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« Bad government, no biscuit! | Main | Safe Abundance »

April 18, 2004


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Mike Deering

First I tell them they're all going to die. Then I give them the bad news.

Christine Peterson

First I describe the benefits in broad terms (medical, environmental). Then I describe the potential abuses in broad terms (mostly military). It's better to let new people fill in the blanks themselves. Otherwise, it's overwhelming, early on.


Matthias Sohr

For computer scientists, perhaps tell them that today´s manufacturing process is analogous to a slow, high-level computer programming language with no access to the machine level, that all programming (manufacturing) happens through a black box.

MNT would then be the equivalent to a powerful machine language that directly addresses each bit (atom) and byte (molecule) personnally for full control but with the convenience of a higher-level language (through CAD programs).

You can drive this analogy further insofar as e.g. computer viri also operate at the machine level and that they abuse weaknesses and security holes at a higher scale.

For computer people I think this makes sense. They know that a properly programmed computer can solve (or create, if one wants) many problems, and it probably will be the same with MNT.


First, I'd like to say that when I first heard about mnt, the first thoughts that came through my head were not military but science.

Second, when I start talking about mnt, those who get it did indeed start talking about military applications. I find this interesting and maybe not as disturbing as some here would. Why? Well, firstly, those who started thinking about the military side of things were concerned about others using mnt militarily, not them using it; the few science and tech friends I know are far from violent; in fact, as far as I can tell, scientists are the most peacefull people I know, so I don't know why people are concerned about rogue scientists building mnt.

Now, who are these people that are going to abuse mnt? Curiously, that thought never comes up . . . .

Mike Deering

The caricature of the evil genius is simply not borne out by history. There is a definite inverse relationship between scientific intelligence and bad intentions. Terrorists are not good at high tech weapons development. Scientists in governments that we might consider bad guys are not evil. They work from the best intentions of patriotism and for the good of their national populations. Even the scientists working for the Aum Shinrikyo thought they were doing good. Only the leader knew that it was evil. Unfortunately, people with high intelligence and skills in "hard" science and technology are as susceptible to propaganda, cultural conditioning, peer pressure, and the efforts of con men, religious zealots, and politicians as the rest of us. Maybe more so in fact. But evil? No. The more you know about how the physical universe works on a rational, logical, scientific level, the less likely you are to want to knowingly do evil. So, can we stamp out evil by teaching more science? Doubtful. Teaching more science is certainly a good idea but I don't think it addresses the source of evil. Evil people don't gravitate toward science education or careers. Just as pedophiles seek positions as playground monitor, evil people seek positions of power, politicians, policemen, TV evangelists, and terrorist. This is a generalization. And all generalizations have exceptions, of course. Ted Kacznski was one of the exceptions. A brilliant mathematician, nevertheless, he knowingly blew people up. He was obviously out of his right mind. How many scientists, science students, technicians, and engineers have access to biotech equipment capable of great evil? Thousands, maybe tens of thousands. How many people have been killed by high tech biological weapons deployed against unsuspecting populations? Very few. Of course, the argument goes, "We only need one Unabomber with nanotech capabilities to destroy the world."


The Unabomber was not out to destroy the world but to destroy those he thought were out to take over the world; i'd say he was badly mistaken as are those who take Teddy as a clue that he was trying to right a wrong.

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