RE: NANO: Institutional Safety

Billy Brown (
Mon, 15 Nov 1999 10:50:58 -0600

David Blenkinsop wrote:
> In reality, it isn't at all obvious how to nonviolently settle
> sovereignty claims over newly accessed resources, or what sort of
> beaurocracy one should trust with administering any nature preserves, or
> Neutral Zones. 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? 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? Seemingly, if two sides get into an exponential arms race,
> this is a recipe not only for fighting over space resources, but also
> for converting the Earth's surface into a shell of nanoweapons. Or, have
> I missed something here, something about "exponential rate of capital
> increase" that I don't understand?

No, you haven't missed anything. Nanotechnology makes it almost impossible for multiple sovereign powers to coexist on a single planet, because they will tend to find themselves forced into an exponential arms race that converts the entire mass of the planet into industry and weaponry. The fact that there is no room to deploy effective defenses against many high-tech weapons makes the problem even worse.

Spreading into space, and especially interstellar space, makes the problem a bit more manageable. Defense becomes easier, the cost of exploiting resources rises, and in general the potential for a secret military buildup becomes much less destabilizing. That could give you a situation where peace has a reasonable chance of prevailing.

Billy Brown, MCSE+I