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« Globalization and Nanotechnology | Main | New research website: Wise-Nano »

September 26, 2004

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Brett Bellmore

"And another thing — what gives us, the minority who were lucky enough to be born in the developed world, the right to decide about the lives of those billions who make up the majority of our species?"

The issue of right or wrong only comes into which choices you make. Once the power to make a choice is in your hands, chosing is unavoidable; As the philosophers have noted, even not deciding is a decision.

Mike Treder, CRN

For those of us in power, then, one choice is to extend decision-making power to the currently disenfranchised.

laodan

I don't see where there is a choice, we are confronted with a logic that escapes us, with a system that runs without need for the input of human's will:
- if industrialization as an economic system appeared first in Europe it was for the only good reason that Europe accumulated vast masses of capital through plundering material richnesses from other parts of the world, South American gold being one of them. So industrialization can be seen as the accidental outcome of primitive violence.
- what is going on today is the conscient adoption of the logic of capital by old civilizations as a mean to assure their survival. Chinese elites understood that the survival of their nation would only be possible through the sdoption of Western instruments for generating economic might. (to avoid what Putin said recently, "weak you will be beaten") What starts to be evident is that China and other old nations will beat the West at its own game.
- What do you believe comes next?
You post that "some new mechanisms" of global governance are inevitable. I would like to follow you but I'am afraid that the primitive violence that unleashed the logic of capital on the world has yet not been recognized as the foundational principle of our modern economies.

RFScheer

Mike,

You have taken a wrong turn imo. Most Americans, including me, do not agree with you that Afghanistan and Iraq today are outgrowths of American evil. We appear in many cases to be in a minority of nations willing to stand up for their own legitimate interests or those of other nations and their peoples. While there are obvious mistakes and controversy in our history, on the whole, America stands for liberty and personal freedom and millions of formerly non-represented people in the two countries you mentioned are hopeful to have the chance of democracy.

Previously, CRN has built credibility by well-reasoned analysis of nanotechnology issues. All at once, half of that cred is shot by this revealing glimpse of your loathing of America. Have you considered relocating CRN to somewhere else on the planet? Perhaps you should?

todd

Power,

Question what is power.

Question is power given or taken.

Question what can be done with those in power.


As I have in the past commented on "independence". I believe this question is valid yet again. If an individual is independent than this individual is not giving any power to anyone anywhere. MM represents independence to everyone who possesses it. You only need the assembler for a few days of restless nights and you will arrive at this conclusion. Moving to a location free of the influences of other men and building a home is freedom. Living there for a lifetime without asking anyone for anything is independence.

Power to me in today's government is represented by the size and scope of the government. That is to say a government uses power to influence its people. If a government taxes everyone this is one of the primary influences and impact it has on the individuals life. But in the future we see post MM a situation where taxation falls away and becomes less and less of an issue as unemployment rises. Personal income falls due to a lack of available jobs because of a cascade of industrys collapsing. This is but one example of a element in government that will lose power as this technology is developed utilized. In almost every case departments in government of the United States will shrink due to a lack of need as time passes and MM becomes more defined. So we see a situation a few years after MM where the need for the current powerful sizable and diverse government to be lessened considerably.

Malcolm McCauley

But MM won't make the principal goal of government obsolete, which is a joining together of people/resources for common defense/profit.

MM in the way most people envision would give freedom. But not if you were dead. By knowing a lot about how to use MM, you can have relatively reliable defenses, but, as hacking goes, so does MM defense. I'm betting there will always be a way through whatever defenses are concocted. A union of people (government) would have an advantage, as they could work collectively on defense, against a most likely a lone individual, or a small group of individuals.

The risks are so great that I would say a global government would be best, or a collective of allied sections. You could even maintain countries. But I think a collective global defense would be the most efficient. It could be merely intelligence, and military options could be dealt with by the local government.

How the defense would be arranged, and how to ensure the most individual freedoms, I don't know. But 6.2 billion heads are better than one.

Malcolm McCauley

On second inspection, I think I overemphasized todd's opposition to gov't. But I still stand by what I said.

RFScheer

Everyone with a serious interest in a better world and/or molecular nanotech should reflect on their words in public forums like this one. Most of what I'm reading here, especially the public comments, is firmly positioning MNT as a fringe wacko pursuit. For example, what good does it do to speculate on world government when you don't get a vote? You have no representation in a world government and no hope of it forming in time to successfully promote and police the development of MNT. Why don't you confine your discussion to meaningful thoughts on influencing your representative government to do the right thing?

At the moment, the highest priority paranoia should be that the USA is not doing enough to MAKE SURE the breakthough occurs under its jurisdiction. I agree that there are serious downsides to our national government being in charge of this event, however the alternatives are either unimaginably worse or unbelievably ridiculous.

