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Re: [nanotech] Re: Bill Joy (Japanese)

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  • DonSaxman@aol.com
    In a message dated 00-07-31 21:27:11 EDT, you write:
    Message 1 of 18 , Jul 31, 2000
      In 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).
    • Steve Wish
      ... the lusitania was wwi and enigma was twenty odd years and another war later.... steve w.
      Message 2 of 18 , Aug 2, 2000
        telaunt@... wrote:

        > Marrek,
        >
        >
        > I actually did not know the Lusitania had been known to be a
        > target of
        > opportunity. Also, the passengers on that boat would have been
        > fooling
        > themselves to think they were not. After all the Germans sank
        > shiploads of
        > children fleeing to safety in Canada. The easiest way to know for
        > sure I
        > guess is to date the Lusitania sinking vs. the breaking of the Enigma
        > code.

        the lusitania was wwi and enigma was twenty odd years and another war
        later.... steve w.
      • Christopher J. Phoenix
        ... You may be interested in a science fiction book, _The Cassini Division_ by Ken MacLeod, that explores nanotech, economy, power, war, Singularity, and
        Message 3 of 18 , Aug 7, 2000
          At 10:46 PM 7/31/00 EDT, DonSaxman@... wrote:
          >In a message dated 00-07-31 21:27:11 EDT, you write:
          >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?

          You may be interested in a science fiction book, _The Cassini Division_ by
          Ken MacLeod, that explores nanotech, economy, power, war, Singularity, and
          conflicting cultures. I didn't notice any blatant mistakes in the tech.

          >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?

          In the broadest sense, exercise of power simply causes change. Change may
          be good or bad, and should be done responsibly. The trouble is that a lot
          of change can't be planned. "Social conscience" is the best answer I've
          come up with.

          >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?

          I suspect "natural" diamonds will be worth more than synthetic diamonds, and
          the price even of synthetic diamonds will be kept high. Probably some of
          the poorest mine workers will lose their jobs, but the rich owners will do OK.

          Of course that's just one product, and certainly there will be massive
          economic disruption once we get flexible factories.

          >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.

          I'd love to see your notes for that! I wonder if there's any way of
          distributing them that 1) preserves your IP; 2) protects you legally; 3)
          makes them useful even in an unfinished state? Hmmm... perhaps a
          slashdot-style website where you post your references on each invention and
          other people write the comments?

          >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.

          Um, you mean you want grey goo to be tricky? Blue goo is supposed to clean
          up after grey goo. I'd think we'd want blue goo to be easy. Or are you
          thinking that would make totalitarian governments too easy and strong?

          What do you see as the problems with germ-level gene therapy? I haven't yet
          been able to understand why people think it's a bad idea. Presumably within
          a few years we'd be able to undo whatever we did, yes?

          >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).

          I've heard that HeLa cell cultures do take over 'most any other cell culture
          in the lab or cell library, and that this has caused the loss of a lot of
          useful cell lines. As for ice-9 (polywater?), what about prions? A lot
          slower and with limited substrate, but similar autocatalytic process, and
          quite scary.

          Chris
          --
          Chris Phoenix cphoenix@... http://www.best.com/~cphoenix
          Work (Reading Research Council): http://www.dyslexia.com
          Is your paradigm shift automatic or stick?
        • DonSaxman@aol.com
          ... Thanks. My favorite nanotech novels tusfar are the Slant books (by Bear?) Did anyone notice that nanotech played a big role in the latest Clive Cussler
          Message 4 of 18 , Aug 7, 2000
            In a message dated 00-08-07 19:12:57 EDT, you write:

            > You may be interested in a science fiction book, _The Cassini Division_ by
            > Ken MacLeod, that explores nanotech, economy, power, war, Singularity, and
            > conflicting cultures. I didn't notice any blatant mistakes in the tech.

            Thanks. My favorite nanotech novels tusfar are the "Slant" books (by Bear?)
            Did anyone notice that nanotech played a big role in the latest Clive Cussler
            Dirk (Raise the Titantic) Pitt novel. In fact, Drexler and his wife were
            mentioned by name.

            > In the broadest sense, exercise of power simply causes change. Change may
            > be good or bad, and should be done responsibly. The trouble is that a lot
            > of change can't be planned. "Social conscience" is the best answer I've
            > come up with.

