

Message is undeliverable.
Reason: Unable to access cc:Mail Post office.
Please retry later.
Original text follows:

--simple boundary
Content-Type: text/plain; charset=US-ACSII
Content-Transfer-Encoding: 7bit

Received: from by (ccMail Link to SMTP R6.0)
; Fri, 05 Sep 97 21:24:22 +0200
Return-Path: <>
Received: (from majordom@localhost) by (8.7.5/8.7.3) id JAA27042 for extropians-outgoing; Fri, 5 Sep 1997 09:56:13 -0600
X-Authentication-Warning: majordom set sender to using -f
Message-Id: <>
Comments: Authenticated sender is <>
From: "Nicholas Bostrom" <>
Date: Fri, 5 Sep 1997 16:54:53 +0000
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-type: text/plain; charset=US-ASCII
Content-transfer-encoding: 7BIT
Subject: Re: Goo prophylaxis:consensus
In-reply-to: <>
X-mailer: Pegasus Mail for Win32 (v2.53/R1)
Precedence: bulk

Hal Finney wrote:

> 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.

Well, the circumstances wherein our traditional ethical system was
developed were very different from situation we will have when the
first nanopower takes off. Also, I think it is unnecessary to concede
too much wisdom to traditional ethical systems -- most of them are
very bizzare: "Don't eat pork!", "Don't use condoms!" or rest on
assumptions that most of us don't believe in (the avenging wrath of
the gods).

> 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 about using this power preemptively against the USSR,
> our allies during the war, but inherent ideological adversaries.

von Neumann was in favour of a preemtive strike, and so was Bertrand
Russell (who was otherwise a pacifist!) For my part, I am not sure
what would have been best, given the knowledge that was available
then, or even the knowledge that we have today. But an intereting
fact is: it didn't happen. Perhaps it won't happen the next time
either, even if that will predictably cause the end of the world.

> 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.
> However, if the U.S. had preemptively attacked Russia after WWII,
> destroyed it as a potential competitor for at least decades, things
> might easily have been worse. Certainly the U.S. would have been a less
> trusted ally and partner in the world, more a heavy-handed, feared tyrant.

Perhaps it was just sheer luck that WWIII never happened. But
somebody could argue that: "it is really only since the collapse of
the Sovjet Union that USA has begun to behave virtuosly. Now it is
the conscience of the world, leading the efforts to inhibit nuclear
proliferation and of quenching aspiring tyrrants, like Saddam
Hussein. Perhaps, if USSR had been defeated at an early stage, the
USA could have been virtuous for 40 years by now, and thereby have
earned the respect of the rest of the world." Who knows?

> And as things turned out, the USSR eventually fell apart

The best thing that has happened since the defeat of Hitler. I still
feel joyful when I think of this event.

>, with its
> countries haltingly moving towards democracy. This is a victory for
> our ethical standards, as the USSR learned that its policies were wrong
> in an absolute sense, that is, they were not in accordance with nature.
> Even with all the years of suffering caused by the existence of the USSR,
> the world is very likely a better place today than it would have been
> after 50 years under a nuclear-enforced Pax Americana.

Who knows?

> Another issue is less tangible. It could be argued that by taking an
> action which is evil, you make yourself more likely to take other evil
> actions in the future. In the nuclear American empire scenario, we can
> easily imagine that after using nuclear weapons on first Japan and then
> Russia, they might be used against China, Vietnam, Cuba, or any other
> country which dares to resist. It may be necessary to crack down on
> dissent at home, as these outrageous actions lead to protests. You could
> end up with the worst tyranny imaginable.


> Similarly, a nanotech power which is so paranoid and aggressive as to
> take the step of eradicating everyone else on the planet may find it
> difficult to survive on its own terms. Paranoia would rule... snip...
> 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.

Yes, that would be a very bad outcome. In the EoC, Drexler mentions
the possibility that a state choose to get rid of its people and
replace them with obediant AIs. This is a real danger. -Another
reason why we must make sure that no totalitarian state gets to the
point where it can make a successful first strike.

> 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.

Yes, everybody that is willing to cooperate could be included in the
dominating power. Hopefully, this would be most of the world, perhaps
excluding some rogue states and possibly China. These nations would
have to be forced to either cooperate or relinquish their military
power. That would not mean exterminating their populations, but
dissolving their military machines and doing whatever it takes to
make sure they never obtain a dangerous level nanotechnology
(relative to the defenses that the rest of the world has).

> 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.

I think this coalition would have enough diversity; but we must not
forget that we can always afterward *design in* as much diversity
as is desirable, whether by creating independent modules within the
SI or by arranging for cultural differences in society. Diversity is
something that can be manufactured. It is not something that a
nanopower would need to risk its own existence to achive, or give up
half of the universe for.

Nicholas Bostrom

--simple boundary--