Re: Fears of Nanotech
Edwin Evans (email@example.com)
Wed, 1 Sep 1999 10:19:27 -0700
I think there is a lot of risk of government abuse of
nanotechnology, but I think there is a bigger danger.
You can say a *lot* of bad things about governments.
However, one good thing you can say is that even
though some governments have had the capability to
destroy the world for many years, they haven't done so
My biggest fear related to nanotechnology is misuse by
individuals (and then small organizations and then
large ones, since I think the biggest danger is
- People and organizations
(economic/political/religious/other) will want strong
nanotechnology. They will want nanoboxes that have a
lot of flexibility and power rather than nanoboxes
that are very heavily restricted. People will want the
nanotech equivalent of PCs, not special purpose
devices like calculators or game consoles.
- As far as I know, the theory of how Active Shields
could possibly be successful hasn't been worked out at
all yet. An Active Shield (as I understand it) is like
a complex piece of software that is highly
distributed. I know enough about this topic to be
fairly confident that we don't have any clue how to
make something like that robust. If there is one P1
(lingo for priority 1 which for software generally
means data loss, system corruption, or security) bug
and it is exploited or accidentally run into,
everybody dies. ("Everybody dies" is how I'd define P1
for active shield bugs). I think our best theory so
far for solving the complexity problem is, "develop
AI". We should steer away from nanotech and towards
- If there is a nanobox that downloads input data
from the Internet as in the recent Business Week
scenario, probably someone will try to make something
that is extinction level dangerous. If they succeed,
there probably won't be any time to spend discussing
the many ways in which this person's motivations differ
from various other killers or mischief makers.
If governments did start taking nanotechnology threats
seriously and decided to ban selling/developing
assemblers or even the sale of AFMs, I wouldn't rail
against it (would you?). If Japan and a few other
countries did do this, it seems they may be able to
postpone the possible future event of nanotechnology
obliteration. Since it does take a lot of money and
organization to develop, making it illegal could
conceivably be quite effective. Are you sure it's
too late? Regulation will get more difficult and
dangerous the later it comes.
I sincerely hope I'm not part of the problem.
"He felt that Man was not yet ready for this kind of
power. He finally realized the political implications
of his favorite reasearch projects ... Almost
reluctantly, he turned in other directions." - Dr.
John Lilly speaking about his younger self in "The
A monk asked Zhaozhoe, "Does even a dog have
Zhaozhoe said, "No."