            I thin k individuals (including indivisuals with great secular power) can
            have a "social conscience, but I don't think a state can. (as an aside,
            that's why I'm against capital punishment, but I'm for a well-armed citizenry
            with legal concealed carry).

            > I suspect "natural" diamonds will be worth more than synthetic diamonds,
            and
            > the price even of synthetic diamonds will be kept high. Probably some of
            > the poorest mine workers will lose their jobs, but the rich owners will do
            OK.

            Speaking as a geologist (that's what my degree is, even if I haven't
            practiced for over a decade), I'd say it depends on how good the synthetics
            are. Synthetic rubies never really caught on big-time, even really lovely
            star rubies. But synthetic emralds are very popular. And cubic zirconia in
            general drove down the market for cheap diamonds. Every diamond mined (on
            the average) kills about 2.5 antelopes (because of the way South Africa is
            fenced off and because of the way water was redistributed). I think if cany
            synthetic diamond marketers did their job, they could make them a credible
            alternative.

            > Of course that's just one product, and certainly there will be massive
            > economic disruption once we get flexible factories.

            Long term, certainly. Short term, probably not. Combinational chemistry
            hasn't distroyed the market for botanical drugs for instance.

            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.

            > I'd love to see your notes for that! I wonder if there's any way of
            > distributing them that 1) preserves your IP; 2) protects you legally; 3)
            > makes them useful even in an unfinished state? Hmmm... perhaps a
            > slashdot-style website where you post your references on each invention and
            > other people write the comments?

            It was frustrating. I played a relatively minor, but direct role in two
            big-league "supressions" back in my technical jorunalist days. One was for
            "TENS" units (the devices that kill pain via an electrical charge). The
            other was "in situ vitrification" (wherein hazardous and/or radioactive waste
            is cheaply and permanently enclosed in a pool of molten glass.) In one case,
            I had Johnson and Johnson threatening to sue. In the other case, I had the
            governor of New Jersey threatening to have me arrested! In both cases, the
            inventions were eventually "outed" and are now moderatly successful
            commercial products. In both cases, the technology was suppressed for over
            ten years. I believe there *are* still "supressed invention" use groups.
            There used to be anyway. They kind of blend into the urban mythos. I could
            post more on this, but this probably isn't the appropriate forum.



            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.

            > Um, you mean you want grey goo to be tricky? Blue goo is supposed to clean
            >up after grey goo. I'd think we'd want blue goo to be easy. Or are you
            > thinking that would make totalitarian governments too easy and strong?

            I was actually thinking it might be good if both blue and grey goo were
            pretty difficult to make. As hard, say, as a nuclear bomb. Not something a
            bright grad student could do (or a tinpot dictator).

            > What do you see as the problems with germ-level gene therapy? I haven't yet
            > been able to understand why people think it's a bad idea. Presumably within
            > a few years we'd be able to undo whatever we did, yes?

            I think it is dangerous to screw around with germ-level genetics without
            knowling the consequences. Maybe we could fix our mistakes and maybe not.
            For instance, I don't *really* think that AIDS is a manmade mistake, buit it
            could have been. How much damage might we inadvertantly cause before we
            could fix it?

            > I've heard that HeLa cell cultures do take over 'most any other cell
            culture
            > in the lab or cell library, and that this has caused the loss of a lot of
            > useful cell lines. As for ice-9 (polywater?), what about prions? A lot
            > slower and with limited substrate, but similar autocatalytic process, and
            > quite scary. >>

            That's a good point. I was thinking more along the (fanciful) lines of
            Aldous Huxley's "Tissue Culture King" or Edgar Rice Burroughs "Synethetic Men
            of Mars" type tissue culture problems. Of course, we now know tissue culture
            doesn;t work those ways. But both were throught to be fairly accurate
            extrapolations at the time.
          • John Marrek
            The problem is, we screw it up, we may all be dead in a few DAYS. Marrek ... On 7 Aug 2000, at 15:40, Christopher J. Phoenix wrote: What do you see as the
            Message 5 of 18 , Aug 7, 2000
              The problem is, we screw it up, we may all be dead in
              a few DAYS.

