1001Re: [nanotech] Re: Bill Joy (Japanese)
- Jul 31, 2000In a message dated 00-07-31 21:27:11 EDT, you write:
<< people in power will do terrible things for what they believe is
right or neccessary for their cause. Nanotech will allow that on an
unprecedented scale. >>
In the case of WWI, the exercise of power was unilateral. For every ocean
liner German u-boats torpedoed, the Allies sank a neutral grain ship trying
to feed the fatherland. A lot more German children starved to death than
ever died by German hands. The German's u-boats and zepplins were much more
terror weapons than effective military approaches. (Unfortunately, the
Germans learned their lessons nad more than made up for the horrors inflicted
on them. As an aside, neither the Allies or the Nazis used poison gas during
WW2. I've heard a lot of theories why, but none were very compelling).
Anyway, the point of my ramblings is two-fold.
First, it is often hard to tell who the good guys are. If some future power
used nanotech-enabled warfare for their version of good (in self defense, for
instance), is that OK? If there is a nano-defense against, say, poison gas,
shouldn't that defense be persued?
Second, any exercise of power, even in a non-aggressive manner, is "horrible"
to the target, or even to the bystander. If a nano-factory produces cheap
manufactured good, what happens to the displaced third world factory worker?
If nanites mine metals from seawater, how many countries' economies collapse?
We may find out relatively soon. Drexler's first dream was to
nano-manufacture diamond atom by atom. We're getting pretty close to that.
When GE or Dow Corning or whomever starts churning out gem-grade diamonds in
bushel-sized lots, what's going to happen in South Africa?
All that said, I don't think we can stop it. I started writing a book on
supressed inventions once, but it got too depressing (especially depressing
was the good chance I'd have been sued by somebody or another). Most of the
good stuff was supressed for economic reasons, not enlightened self interest.
And most of the time, the good ideas didn't stay suppressed for long.
Anyway, nanotechnology research is (by now) too distributed, and there is too
much interdisciplinary overlap to effectively control or spike. All we can
hope for is that it is pretty easy to get some great nanotech benefits and
pretty hard to cause great damage. For instance, lets hope that blue goo is
tricky to design, or that germ-level gene therapy runs into some problems.
So far we have been pretty lucky. Nuclear explosions don't propigate into
nonfissionables. Ther can be no ice-9. Tissue cultures won't mutate to eat
anything organic. You can't make a laser that will slice the earth in half.
(All concerns at one time or another).
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