Re: Tough Questions
Tue, 31 Aug 1999 23:12:51 -0700

Michael S. Lorrey, <>, writes:
> To live in a free society, you must trust first in yourself to act
> responsibly, and if you beleive that people are more or less equal, you
> should be prepared to trust your fellow man an equal amount. Do you
> trust yourself with an atomic warhead? Would you hold a nation hostage
> to get what you want? If you trust yourself to not abuse such power you
> must trust your fellow man to not abuse such power.

No, I would not misuse an atomic warhead, and I would not hold a nation hostage with it. However, I would not have any desire to own an atomic warhead; it is no use to me.

If I see that my neighbor has one, then I don't see how I can follow your advice to presume that he is as trustworthy in this regard as I. The mere fact that he has chosen to acquire the device is evidence that he is different from me. It raises the probability that he does want to use it, and because of the tremendous destructive power of atomic weapons, it is plausible that I or those I value would be injured by his use.

Some of the same considerations might apply if he attached dynamite to all of his fence posts, with more explosives stockpiled in the yard and all wired to go off on any breach of his property lines. If this system goes off accidentally, it could wipe out the entire neighborhood.

I don't see how the question of whether I would act responsibly helps in analyzing this situation. I would not booby trap my fences with enough explosives to send the whole block to kingdom come! It does not appear very useful to presume that my neighbor is acting responsibly if his actions reveal him to be irresponsible.

Raw, unconstrained nanotech could be as destructive as a nuclear blast, and as easy to misuse as dynamite. Given the sad fact that not everyone is responsible or benevolent, it will be pretty scary if everyone has this kind of power.