              Marrek

              ----

              On 7 Aug 2000, at 15:40, Christopher J. Phoenix wrote:

              What do you see as the problems with germ-level gene
              therapy? I haven't yet
              been able to understand why people think it's a bad
              idea. Presumably within
              a few years we'd be able to undo whatever we did, yes?

              __________________________________________________
              Do You Yahoo!?
              Kick off your party with Yahoo! Invites.
              http://invites.yahoo.com/
            • Jeffrey.BAUMGARTNER@cec.eu.int
              ... Why not take this a couple steps further? Let us assume nano-factories can produce any material good, including themselves, by juggling nearby atoms about.
              Message 6 of 18 , Aug 8, 2000
                > 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?

                Why not take this a couple steps further? Let us assume nano-factories can produce any material good, including themselves, by juggling nearby atoms about. A future in which there are trillions of nano-factories ready to produce any material good on command is very conceivable. Moreover, these goods would effectively cost nothing. When anything you could want is free and there is simply no work available for the majority of the world's labour force - the collapse of the global economy and thus capitalism seems the likely outcome.

                Of course, some professional services would still be needed. But I would argue that intelligent people would continue offering such services to prevent boredom, make a mark on the world, learn, etc.

                Jeffrey Baumgartner
              • Christopher J. Phoenix
                Say more? I don t see how a screwup could be that disastrous. Are you talking about medical interventions? If so, most people won t use them, at least not
                Message 7 of 18 , Aug 9, 2000
                  Say more? I don't see how a screwup could be that disastrous. Are you
                  talking about medical interventions? If so, most people won't use them, at
                  least not right away. (And that's after lots of clinical trials.)
                  Obviously problems can happen with any new attractive medical
                  technology--look at Fen/Phen--I don't see genetic modification as being any
                  worse than others. Are you thinking that we could create some disastrous
                  new contagious disease? I don't see how modifying our genes could produce a
                  new organism. Or are you talking about genetically engineering existing
                  diseases? We already do that, and have been doing it for a while--and even
                  before we started, we were selectively breeding them by many methods
                  including simply having an immune system.

                  Chris


                  At 06:40 PM 8/7/00 -0700, John Marrek wrote:
                  >The problem is, we screw it up, we may all be dead in
                  >a few DAYS.
                  >
                  >Marrek
                  >
                  >----
                  >
                  >On 7 Aug 2000, at 15:40, Christopher J. Phoenix wrote:
                  >
                  >What do you see as the problems with germ-level gene
                  >therapy? I haven't yet
                  >been able to understand why people think it's a bad
                  >idea. Presumably within
                  >a few years we'd be able to undo whatever we did, yes?
                  >
                  >__________________________________________________
                  >Do You Yahoo!?
                  >Kick off your party with Yahoo! Invites.
                  >http://invites.yahoo.com/
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  >The Nanotechnology Industries mailing list.
                  >"Nanotechnology: solutions for the future."
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  --
                  Chris Phoenix cphoenix@... http://www.best.com/~cphoenix
                  Work (Reading Research Council): http://www.dyslexia.com
                  Is your paradigm shift automatic or stick?
                • Christopher J. Phoenix
                  ... Combinational chemistry is still getting off the ground; needs much more powerful computers, for one thing. And synthesis is still difficult in many
                  Message 8 of 18 , Aug 9, 2000
                    At 07:40 PM 8/7/00 EDT, DonSaxman@... wrote:
                    >> Of course that's just one product, and certainly there will be massive
                    >> economic disruption once we get flexible factories.
                    >
                    >Long term, certainly. Short term, probably not. Combinational chemistry
                    >hasn't distroyed the market for botanical drugs for instance.

                    Combinational chemistry is still getting off the ground; needs much more
                    powerful computers, for one thing. And synthesis is still difficult in many
                    cases, so even when we know the chemistry it's often easier to have plants
                    or bacteria make it.

                    Flexible factories will eliminate the synthesis problem, almost by
                    definition: most (or all!) consumer products today are less complex than a
                    self-replicating factory. And with 50X better materials, it should be
                    fairly easy to translate most existing designs into various grades and
                    characters of diamond foam. It might take three months to design an
                    equivalent car, but only a day to design an equivalent textile; lawn
                    furniture could be designed in an hour.