Anyway, please try to imagine serious-minded people are actually reading what you write on this site and part of the reason our government might want to hide development of MNT is because of the crazy wacko stigma already attached to this field.

Brett Bellmore

"But MM won't make the principal goal of government obsolete, which is a joining together of people/resources for common defense/profit."

I thought the principle goal of government was to provide sociopaths with a sometimes constructive outlet for their desire to lord it over other people. It IS just a highly evolved protection racket, after all. Some ways along the typical evolution from parasite to symbiote, but not nearly as far along as government boosters like to pretend.

John B

While I agree that there SHOULD be a fair and equitable way for all - ALL - to share in the defense of all, I am afraid that I must agree with RFSheer in that I severely doubt that the power blocs which exist today can be brought about in time to handle the upset which MM /MIGHT/ bring to be.

Why do I emphasize "might"? Because I believe there are questions as to just how this tech will come to be, as well as how it will be regulated and controlled.

Let me be clear - I'm not attempting to knock Chris' excellent work. He's gone further in some ways than anyone else at this point, that I've seen. But there are still significant questions to be answered before we have one of these boxes to fiddle with.

To my mind, the REALLY big questions are the human ones, ones that CRNano has started to attempt to answer with the "30 big questions". And one of many of these (as Todd pointed out in passing) is how will this be regulated?

Will it be considered a 'drug' and be under the FDA? (This may be the regulatory choice for nano designed to run inside a human being).

Will it be a communication device, under the FCC?

Would it be considered a contaminant worthy of the DEA's notice?

Could it be considered a weapon and hence under the ATF, if not the DoD?

A weapon of mass destruction to be watched by the CDC and/or Department of Energy?

Something to watch for potential counterfitting, and thus under the Department of the Treasury?

Something terrorists may itch to get their hands on, and thus under the Department of Homeland Security?

Or, most likely (and quite probably most detrimentally to 'legal' nanomachine development), it could be under a hellacious mix of regulations from some combination if not all of the above.

A question for CRNano - Do you know if any meetings have been aranged with the above organizations or other national or international equivalents (WHO comes to mind, among others) where nanomachines and/or nanofacture have been addressed? If so, what kind of preliminary results have been developed regarding testing of nanotechnology?

-John

Karl Gallagher

Anybody wanting to vote in a US election has two options:
1. Move to the US and become a citizen.
2. Convince his neighbors to apply for statehood. There's room for plenty more stars on the flag.

I can see a future where there's a real global government. Making it happen will take some major steps.

Most of the word population is under tyrranical rule. If they can't cast a real vote in a local election they won't be able to in a global one, and treating their votes as real ones would simply be handing a weapon to dictators.

Global voters would also have to recognize that they'll bear the consequences of what they vote for. If the world votes a policy and America gets stuck with the results America won't be a part of it (the Kyoto accord is small-scale example of this).

If you're interested in the subject, I strongly recommend reading Robert Wright's Nonzero. He predicts that the treat of terrorist WMDs will drive the formation of a world government.

Brett Bellmore

Global government. Feh! Imagine a world where there are no refugees, because there is no refuge. That's global government. As nasty as monopoly is in other areas of life, why seek to create it in this one?

Tom Craver

I tend to agree with "no way we'll get cooperative global control" much ahead of time. No politician will negotiate international agreements over vague, science fiction concepts.

The only "serious minded" possibility pretty much follows what happened with nuclear power. A few big national governments get it, assess it as a threat, and try to resrict it. There will be a nano-arms race. It will leak to other nations - probably faster than nuclear power.

Can anyone point to a development or release path that does NOT lead to heavy government restrictions on nanotech? Open source nanotech development?

Malcolm McCauley

I do hope that MM is developed in the US, or at least a similarly free country. The US is not perfect, but it's the best we have right now. If it's developed in the US, or a similarly democractic country, I think we stand the greatest chance of the effect being better than not.

I can't think of any future situation where gov't wouldn't be needed. Except if intelligent life on Earth/space is wiped out... I also don't see a world government happening, more likely a world "understanding" such as the UN is now, which is what I prefer.

I'm pretty sure we won't be prepared. I think the best that should be hoped for is a large national convention of leading nanotech/government experts to come together and try to figure out a way of dealing with the effects of MM. The other two options would be anarchy or a decision made behind closed doors by a few powerful people... which would circumvent the advantage of a democratically based country...

Mike Treder, CRN

RFScheer wrote:

"While there are obvious mistakes and controversy in our history, on the whole, America stands for liberty and personal freedom..."

I agree with this.

"...and millions of formerly non-represented people in the two countries you mentioned are hopeful to have the chance of democracy."

I question whether this is true. Certainly there is more to the story than what the mainstream US media is reporting.

