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« Wiki nanotech sites | Main | Bad government, no biscuit! »

April 16, 2004

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Brett Bellmore

Ok, let's really compare nuclear bombs and nanotech.

MOTIVE

Nukes: Bascially no peaceful use except maybe launching skyscraper sized spacecraft. So you can pretty much be sure anybody who's working on them is up to no good.

Nanotech: Wildly versitile general purpose technology with more peaceful uses than Tom Swift could exaust in a hundred lifetimes. Generally conceded that virtually everyone working on it has benign intentions.

RAW MATERIALS

Mukes: Require rare isotopes extracted from many tons of relatively rare elements which have few civilian uses. So it's comparatively easy to restrict access to the necessary materials, and at little cost to legitimate science and industry.

Nanotech: Requires the most common elements and isotopes in the universe.

TOOLS

Nukes: Massive isotopic separation systems, specialized reactor farms, chemistry done on industrial scale with materials which will kill you if you just get NEAR them. Hard to work on inconspicuously.

Nanotech: Tools which are essential to the advance of science and engineering, and which can fit on a desk top.

TESTING:

Nukes: Kinda conspicuous.

Nanotech: Can be tested on a microscope slide with room to spare.

COMPLEXITY:

Nukes: Regrettably simple, your average garage mechanic could build a crude one if he had the materials. Nobody has been known to fail to get one to work on the first try.

Nanotech: Makes writing operating systems look like child's play. Almost certainly impossible for a small team to develop practical hardware. But getting easier all the time.

Seems to me they're quite different. Regulating nuclear bombs is both hugely easier, and comes at enormously less cost to our liberty. While the proposed regulation of nanotech is vastly difficult, will be opposed by many people of good will, and carries civil liberties costs which make the war on drugs look benificient.

Kurt

Some form of universal surveilence has been suggested as a potential measure to reduce the risk of terrorism. The problem with this approach is that the monitoring system being hijacked by those with a political agenda having nothing to do with terrorist existential threats against our lives and freedoms.

I propose a possible solution to the problem. let the government implement a univeral "monitoring" system. In return, the following measures also be implemented to safegaurd our liberties:

1) The system be completely open in the David Brin "Transparent Society" manner. End the government's monopoly on information about people and where they go. Make the system completely open and accessable to all people, to ensure that the government never abuses the power of this system.

2) Pass a constitutional amendment decriminalizing all consentual acts between free adult humans. Make it such that a "crime" can only be defined as a non-consentual, transgressive act against another human being.

Furthurmore, the government, itself, is forbiden to initiate criminal prosecution against any individual. Only the victim of a "crime" or a family representative of a victim may initiate criminal charges against a transgresssing individual.

The Patriot Act has been abused by the government in prosecuting people for actions having nothing to do with terrorism. The use of the Patriot Act against brothels in Nevada is a case in point, unless one can argue that revenues from the brothels were being used to finance terrorist groups.

I will never accept ANY government control over ANY technology whatsoever until these safeguards are in place.

I like the open source movement myself, and will support it in anyway that I can.

I really and truly despise all governments and religions. I have slightly more tolorance (not much) for big business.

Blakey

I am full agreement with Kurt's safeguards on personal liberties. The whole issue begs the question: How important is liberty to us? Another good question: What should individual people trust in to keep them secure? Government? It doesn't have a good track record regarding terrorism. Their own efforts? Possibly. If every individual has control of MNT, isn't every individual's abilty to defend themselves equal to a terrorist's ability to attack? And what about your family and friends creating defensive networks? What about communities building on that and having meta-networks? We're talking about equals fighting equals here. What power does an individual possess at the moment to defend themselves against the weapons of terrorists? Nothing. We don't even have the information we need because of inept government agencies.

davidoker

I've never even picked up David Brins "Transparent Society"; i'm not even sure that is the title of the book; but, maybe I should start to soon enough.

Still, I'm thinking somehow people have to be allowed to see what others are making; people have to confront each other on what each other thinks is threatening; i seem to remember a section of Los Angeles where people have open access to move through each others houses and stuff. They are certainly proof that such a thing can be done.

Maybe we should even get over our "American" problem of seeing each other in the nude?

davidoker

Programmers accidently making virus's and worms? In my experience of learning or going through science and/or math classes, people need each others help anyways.

People should be working on the product of mnt and the products that come out of those black boxes together because of the above anyways.

Mike Deering

Let's do one more comparison of nukes and nanofacs.

The government would like to prevent other counties, especially "evil axis" countries, from getting nuclear weapons programs. The government would like to have prevented North Korea from getting a nuclear weapons program. The government knew in advance that the North Koreans intended to develop nuclear weapons. They dropped out of the non-proliferation treaty. They kicked out the IEA monitors. They turned off the cameras. They took 8 months to reprocess their nuclear waste into enriched weapons grade plutonium. They now claim to have several nuclear weapons. No expert seriously doubts them. They have missiles that can hit South Korea, Chine, Japan, Australia, Russia. They claim to have a missile that can hit California. That seems like a long shot, but I wouldn't want to bet San Francisco on it. Bush had the means to stop them any time he wanted. Bush could probably take away their nuclear toys any time he wants. But what is the government really doing about it? Nothing.

The government, when they get around to thinking about it, will probably want to prevent proliferation of "dangerous" nanotech capability to countries that are not "friendly." The government will probably have nanotech weapons capability before anyone else. Treaties will be signed. Countries will do what they want anyway. International monitoring agencies will be formed, and ignored. Economic sanctions won't be much good in the age of molecular manufacturing.