                    > > Um, you mean you want grey goo to be tricky? Blue goo is supposed to clean
                    > >up after grey goo. I'd think we'd want blue goo to be easy. Or are you
                    > > thinking that would make totalitarian governments too easy and strong?
                    >
                    >I was actually thinking it might be good if both blue and grey goo were
                    >pretty difficult to make. As hard, say, as a nuclear bomb. Not something a
                    >bright grad student could do (or a tinpot dictator).

                    Well, I've been saying that in 50 years or less a bright grad student would
                    be able to design and build an assembler. I think a simple grey goo
                    wouldn't be too much harder to do than an assembler. Of course it would
                    have lots of limitations and weak points, and wouldn't be able to take over
                    the biosphere by itself. But I think we will definitely want shields and/or
                    blue goo at some point.

                    Perhaps we should define terms here. Does grey goo mean something horribly
                    destructive, or just something that can replicate in some environment other
                    than the lab? And does blue goo simply mean anything that kills grey goo?

                    We should probably be careful to separate military technologies,
                    surveillance technologies, shield technologies, and goo. The first three do
                    _not_ in general have to be self-replicating, so that "blue goo" is an
                    unfortunate name. And if you don't have to self-replicate, surveillance
                    becomes a _lot_ easier and more controllable. A tinpot dictator will
                    certainly have access to surveillance cameras that can only be seen with a
                    magnifying glass--even without nanotech! A hunt'n'kill bot might need
                    nanotech, but again it's almost a separate question from grey goo.

                    >> What do you see as the problems with germ-level gene therapy? I haven't yet
                    >> been able to understand why people think it's a bad idea. Presumably within
                    >> a few years we'd be able to undo whatever we did, yes?
                    >
                    >I think it is dangerous to screw around with germ-level genetics without
                    >knowling the consequences. Maybe we could fix our mistakes and maybe not.
                    >For instance, I don't *really* think that AIDS is a manmade mistake, buit it
                    >could have been. How much damage might we inadvertantly cause before we
                    >could fix it?

                    Hm. There are four kinds of consequences that must not be confused.

                    1) Consequence to patient. The therapy might kill the patient. We deal
                    with it today with every new medicine. That's what clinical trials are for.
                    Not a criticism of genetics in particular.

                    2) Consequence to patient's offspring. This is long-delayed, and still
                    rather limited. I'm really not worried about that, because the damage is
                    limited and we'll have many years better technology to detect and fix the
                    problems.

                    3) Consequence to others. If there were a risk of creating a new infectious
                    disease by fiddling with human DNA, we'd have to analyze that risk. I've
                    never heard this suggested. I don't see offhand how it could happen unless
                    it were done deliberately (there's a _lot_ of genetic information even in a
                    virus). And I don't see any other mechanism for genetic change to affect
                    people whose genes were not directly changed.

                    4) Consequence to society. Will we all freak out at the ethics? Will we
                    change the species and "destroy humanity" by mutating into something weird?
                    This involves choices separate from the technology. Most discussions of
                    this that I've seen have been too nebulous to think about. It's easy to
                    make up scare stories, but not so easy to define the issues, and I refuse to
                    be scared by "something bad might happen" with no further elaboration.

                    >That's a good point. I was thinking more along the (fanciful) lines of
                    >Aldous Huxley's "Tissue Culture King" or Edgar Rice Burroughs "Synethetic Men
                    >of Mars" type tissue culture problems. Of course, we now know tissue culture
                    >doesn;t work those ways. But both were throught to be fairly accurate
                    >extrapolations at the time.

                    Yes... I haven't read either of those stories. But one can look farther
                    back to find people being scared by unknown consequences of medical
                    procedures. "Can any person say what may be the consequence of introducing
                    a bestial humour into the human frame, after a long lapse of years? Who
                    knows but that the human character may undergo strange mutations from
                    quadrupedal sympathy." This was an argument given by doctors against...
                    cowpox inoculation to prevent smallpox!

                    I look back in horror: what if their view had carried the day, and the
                    theory of "quadrupedal sympathy" had caused millions more to die of
                    smallpox? But I have not even heard that much of a theory as to how genetic
                    therapies could cause species-wide problems.

