Re: Iran pushes for nanotech

From: Anders Sandberg (
Date: Sat Nov 10 2001 - 01:43:08 MST

On Fri, Nov 09, 2001 at 09:14:11PM -0500, Brian Atkins wrote:
> Quite simply, putting full blown nanotech into the hands of a single
> dangerous person would make 9/11 look like a little pinprick. I think
> your proposal of openly developing potential weapons of mass destruction
> is utterly naive. It would be something like openly developing nukes
> in a parallel universe where any matter is capable of being used as
> the core. The end result would have been that everyone would have
> built them, and instead of a cold war we would have had something much
> worse.

Would you please turn down your amygdala a bit? I did not say "let's
give everybody guns to play with" but rather "I prefer the guns in the
open and distributed so that we can force everybody to be accountable
with them". Quite a difference. Have you read "The Weapon of Openness"
by by Arthur Kantrowitz?
( If not, please do
that now.

> What exactly is your scenario for where terrorists have drextech and
> yet don't cause severe worldwide damage? A nanotech immune system?
> And what happens when they come up with a worm that breaches the
> defenses? Humans have already proven themselves incapable of devising
> a system that would prevent such disasters.

Exactly what systems have been tried and failed? You make it sound like
people have tried to build immune systems forever. In reality, what we
need is different kinds of defenses against different threats,
overlapping and evolving to match the pace of what people invent or
imagine. It seems very likely that people would spend a sizeable
investment on immune systems, institutions controlling nano use and
various other methods of limiting risk, and the collective investment
would be far larger than any investment in coming up with malicious

It would be useful if we could estimate how dangerous a dangerous
person with nanotech is - and when? You have to estimate not just his
offensive capabilities, but also how dangerous they are compared to the
defenses of society around him. Quite a few of the nano-scare debates
seem to lack this kind of analysis.
> Why fool around with such a possibility when leaving the nanotech
> carefully centralized would probably still allow for 90% of the
> usefulness? Do I really need a home assembler? What for?

Because centralization means that somebody has more control over the
nano than you have. Who do you trust with it? As I said, governments
have a bad history of that. This is why we need oversight and
accountability, and not just put all the responsibility at one group.

Anders Sandberg                                      Towards Ascension!                  
GCS/M/S/O d++ -p+ c++++ !l u+ e++ m++ s+/+ n--- h+/* f+ g+ w++ t+ r+ !y

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