There are numerous options for administering molecular manufacturing. Which ones might work as planned, and how desirable are they? Which classes of problem are suitable for the various options? What are the consequences if an option is tried and fails? Which options can coexist in one society, or even in one (shrinking) world?
Of the thirty essential studies recommended by CRN, study #29 -- "What policies toward administration of molecular manufacturing does all this suggest?" -- is the most comprehensive. This is in part because it deals with a very big central question, and also because there are so many variables. Intelligent answers will not be found without intensive analysis.
Because study #29 covers such a big topic, we have conducted our review of it over a full week, concluding today with a "Post-Molecular-Manufacturing To Do List":
After molecular manufacturing is developed, the job is just beginning. This list should be expanded in consultation with various future studies groups and think tanks.
Subquestion A: Active shield? (Global sensor grid to detect, and possibly respond to, nanorobot activity)
Preliminary answer: If the administration fails to prevent the development of small undesirable nanorobots, it may be very important to have a system in place to rapidly detect their activity. For example, Robert Freitas has calculated that a well-dispersed airborne self-replicator of advanced design might produce sufficient copies to block all sunlight in as little as two days. If this development is possible, it obviously must be prevented with multiple levels of safeguards. Research must be done well ahead of time to determine whether such a thing may become possible; unless it can be conclusively ruled out (better than billion-to-one certainty), then deploying an early-warning sensor net and pre-positioning countermeasures would seem to be a minimal precaution.
Subquestion B: Artificial intelligence?
Preliminary answer: Computers will be one of the easiest things to build with molecular manufacturing. A sudden increase in available computer power by many orders of magnitude will surely make various forms of artificial intelligence more powerful, and enable new forms that are not practical with current hardware. Even if runaway AI doesn't introduce inherent danger, misused AI could be extremely powerful. Conversely, AI of various sorts -- even something as straightforward as advanced data-mining -- could solve several problems that currently have us stumped. It may be worth pre-planning to launch an AI research program as soon as the computer power becomes available.
Subquestion C: Space program?
Preliminary answer: Access to space will become cheaper by at least several orders of magnitude. This should be planned for. Space may be useful for resources, for quarantine, and for science.
Provisional conclusion: Many options need to be considered and synthesized. Hastily chosen or simplistic policy is extremely unlikely to be wise or effective. [Note: This conclusion applies to the entirety of study #29, not just the section considered today.
Our initial basic findings (preliminary answers and provisional conclusions) for all thirty studies should be verified as rapidly as possible. Because our understanding points to a crisis, a parallel process of conducting these studies is strongly preferred.
Tomorrow we will conclude this overview of CRN's thirty essential studies.
We are actively seeking researchers who have an interest in performing or assisting with this work. Please contact Research Director Chris Phoenix if you would like more information or if you have comments on the proposed studies.