                    I am not closed-minded--tell me any hint of a mechanism, and I'll think
                    about whether it could possibly cause a problem. It's just that so far,
                    I've heard of _no_ mechanism that could cause problems for more than the
                    patients and possibly their offspring. There are babies in that bathwater,
                    and I refuse to throw it out just because of fears that have no support.
                    Undefined fears can be arbitrarily scary; the solution is to 1) try to
                    define them; 2) analyze the risks; 3) throw out whatever remains completely
                    undefined.

                    Chris
                    --
                    Chris Phoenix cphoenix@... http://www.best.com/~cphoenix
                    Work (Reading Research Council): http://www.dyslexia.com
                    Is your paradigm shift automatic or stick?
                  • DonSaxman@aol.com
                    In a message dated 08/09/2000 7:46:04 PM Central Daylight Time, ... Thanks for the lengthy post in reponse to my concerns. I m not a Luddite by any means, but
                    Message 9 of 18 , Aug 10, 2000
                      In a message dated 08/09/2000 7:46:04 PM Central Daylight Time,
                      cphoenix@... writes:

                      > 3) Consequence to others. If there were a risk of creating a new infectious
                      > disease by fiddling with human DNA, we'd have to analyze that risk. I've
                      > never heard this suggested. I don't see offhand how it could happen unless
                      > it were done deliberately (there's a _lot_ of genetic information even in a
                      > virus). And I don't see any other mechanism for genetic change to affect
                      > people whose genes were not directly changed.

                      Thanks for the lengthy post in reponse to my concerns. I'm not a Luddite by
                      any means, but the highlighed "consequence" is the one that concerns me.
                      THat we could inadventantly make a new, breeding organism that turns out to
                      have undeirable properties. I'm not so worried about a new strain of
                      bulletproof armadillos as I am new viruses or bacteria. In fact, the most
                      dangerous "undeirable property" might just be a tendency to mutate
                      differently or more frequently.

                      For instance, something that would mutate ebola into a strain that infects
                      humans, is deadly, *and* is spread through the air (so far, we've had
                      variuous combinations of two out of three). If the people "responding" to
                      these kinds of threats are, say, the Army doofusses described in "The Hot
                      Zone," we could be in trouble.

                      There is also a lot of potential for ptoducing microorganisms that produce
                      toxic byproducts. (in fact, some of them will probably be designed
                      specifically to metabolize and store or excrete toxic stuff. I've written a
                      couple books on bioremediation, and have met a number of people in the field,
                      and their techniques are not even close to controlled. In fact, one of the
                      most popular techniques, called bioaugmentation, is to just feed the existing
                      suite of microorgamisms (mollasses and oxygen are popular) and hope for the
                      best. If this happens to start working, you culture the resulting soup,
                      sometimes dump in some new "secret" yeast nutrients, and then reintroduce the
                      culture to the waste pit).

                      Another for instance. If germ level genetic engineering really takes off, we
                      could have zillions of trans-genetic strains knocking around the environment.
                      Let's say for the sake of arguement that each has been carefully tested and
                      assessed and each is determined to be benign. How can we possibly test for
                      interactions between two new strains? Maybe one strain of oil-slick-eater is
                      benign unless it gets the chance to metabolize selenium. But there isn't
                      much selenium in either oceans or oil, so it is pretty safe. But say,
                      meanwhile, another geneticist has a strain of seawater-mining microorganism
                      that concentrates uranium, gold, and trace selenium from seawater. A tanker
                      hits one of the water-mining buoys, and during the resulting cleanup effort,
                      "stuff that isn't supposed to mix" does mix. Then maybe you get a
                      microorgamism that eats any plastic. This is a pretty fanciful, just-made-up
                      example, but my concern is more generic. There are all kinds of synergistic
                      opportunities out there.