"Previously, CRN has built credibility by well-reasoned analysis of nanotechnology issues. All at once, half of that cred is shot by this revealing glimpse of your loathing of America."

America is both the land of my birth and the country I love. We are a great nation, and I hope we may uphold that greatness through doing right more than by showing might.

"Have you considered relocating CRN to somewhere else on the planet? Perhaps you should?"

Although based in the United States and founded by Americans, CRN is not a US-centric organization. Our concern is for the survival and happiness of humans as a species, in all lands and in every culture. The power and influence of nanotechnology will cross all borders and affect all nations; hence, our vision and mission statements -- http://www.crnano.org/index.html#Mission -- reflect a global perspective, not a nationalistic view.

Also, I've never understood the "My country, Love it or leave it" slogan. Isn't offering constructive criticism a way of showing love and care?

Mike

Mike Treder, CRN

John B asks:

"Do you know if any meetings have been aranged with the above organizations or other national or international equivalents (WHO comes to mind, among others) where nanomachines and/or nanofacture have been addressed? If so, what kind of preliminary results have been developed regarding testing of nanotechnology?"

To our knowledge, none of the organizations mentioned in John's comment have comprehensively addressed the issues that CRN is raising. That's why we're here.

We do see some progress being made: last December, Chris was invited to testify before the US Environmental Protection Agency's Science Advisory Board; I've been asked by the International Centre for Science and High Technology to participate next February in an Expert Group Meeting on challenges and opportunities in nanotechnology; and CRN has been accorded consultant status for the AC/UNU's Millennium Project.

It's not enough, and it's not fast enough, but it's a start.

Mike Treder, CRN

'laodan' wrote:

What do you believe comes next? You post that "some new mechanisms" of global governance are inevitable. I would like to follow you but I'am afraid that the primitive violence that unleashed the logic of capital on the world has yet not been recognized as the foundational principle of our modern economies.

You make some excellent points, and it's not easy to see what comes next. There are many variables and uncertainties. I didn't mention it specifically in the original post above, but Jim Garrison’s new book, "America as Empire: Global Leader or Rogue Power?" has been of great help to me in understanding how the world arrived at its present condition and where we might go from here. I highly recommend it.

Mike

Karl Gallagher

Mike wrote: I've never understood the "My country, Love it or leave it" slogan. Isn't offering constructive criticism a way of showing love and care?

"Action X by America was a bad thing to do for reasons A, B, and C" is constructive criticism, which I consider useful even when wrong.

"America is evil, therefore action X is a bad thing" is NOT constructive, and I'll cheerfully toss in a few bucks if the speaker passes the hat to buy a one-way ticket to elsewhere.

People in the first category can still love America, the ones in the second may claim to but I don't believe them. And this is not a strawman, btw, I've seen lots of protestors in the past few years making that argument.

RFScheer

Nice comments Karl.

Nano has a bad reputation and it's getting worse. Part of the reason it's getting worse is the flaky arguments and flaky people associated with the futuristic aspects of the topic. You are not helping at all when you let CRN stray into the realm of world government and American imperialism. At best, these discussions on this web site will be controversial and will lead away from consensus, not toward it.

Karl Gallagher

the realm of world government and American imperialism

I'm a bit ambivalent about those subjects here. Our hosts own their blog and can talk about whatever they want. One of the key topics of their charter is "Given a good concept for regulating nanotech, how would that be implemented?" and any real discussion of that involves international politics. OTOH supplying any real-world example is going to piss off someone with an axe to grind. So avoiding controversial subjects would leave us debating technical details like the best way to cool a nanofactory--interesting, but not the most important issue facing us.

Possibly the best way to handle controversy is to accept it and analyze it to find the fundamental disagreements so those can be defined. On something this fundamental a good description of the conflict could be much more useful than trying for a consensus.

Brett Bellmore

The way I view it, discussions about the technology itself have two fundamental advantages:

1. They're not so intensely value laden as to instantly devolve into some kind of Rorschach test. There are actually objectively true and false conclusions. Not just conclusions which are true or false contingent on your personal value system.

2. Those conclusions feed directly back into the more political discussions, because they give those discussions at least some objective grounding.

It's hard for me to get all that interested in discussions of proposed regulatory systems which haven't got any realistic chance of being adopted, because the whole subject isn't going to be taken that seriously by professional politicians until it's way too late for anything but a desperate scramble to close the barn door before ALL the horses have escaped.

The best we can do on the regulatory end of things is to spin out a variety of scenarios, and think them through, so that we have a menu of pre-planned responses available to us when the time comes.

Chris Phoenix, CRN


RFScheer, I didn't see any loathing of America in Mike's post. I did see a mild left-wing bias. If this country is as divided as it sometimes appears, then even a mild bias will in fact cost us half of our credibility: meaning that the Republican half of our readers will decide we are an enemy of America.

