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« Molecular Manufacturing Impacts | Main | Nanobots Not Needed »

March 02, 2005


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Brett Bellmore

"The first reason is to avoid the dangers of competing development programs, which could too easily lead to an unstable arms race."

As opposed to an oppressive monopoly. Oh, wait, your plans rely on there being an oppressive monopoly... Never mind. ;)


Brett, you raise a terribly important question. CRN repeatedly conveys that "Preventing rogue nanotech requires international effort and cooperation", "Multiple MNT programs multiply the risks", and "A single, international, MNT development program is safest". Who's to say that this single international organization of which you speak won't be the oppressive monopoly referred to by Brett? What kind of available administrative options would solve these problems without resorting to the kind of surveillance MM is likely to allow?

Chris Phoenix, CRN

Collin, these are good questions. Let me add some more:

Is a balance of power possible between two MM-enabled nations, or will they get into an unstable arms race?

Will an international organization be more oppressive on average than national organizations?

If MM is widely available, wouldn't massive surveillance be a problem from all sorts of organizations at all levels?

Which is more likely to be oppressive: a government that administers MM along with all its other governmental functions, or a regulatory body that only administers MM and tries to reduce its destabilizing impacts on governments?

What are the factors / design elements that could lead an MM regulatory body to sieze and abuse power? What are the factors / design elements that could keep it focused on its proper task?


Tom Craver

"Is a balance of power possible between two MM-enabled nations, or will they get into an unstable arms race?"

Yes, balance is likely. All that is necessary for mutual deterrence is that both sides be sufficiently uncertain that they can destroy the other side's ability to retaliate effectively - both immediately and for the foreseeable future - and that both sides be convinced that the other side is also uncertain.

Given the likely ease of keeping nanotech weapon developments secret, and the likely difficulties of countering even known nanoweapons, sufficient certainty to make a first strike is very unlikely in the context of a nanoweapons arms race.

Tom Craver

"Will an international organization be more oppressive on average than national organizations?"

It seems unlikely that an international organization will develop into a government able to directly wield force. Typically such organizations are just the puppets of the dominant nations within them. They will only be as oppressive (and effective) as its guiding nations are willing to enforce.

Such organizations can provide a useful forum for collaboration and negotiation between nations. They form the velvet glove over the iron fists of the dominant nations. A weak nation's leadership can "reap benefits by cooperating with the international consensus", rather than be "bribed to cave in to the oppressive superpowers".

Therefore - no, an international organization will be no more (and no less) oppressive than it's dominant nation or nations.

Tom Craver

Regarding influenza:

Since the flu virus infects by attaching to lung cells, could we flood the bloodstream (or possibly lung surfaces, via an inhaled mist) of an infected person with fragments of lung cell-walls? Any flu virus would have a strong chance of encountering these "fake cells", and attaching to that rather than a real cell. That should reduce the rate of cell infection, giving a person's immune system longer to respond.

The lung fragments might be made by growing human lung cells, then shattering/grinding them and isolating the fragments of cell walls. The body might reject them as foreign material, but if they've already done their work, that shouldn't matter - we pull foreign material into our lungs all the time.

Mike Deering

Tom, I don't think your flu prevention idea will work. As the viruses are floating around inside your lungs only chance would determine which they encountered first, the fake cells walls or the real. Because of its function the lungs have a large amount of surface area per weight or volume. The amount of fake cell wall material you would need to put in the lungs to divert even half of the viruses would be a serious health hazard.

Chris Phoenix, CRN

Similar ideas to Tom's have been proposed.

Viruses go for specific targets (receptors) on the cell membranes. So the idea is to make a lot of those receptors and use them to jam up the viruses. Dendrimers have been proposed to attach lots of receptors to.

Viruses have to diffuse through the mucus blanket in the bronchial tubes before they reach the cells. (I don't know whether they ever reach the alvioli, which have a much thinner 70-nm surfactant layer.) A small molecule will diffuse faster and may reach the virus before the virus reaches the cell, which means that less "flypaper" will be required. I don't know what actual quantity of molecule will be required.

See Nanomedicine 8.2.2 and this site for info about lungs.



The writing is too long.Please shorten it for people in a rush

Phillip Huggan

By far the best Avian Influenza policy prescription that the WHO is missing, is to deploy a minimal rapid reaction force upon detection of two or more pneumonia cases. Instead they wait for positive testing confirmation of culture samples. The logistics of transporting a culture sample from a small rural clinic to a testing facility delays rapid response force intervention enough to spread the flu worldwide. :( Anyone know Navarro's e-mail address?

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