                      The only reason I feel comfortable posting this line of reason on a nanotech
                      board is thatthe same kinds of problems exist for nanotech. What happens
                      when you inadvetantly combine lawn care nano with acne fighting nano? (you
                      got chocolate in my peanutbutter -- no, you got peanut butter in my
                      chocolate). Probably nothing. Probably. The answer is, "nobody knows."
                    • Christopher J. Phoenix
                      ... One of the main problems with AIDS is that it mutates so often... one day s production of HIV in one human will typically contain *every* single-base
                      Message 10 of 18 , Aug 10, 2000
                        At 08:09 AM 8/10/00 EDT, DonSaxman@... wrote:
                        >In a message dated 08/09/2000 7:46:04 PM Central Daylight Time,
                        >cphoenix@... writes:
                        >
                        >> 3) Consequence to others. If there were a risk of creating a new infectious
                        >> disease by fiddling with human DNA, we'd have to analyze that risk. I've
                        >> never heard this suggested. I don't see offhand how it could happen unless
                        >> it were done deliberately (there's a _lot_ of genetic information even in a
                        >> virus). And I don't see any other mechanism for genetic change to affect
                        >> people whose genes were not directly changed.
                        >
                        >Thanks for the lengthy post in reponse to my concerns. I'm not a Luddite by
                        >any means, but the highlighed "consequence" is the one that concerns me.
                        >THat we could inadventantly make a new, breeding organism that turns out to
                        >have undeirable properties. I'm not so worried about a new strain of
                        >bulletproof armadillos as I am new viruses or bacteria. In fact, the most
                        >dangerous "undeirable property" might just be a tendency to mutate
                        >differently or more frequently.

                        One of the main problems with AIDS is that it mutates so often... one day's
                        production of HIV in one human will typically contain *every* single-base
                        mutation.

                        >For instance, something that would mutate ebola into a strain that infects
                        >humans, is deadly, *and* is spread through the air (so far, we've had
                        >variuous combinations of two out of three). If the people "responding" to
                        >these kinds of threats are, say, the Army doofusses described in "The Hot
                        >Zone," we could be in trouble.

                        New diseases are certainly a major concern. To my mind, that's one argument
                        *for* nanotech: "labs on a chip" may not be enough to let us isolate,
                        characterize, treat, and distribute a solution to a new virulent fatal
                        disease within a few days. But one billion automated mm^3 labs in a cubic
                        meter might be enough.

                        >There is also a lot of potential for ptoducing microorganisms that produce
                        >toxic byproducts. (in fact, some of them will probably be designed
                        >specifically to metabolize and store or excrete toxic stuff. I've written a
                        >couple books on bioremediation, and have met a number of people in the field,
                        >and their techniques are not even close to controlled. In fact, one of the
                        >most popular techniques, called bioaugmentation, is to just feed the existing
                        >suite of microorgamisms (mollasses and oxygen are popular) and hope for the
                        >best. If this happens to start working, you culture the resulting soup,
                        >sometimes dump in some new "secret" yeast nutrients, and then reintroduce the
                        >culture to the waste pit).

                        Yes, but producing microorganisms is an almost completely different process
                        from modifying the human genome. Some genome-modification schemes use virus
                        capsules, but the viruses aren't supposed to be infectious. I haven't heard
                        of any genome-modification scheme that uses bacteria.

                        Bioaugmentation is effectively controlled breeding, not germ line
                        modification. Microbes are bred under a wide range of conditions in nature.
                        We should be a little bit careful about encouraging them to, for example,
                        eat plastic. But we already have a bacterium that lives on a mixture of
                        aviation fuel and aluminum(!) that evolved without our help. I'm not sure
                        that anything we do will have much effect one way or the other.

                        >Another for instance. If germ level genetic engineering really takes off, we
                        >could have zillions of trans-genetic strains knocking around the environment.
                        > Let's say for the sake of arguement that each has been carefully tested and
                        >assessed and each is determined to be benign. How can we possibly test for
                        >interactions between two new strains? Maybe one strain of oil-slick-eater is
                        >benign unless it gets the chance to metabolize selenium. But there isn't
                        >much selenium in either oceans or oil, so it is pretty safe. But say,
                        >meanwhile, another geneticist has a strain of seawater-mining microorganism
                        >that concentrates uranium, gold, and trace selenium from seawater. A tanker
                        >hits one of the water-mining buoys, and during the resulting cleanup effort,
                        >"stuff that isn't supposed to mix" does mix. Then maybe you get a
                        >microorgamism that eats any plastic. This is a pretty fanciful, just-made-up
                        >example, but my concern is more generic. There are all kinds of synergistic
                        >opportunities out there.

                        Gee, let's get really wild. Maybe bacteria and algae could team up, figure
                        out how to build a structure that would support them in air, and form a
                        synergy that would eat rock. :-) (For those who don't know, I'm talking
                        about lichens.) So a Ringworld scenario is possible, where a microorganism
                        evolves that eats some material that's crucial to our lifestyle.