"The recent aggressive imposition of United States will on two nations in the Middle East, the introduction of the new Bush doctrine of pre-emption, the direct challenge from the US to multilateral institutions"--is anything in this quote inaccurate?

In the context of the Guardian quotes that Mike selected, what Mike wrote does appear as criticism. But certainly not loathing.

I think we will have a more productive discussion if we reframe it a bit. Here goes, as non-biased as I can make it:

1) The US has a lot of power, and has shown that it's willing to use that power outside its borders based on unilateral policy.

2) The use of that power has entangled a lot of non-Americans in US politics. This has made some of them happy. It has also made some of them unhappy. The unhappy ones, having had problematic policy forced upon them from outside, will blame us.

3) There appear to be only a few choices.
A) Pursue a policy of isolationism.
B) Impose our politics on foreigners unilaterally, inevitably making some fraction of them feel like victims of some decision we make--which may have bad repercussions.
C) Find some way to cooperate with foreigners in making our foreign policy. Options include:
i) Work better with the UN and other international organizations.
ii) Invent and use some new kind of global democratic structure.

Personally, I like option C.ii the best. I'm willing to listen to arguments for any of the others. Though I'm not likely to be swayed by arguments that it's OK for America to hurt foreigners for the benefit of Americans. We're rich enough, and smart enough, and noble enough, that we shouldn't need to do that. And by the way, I think Mike's point, though presented in a somewhat biased post, was basically that he likes C.ii best too.

Option B is likely to be good for Americans short-term, bad for everyone long-term.

Option A probably isn't good because of our economic interdependence on foreign oil, labor, and some minerals.

Option C.i probably isn't politically workable, though it may become so if Kerry is elected; in any case, I don't know that it's much better than A.

It could be argued that in invading Iraq and Afghanistan, we are doing our best to create democratic governments that we can work with, and thus pursue C.ii. I suspect opinions on this argument will be split, as they say, on party lines.


Have I left out any options? If not, which ones do you like best? Why? And how can we shift toward the good ones, and build support for them both domestically and internationally?

Chris

Chris Phoenix, CRN


Malcolm writes: "I'm pretty sure we won't be prepared. I think the best that should be hoped for is a large national convention of leading nanotech/government experts to come together and try to figure out a way of dealing with the effects of MM. The other two options would be anarchy or a decision made behind closed doors by a few powerful people... which would circumvent the advantage of a democratically based country..."

I completely agree that we're likely to be unprepared, and that we need a large collection of experts to avoid anarchy or oligarchy(?). Question: Could we make it a worldwide convention? I think it would be foolish to assume we can make good policy for the world without some input--and foolish to assume that bad world policy won't come back to haunt us.

1) If a rogue or ungoverned nation/region gets molecular manufacturing, we're all toast.
2) I'm not at all confident that we can eliminate all rogue and ungoverned regions in the world, including ungoverned sub-regions of troubled nations, within the next two decades, by unilateral force--or any kind of unilateral policy.
3) Eventually, either we will have massive worldwide oppression, or every region in the world will have some form of molecular manufacturing.

This is why we're looking so hard for an international solution: it's an international problem.

Chris

Karl Gallagher

the Republican half of our readers

I think a lot of your readers are neither left-wing nor Republican. I go with "libertarian hawk" myself.

B) Impose our politics on foreigners unilaterally,
C) Find some way to cooperate with foreigners

"Foreigners" aren't a homogenous group. Taking Iraq as the most vivid example, there's 30+ countries actively aiding the US operation, a group led by France, Germany, Russia, and most Arab nations vociferously objecting, and Syria, Iran, and al-Qaeda (et al) supporting attacks against US troops. That negotiation started with UN debates and then shifted to an ad-hoc arrangement of nations. So we've managed to cover B, Ci, and Cii all in one campaign.

Building a global democratic structure may have to start that way, with a core group of democratic nations forming a federation. The EU's an example of how that could work, though they've organized it to shift power from voters to bureaucrats so I wouldn't want to follow the example exactly. The hard part is how to set up a global structure that doesn't give North Korea and such new tools to use against us. The "all nations are equal" default assumption of the UN, ICC, etc has made them useless for promoting global democracy. How to decide a nation is democratic enough to be let in the club will be tough. For example, Russia and India are having elections, but are they free enough that we can trust them with power over us, or they manipulate the rules of the federation to screw America over to their benefit? Look at it another way--if Texas was an independent country today, what rules would you want for it to be able to influence your President and laws?

Mike Treder, CRN

Karl, I'm confused by your lumping of Russia and India together as nations that are perhaps not "free enough" for us to trust. India has been holding free and mostly peaceful democratic elections for over fifty years. Granted, they have their problems, but the history of democracy in India is far more encouraging than in Russia.

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