CRN can come up with beautiful workable plans but the reality is that the government is going to slide into the nano age with as little preparation as possible. Are we doomed? Only if you expect the government to save you from nano-terrorism or nano-despotism. My computer is protected by Zonelabs and Grisoft and Patrick M. Kolla, all for free too. We can prevent most people from wanting to take over the world just by solving the problems of poverty, violence, and death. But there is no way we can prevent everyone from wanting to take over the world, well, short of mind control, which I don't expect will be high on your list of recommendations.

I think what you are doing at CRN is wonderful. I would like to help in any way I can. But I don't think there is a chance in Hades of you succeeding. The solutions in the real world are not going to be thoughtfully planned out in advance, they are going to evolve in a free flowing process of trial and error. I don't think it is going to be "one strike and you're out" with the human race. Yes it is possible, but I think it will be so difficult that it isn't likely to happen. I expect a series of limited nano-disasters, and learning experiences. How do you protect those who won't protect themselves? With great difficulty, and not completely effectively. It's going to be like the wild west out there. I expect there to be a lot of Darwinian selection. Adapt, evolve, survive.


Mike Deering, Director,
http://www.SingularityAwareness.com
Email: deering9 at mchsi dot com

Kurt

I specifically want the right of "morphological" freedom as well as the right to seek an indefinitely long youthfull lifespan to be constitutionally protected. I will never accept government oversight over my life as long as the current "anti-immortalist", bio-luddite influence exists in our government.

I am willing to risk "nano-anarchy" to fight for these rights. I view the nundane aging process as much of an existential threat to my life and future as any bio or nano terrorist. Which one do you think has a greater chance of reducing your life-style freedom and eventually killing you off.

At least with the bio-terrorist you die quickly.

Brett Bellmore

I suspect we're going to have to get out into space to enjoy that level of freedom, Kurt. Nice thing is, nanotech and space are a perfect match; The one gives you unlimited room to get away from people who'd tie you down, and the other the ability to live off the territory.

There's no defense against hostile nanotech that's quite as good as a few light days worth of vaccum.

Mr. Farlops

Counting on the general public to take precautions against bad guys abusing nanotechnology seems unworkable to me.

This is the same general public that opens e-mail attachments time and again, despite being warned not to. This is the same general public that buys and uses insecure software "because it's easy." PGP has been availible for years, yet almost no-one uses it. This is the same public that fails to take gun safety courses, despite the high number of avoidable childhood gun deaths.

Because of this, the libertarian arguments seem weak to me. Having said that, the authoritarian arguments are also weak to me.

I don't trust the government, I don't trust businesses, I don't trust individuals, I don't trust nothin' when it comes to security in a nanotech world.

This is why I find the CRN refreshing because they stand somewhere in the middle, where the truth is. They are actually trying to propose concrete legal proposals and ideas as opposed to just saying, "then the government will wither away, we will live in a world of abundance and everything will be fine."

Safety in a nanotech world will be very messy and gritty, involving rules, laws and freedoms that everyone will hate for one reason or another. In other words, it will be just like the world is now. Sometimes there will be disasters, but hopefully we'll steer mostly down the middle.

Brett Bellmore

Point of fact: Childhood gun deaths susceptable to gun safety courses are quite low, unless maybe you regard drycleaning bag deaths as a virtual holocaust, and have been dropping for years. I really doubt putting 19 year old members of the Bloods and the Crips through gun safety would reduce the deaths from their next gang war.[/rant mode off]

Back to our regularly scheduled topic: I'll have to remember your reasoning the next time a nano-machine usurps my cellular machery, and my security advisor rags on me for not downloading the most recent threat profiles. It's simply unrealistic to expect ordinary people to go get vaccinated against the flu!

Sorry, the general public will have to take precautions, though the appropriate route for this will be through the medical community. Fortunately, the sort of things WE would need to take precautions against, as opposed to the Pentagon, will be a long way down the road. Maybe a couple of decades of having to deal with computer viruses will make the public more security conscious. Maybe we can distribute "goo" that does nothing more than annoy people with a scrolling message telling them to go get their nano-immune systems updated.

Mike Deering

Brett, why would they have to go somewhere to get updated? Isn't the update just information? Couldn't they get the update by downloading an encrypted file via a wireless internet connection?

Nano-security has to be implemented at different levels. The top level is at the government through laws and enforcement. The next level is at the community through public domain R&D, public domain information sharing, and freeware solutions for individuals. The last level is at the individual, with personal property nano-defense systems, and in-body nano-defense systems.

All three levels need to work together. If the government level passes laws that restrict the capabilities of the other two levels then the system won't work. The government needs the other two levels. The government can't do it all. It needs the community level to handle the R&D of nano-security, and it can't be classified or restricted or you won't get the full talents of the open source community. We all need the personal level because we don't want the government controlling what goes in our bodies. The fact that the government is already in much control of what people can or cannot do with their bodies is a mistake that needs to be corrected.

Brett Bellmore

Mike, it was an analogy, comparing nanotech defense to today's vaccination against illness. Where we actually DO expect citizens to take some initiative in protecting themselves from what really are nanoscale machines, viruses.

Tom mazanec

Brett: a quibble. Do you mean light hours or minutes? A few light days gets you somewhere between the Kuiper Belt and the Oort Cloud, with little matter or solar energy.

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