                        Again, I don't see how this is related to human genome modification. Our
                        cells have nuclei--I don't know if it's even possible for bacteria to lift
                        our DNA. In any case, the amount of DNA we're talking about introducing to
                        fix diseases is trivially small compared with the DNA that's already in our
                        cells.

                        >The only reason I feel comfortable posting this line of reason on a nanotech
                        >board is thatthe same kinds of problems exist for nanotech. What happens
                        >when you inadvetantly combine lawn care nano with acne fighting nano? (you
                        >got chocolate in my peanutbutter -- no, you got peanut butter in my
                        >chocolate). Probably nothing. Probably. The answer is, "nobody knows."

                        That begs the question of how they could possibly combine. Answer: they
                        couldn't unless they were designed to evolve, and that would be criminally
                        stupid.

                        Hmmm... I realize that I've been assuming Drextech. If you consider
                        tailored microorganisms to be part of nanotech, then you certainly have more
                        reason to worry. A lawn care microorganism could secrete pesticides; if the
                        pesticide gene got into tooth-decay-fighting microorganisms that were
                        designed to outcompete everything else in your mouth, that could be bad. (I
                        heard such tooth organisms suggested ten years ago, and immediately realized
                        that this would present very high risk.)

                        But Drextech consumer goods would probably never be self-replicating.
                        There's no need to take that risk or to include the extra complexity. Even
                        at the production points (e.g. home-appliance factories), there would be
                        careful designs to *prevent* the introduction of random or hostile programs.
                        Certainly there would be nothing analogous to the gene-sharing of bacteria!

                        Chris


                        --
                        Chris Phoenix cphoenix@... http://www.best.com/~cphoenix
                        Work (Reading Research Council): http://www.dyslexia.com
                        Is your paradigm shift automatic or stick?
                      • Bruce Bombere
                        ... I have been enjoying all of your posts so far, I just decided to interject here. I recollect a project that Bionetics Research did
                        Message 11 of 18 , Aug 10, 2000
                          Christopher J. Phoenix wrote:
                          >
                          > At 08:09 AM 8/10/00 EDT, DonSaxman@... wrote:
                          > >In a message dated 08/09/2000 7:46:04 PM Central Daylight Time,
                          > >cphoenix@... writes:
                          > >
                          > >> 3) Consequence to others. If there were a risk of creating a new infectious
                          > >> disease by fiddling with human DNA, we'd have to analyze that risk. I've
                          > >> never heard this suggested. I don't see offhand how it could happen unless
                          > >> it were done deliberately (there's a _lot_ of genetic information even in a
                          > >> virus). And I don't see any other mechanism for genetic change to affect
                          > >> people whose genes were not directly changed.
                          > >
                          > >Thanks for the lengthy post in reponse to my concerns. I'm not a Luddite by
                          > >any means, but the highlighed "consequence" is the one that concerns me.
                          > >THat we could inadventantly make a new, breeding organism that turns out to
                          > >have undeirable properties. I'm not so worried about a new strain of
                          > >bulletproof armadillos as I am new viruses or bacteria. In fact, the most
                          > >dangerous "undeirable property" might just be a tendency to mutate
                          > >differently or more frequently.
                          >
                          > One of the main problems with AIDS is that it mutates so often... one day's
                          > production of HIV in one human will typically contain *every* single-base
                          > mutation.
                          >
                          > >For instance, something that would mutate ebola into a strain that infects
                          > >humans, is deadly, *and* is spread through the air (so far, we've had
                          > >variuous combinations of two out of three). If the people "responding" to
                          > >these kinds of threats are, say, the Army doofusses described in "The Hot
                          > >Zone," we could be in trouble.
                          >
                          > New diseases are certainly a major concern. To my mind, that's one argument
                          > *for* nanotech: "labs on a chip" may not be enough to let us isolate,
                          > characterize, treat, and distribute a solution to a new virulent fatal
                          > disease within a few days. But one billion automated mm^3 labs in a cubic
                          > meter might be enough.
                          >
                          > >There is also a lot of potential for ptoducing microorganisms that produce
                          > >toxic byproducts. (in fact, some of them will probably be designed
                          > >specifically to metabolize and store or excrete toxic stuff. I've written a
                          > >couple books on bioremediation, and have met a number of people in the field,
                          > >and their techniques are not even close to controlled. In fact, one of the
                          > >most popular techniques, called bioaugmentation, is to just feed the existing
                          > >suite of microorgamisms (mollasses and oxygen are popular) and hope for the
                          > >best. If this happens to start working, you culture the resulting soup,
                          > >sometimes dump in some new "secret" yeast nutrients, and then reintroduce the
                          > >culture to the waste pit).
                          >
                          > Yes, but producing microorganisms is an almost completely different process
                          > from modifying the human genome. Some genome-modification schemes use virus
                          > capsules, but the viruses aren't supposed to be infectious. I haven't heard
                          > of any genome-modification scheme that uses bacteria.
                          >
                          > Bioaugmentation is effectively controlled breeding, not germ line
                          > modification. Microbes are bred under a wide range of conditions in nature.
                          > We should be a little bit careful about encouraging them to, for example,
                          > eat plastic. But we already have a bacterium that lives on a mixture of
                          > aviation fuel and aluminum(!) that evolved without our help.

