A conservative is a liberal who's just been mugged.
A liberal is a conservative who's just been arrested.
Five days ago, Mike sent me an email that never arrived. That email contained the login info for this blog, and a request to make postings while he was away. Why did that email never arrive? Probably because email servers are overloaded with spam and email worms.
Several days ago, comment spammers left more of their filth on this blog, and I couldn't clean it up.
According to this article, one person was responsible for 70% of worms in the first half of 2004. But in that time period, there were at least 4,677 new viruses--up 21% from a year ago. And the article warns that criminal gangs may become more active, making it harder to find and arrest perpetrators. So, a single person can do all that damage--and thousands are working on it.
A week ago, I was thinking I might have been too pessimistic in calling for global administration of nanotech manufacturing. Now, having just been "mugged", I'm tipping back toward the conservative side.
Uncontrolled personal manufacturing of advanced products would let people build (among other things) remote-control robots which could be extremely destructive and wasteful. Even mere annoyance adds up to destruction and waste. Why would people want to do this? Well, why do people want to abuse the Internet? Lots of reasons: ego, greed, fun...
And after two decades of viruses, and almost a decade of spam, the problems are getting worse, not better.
Whatever you think of gun control, no sane person would give a handgun to a child. And very few people would want every random adult to have the ability to anonymously destroy any random house. But I calculate that 1 kg of nano-built aerospace hardware and 4 kg of kerosene fuel should be enough to put a 1 kg payload into low earth orbit, from whence it could be delivered anywhere. And of course, it might be easier than that--just hack on-site nanofactories to build a kilogram of fuel-air explosive... or any of a thousand other hacks, tricks, and pranks.
It could be argued that adults and even children have access to matches today, and there's not a global plague of arson. So... if personal manufacturing is suddenly made widely available, with products advanced enough that sophisticated aerospace hardware is as easy to develop as sophisticated computer worms, will juveniles and criminals treat it more like matches, or more like computers? Why?
My preliminary guess is that it'll be more like computers. It'll be easy to build tele-operated stuff that does not require personal presence to create mischief. For juveniles, training in responsible use of the technology probably won't be part of the culture--there'll be too much of a generation gap. For criminals, it'll take a while to develop forensic techniques to restore trackability. (Unless, of course, data gathering is universal: police state.) And in general, people won't hurt themselves with the technology, so won't have any personal experience to show them the consequences of their actions.