Re: NANO: Institutional Safety

Robert J. Bradbury (
Mon, 15 Nov 1999 13:02 EST

David Blenkinsop <> wrote:

> In the _Diaspora_ novel, the transhuman societies somehow maintain what
> they think of as a wisely nonexponential or nonexpansive security
> arrangement, where they leave enormous tracts of natural resources
> completely untouched.

There is a declining Return on Investment as you get bigger because you have increased communications delays and power costs. Until we adopt fundamentally different time scales for entertaining "thoughts" (weeks or months) it may not make sense to utilize all of the natural resources. (Sure you can turn all of the asteroids into VR simulations of "you", but what good does that do "you"?!? We still haven't resolved the question of whether, assuming you "own" the asteroids whether you can pull the plug on them when you enter your artistic stage and want to devote them to some other use...)

> This despite the fact that they could very readily get
> into colonial competition for settling those resources --

The two main motivating forces I see for colonialism were:

  1. a desire for freedom -- but in a personal VR, you have the "ultimate" freedom.
  2. the quest for "rare" natural resources (e.g. gold, silver, spices, etc.) -- these aren't "rare" in a nanotech environment. Biotech makes all the "spices" you want, and "gold" (e.g. carbon) is relatively abundant but you have a problem of getting the carbon to where the energy is or the energy to where the carbon is. [Mass transport from the Oort cloud to the inner solar system is time consuming and may waste mass resources. Energy beamed from the inner solar system to the Oort cloud is going to take time because you have beam dispersal and have to grow large receiving antennas.

> or for using them to build an overwhelming force of arms.

In a nanotech environment, the concept of an "overwhelming" force of arms is very questionable. You have to guarantee that you have disassembled *every* last little bit of nanotech in an enclave that can have berserker potential.

> No fighting over the resources of asteroid Ceres for them,
> their Coalition has voting Ceres a mineral preserve, or
> something, and that is that!

If you presume that we can be as "rational" as possible, then it makes sense to cooperate (game theory says this is most efficient). We have to allocate resources in an ever diminishing ROI situation, there will only be a few logical paths to pursue. What will be the "gold" is clever designs that can provide the most efficient "thought" using the smallest resource increments -- energy, matter or space. Probably "consortiums" pool resources to develop those on varying time scales (decades, millennia, gigayears, etc.)

> In reality, it isn't at all obvious how to nonviolently settle
> sovereignty claims over newly accessed resources,

There are two obvious possibilities:

  1. First to claim it gets it.
  2. First to have a plan to optimally use it gets it.

The "claiming" of North America & Africa or the exploration of the Pacific islands provide a good basis for (a), and the American farm & railroad land grants provide a good basis for (b).

> Also, if there are sovereign states that you don't trust,
> how do you know what kind of offense they may be developing
> under cover, on their own turf?

You don't but a sovereign state can't "nano-nuke" another state if it potentially has hidden berserkers or strong allies. You only get to be "untrustable" once, unless enclaves/sub-entities evolve to the point where they have no survival instinct at all.

> For instance, I don't know, myself, that recent
> bombings of Iraq have done anything effective to control hidden
> bioweapons, so what if we were dealing with a nanofactory driven arms
> race instead?

Yep, it makes the cold war look simple. In those cases the "intelligence" groups could roughly estimate what was being done. In a nanotech environment that is hard unless you have complete "openness". Since nano-surveillance is cheap & semi-intelligent one would argue that those who are trustable are those who let you observe everything. The question is does the clever "dispersed" development & assembly approach that I've mentioned, work around universal surveilance?

> Seemingly, if two sides get into an exponential arms race,
> this is a recipe not only for fighting over space resources,

Why should you fight over resources if there is so much resources that you can simply go claim something "unclaimed". When you get to the point where you are claiming "big" stuff or "distant" stuff where the costs of turning it into something "usable" are expensive anyway, it makes more sense to divide up the risks and benefits among as many parties as possible. It depends a lot on whether you think (a) an individual; (b) an economic consortium; or (c) a political entity is going to lay claim to Jupiter or Saturn.

> Or, have I missed something here, something about "exponential rate of
> capital increase" that I don't understand?

No, you understand it -- the physical stuff increases exponentially but that doesn't mean that "efficient" designs do or your ability to use it effectively does. If I put one grain of rice on your front lawn tomorrow, and two the next day and 4 the day after that you are going to have a *big* problem figuring out what to do with the rice somewhere after the 25th day.

Claim: The Resource Base grows so much faster than the population that there is no incentive to fight over the resources until uploads or AI arrives.

> Now, it's far from apparent how to avoid getting swamped in a
> fast buildup of weapons, even if you try to class some weapons as
> "defensive" in character!

I don't need the surface of a planet covered in berserker bots to feel safe, I only need a few hundred of them scattered in very different locations. Or you simply need strong allies.

> Basically, we need the Coalition of Polises to come around and just
> bomb the heck out of anyone who violates the Neutral Zone conventions --
> say, maybe it's not that hard a problem, if the Powers That Be are
> tough enough?

Well, say you are one of the powers -- what constitutes a good development plan for the available resources and what constitutes a bad development plan (worthy of bombing if you violate the neutral/nature/zoo zone)? I.e., how do you "consciously" decide that the proposed development is a good allocation of the resources?