                          <editorial deletage>

                          I have been enjoying all of your posts so far, I just decided to
                          interject here.
                          I recollect a project that Bionetics Research did some years back with
                          bacteria
                          that had mutated in the holds of oil tankers hauling sea water for
                          ballast.
                          Little silicon bastards, about the same gauge as diatomaceous earths,
                          which is what had caused the fuel filter problem. So, they might have
                          evolved without our help, but not entirely without our influence.
                          It was an Air Force contract, as I recall. Jets were crashing for the
                          reason that the diatomaceous earth fuel filters were clogging with those
                          mutated bastids that made it through distillation and normal
                          centrifuging
                          and filtration. Just the right size to lodge in a silicaceous filter.

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                        • DonSaxman@aol.com
                          In a message dated 00-08-10 20:02:04 EDT, you write:
                          Message 12 of 18 , Aug 10, 2000
                            In a message dated 00-08-10 20:02:04 EDT, you write:

                            << Yes, but producing microorganisms is an almost completely different process
                            from modifying the human genome. Some genome-modification schemes use virus
                            capsules, but the viruses aren't supposed to be infectious. I haven't heard
                            of any genome-modification scheme that uses bacteria.

                            Bioaugmentation is effectively controlled breeding, not germ line
                            modification. Microbes are bred under a wide range of conditions in nature.
                            We should be a little bit careful about encouraging them to, for example,
                            eat plastic. But we already have a bacterium that lives on a mixture of
                            aviation fuel and aluminum(!) that evolved without our help. I'm not sure
                            that anything we do will have much effect one way or the other.
                            >>

                            Again, I'm not saying that the industrial-scale use of microorganisms
                            (especially bioaugmentation) is similar in specifics to nanotechnology.
                            Rather, the kind of sloppiness currently inherent in the bioremediation
                            industry may be an indication that a similar sloppy mindset might happen if
                            industrial nano is easy to design and create.

                            Also, as I think I said in a different post, I'm not particularly worried
                            about human gene-splicing, because it will always attract attention and
                            control, and because humans breed pretty slowly and any particularly
                            dangerous changes to the gene pool could probably be spiked through
                            identification and sterilization (or under a draconian government, the much
                            cheaper identification and tradtional bullet in the back of the head).

                            I'm more worried about microbial and plant gene splicing.

                            And also as I may or may not have said on this message chain, even though I'm
                            worried, I don't think there is much we can do about it.
                          • DonSaxman@aol.com
                            In a message dated 00-08-10 20:02:04 EDT, you write:
                            Message 13 of 18 , Aug 10, 2000
                              In a message dated 00-08-10 20:02:04 EDT, you write:

                              << Gee, let's get really wild. Maybe bacteria and algae could team up, figure
                              out how to build a structure that would support them in air, and form a
                              synergy that would eat rock. :-) (For those who don't know, I'm talking
                              about lichens.) So a Ringworld scenario is possible, where a microorganism
                              evolves that eats some material that's crucial to our lifestyle. >>

                              I haven't done a trade search on the subject for a long time, but five years
                              ago, there were already commercial strains of hazardous waste-treating fungi
                              that were combined with surfactant-producing microbes. This was a purposeful
                              synergy. My concern was accidential unintended synergies.
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