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« Growing Pleasures | Main | The Salty Seas of Mars »

March 22, 2004

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Rocky Rawstern

Now that's the summary we've all been waiting to see! Simple, concise, without all the bells and whistles, political distractions, personalities, and hype.

"The time to begin discussing, evaluating, and preparing effective policy solutions for molecular manufacturing is now."

Time to start paying attention, one and all.

Karl Gallagher

The tough part of this is trying to get agreement on a policy from a group of powers who can't agree on *anything*. There's too many nations willing to blow off a danger to everybody because they figure their rivals will suffer from it more, or just holding out their cooperation as a bargaining chip on other issues. This may not be a soluble problem, barring forcible establishment of a world empire by the US.

The alternative is a bottom-up solution, relying on the "militia" for defense. Brin had an analogous proposal in Transparent Society with volunteers keeping the balance of power between government and criminals. I'll dig that up again and see if I can figure out a way to make it work against nano-threats and write it up as a Plan B.

Chris Phoenix, CRN

Karl, information (the basis of Brin's work) is fundamentally different from physical security/assets. Please do try to come up with a bottom-up security strategy. Such a thing would be incredibly valuable. But as long as it's easy to kill people, I'm not sure that a "balance of _____" approach with a lot of players will get you anything but a lot of dead people on all sides.

Please prove me wrong!

Chris

Karl Gallagher

Please prove me wrong!

I'll try my best. ;-)

Bravo Romeo Delta

Chris, killing people isn't particularly easy, per se, rather its a fairly difficult task that we've gotten exceptionally good at. Don't knock the balance approach. Without a balance of some sort, deterrence has no future, and without that, there's no real penalty for violating norms. Granted, there are a whole mess of ways to balance things out - so you can be pretty picky.

Brett Bellmore

We could try to do something about how easy people are to kill... There are a lot of things you could do to make people tougher to damage on the nano-medicine front, even if you insist on sticking with the DNA/Protein/Lipid model of life. Like a combination of respirocytes and some kind of exudable impermeable film, so that you would have time to get to shelter if exposed to enviromental toxins. (And which could partion off fatally exposed tissues, or stop traumatic blood loss.) Or new cellular organelles that could keep track of the RNA being expressed in your cells, and instantly detect any viral infection. A flexible diamond web through your body which could lock up solid for a moment when impacted.

Then, clothes and a lot of your surroundings could be configured to armor you up in case of attack, and form that shelter. It really wouldn't be difficult to make homes so that they were capable of being sealed like a nuclear sub, and remaining so for weeks or months in an emergency.

I think accumulation of huge quantities of more or less conventional munitions isn't really the threat to worry about, since it's unlikely that a foe could do that without being detected. Nanotech is likely to really improve intelligence gathering, after all.

Since nanotechnology doesn't prevent you from placing overwhelming retalitory force beyond easy destruction, deterence still works against foes who know they can be identifed. Unless they don't really CARE if they survive the retaliation...

The real threat lies with the sneaky attacks. Fake pollen that carries timed release toxins, for instance. Computer viruses that tell your nanofactories to produce nasties. Product designs that are highly useful, but which turn into automated weapons when signaled. "Goo" that infiltrates a region, and then reproduces in stealth mode until the day to attack arrives. The threats where the enemy might plausibly think that they'd win with the first blow, and not be identified if the blow was countered.

I think the enviroment has to be sampled and examined in detail, continuously. Too much data will accumulate for people to be in the loop, except at the highest level. Essentially what we need is an immune system that permeates the enviroment, keeping an eye out for anything that doesn't belong, and acting on it's own when a threat eventuates.

That, and as I've remarked, we need to get some of our eggs out of this basket.

Rocky Rawstern

Brett, have you read our interview with John Robert Marlow on the Superswarm Option?

What do you think of his proposal as a possible environmental immune system?

http://nanotech-now.com/John-Marlow-Superswarm-interview-Feb04.htm

I wholeheartedly agree with you on getting our collective eggs distributed widely, sooner rather than later ....

jim moore

Bottoms-Up

Ok, I am not sure how realistic the geo-politics is for this idea, but here goes,

A leading group develops a nano-factory ahead of all others and instead of selling the technology or using it to kill or enslave others they limit the access to nano-factories to members of a voluntary organization.

The voluntary organization is essentially made of communities. The communities should be self-sufficient in terms of energy and materials. The members should have defined rights and responsibilities. Because the materials needed for a community can be easily made by nano-factories the number of communities can grow exponentially. The limiting factor being how fast you can attract people from the rest of the world. At least initially the communities could be on the ocean to avoid a pre-existing local government. ( I believe the law of the sea allows for this)

Essentially the idea is to use self-replicating nano-factories to provide the material basis for a self-replicating organization that grows to incorporates the population of the planet.

Brett Bellmore

Rocky, I'll read that tonight.

Jim, I can just picture the reaction of the government of whatever nation yourleading group lived in. Wouldn't be pretty, they'd have to be very sneaky about it. And that archipelago would have to start out very well defended, because it would be essentially certain to face massive conventional attack. That aside, it does sound inviting.

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