Re: Fears of nanotech

Patrick Wilken (
Sun, 5 Sep 1999 17:04:41 +1000

> wrote:
>> Likewise,
>> with the dissolution of the old Soviet Union, it seems like a seriously
>> committed band of well-financed terrorists ought by now to have been able to
>> have gotten a small nuke to use for terrorist purposes.
>> State terrorism has also been surprisingly limited. Saddam Hussein COULD
>> have used chemical or biological warheads in his SCUDs, but didn't. Hitler
>> could have, but didn't use biological or chemical weapons on the battlefield.
>> Why?

Give it time. My impression is that while its easy enough to get your hands on biological agents that can do sizeable damage (anthrax etc.) its not trivial working with these agents. Small terrorist groups could get the germs, but if they make a mistake they die. Also its simply not enough to just create a bomb with the bacteria inside. When the bacteria are released they need to be of the right to easily float in the air and get breathed in by passers by. However it is scary to think that the Om Yo Ricio actually sent people out to Africa in an attempt to get Ebola samples for use as biological agents.

However governments do have the sorts of resources to make biological weapons. Something like 20000 (yes that's 20k) people were employed in biological weapons manufacture in the former USSR at the time of its collapse. Since then many of these people have been without work and so are very vulnerable to offers from various regimes around the world (e.g. Iraq, North Korea). I would say its just a matter of time before we start seeing biological weapons used by these 2nd level powers.

Luckily these weapons are at present non-selective. Making them reasonably unattractive for use in the battlefield. However these is the possibility of making them racially selective then we'll be in real trouble.

best, patrick

Patrick Wilken
Editor:        PSYCHE: An International Journal of Research on Consciousness
Board Member:      The Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness