Another from Chris's email box, answering the question:
Should the U.S. limit technology transfer related to molecular manufacturing?
Molecular manufacturing will not be the same as nukes. Nukes come in a spectrum from massively destructive to awesomely destructive, and they're quite hard to build. MM weapons will be in a much broader spectrum, from humane restraints through less-lethal all the way to awesomely destructive. And many of those technologies will be dual-use, and all will be easy to build (given a nanofactory). These and other reasons imply that an MM arms race would be less stable than the nuclear arms race.
At this point, it would take very strong (and probably forceful) geopolitics to prevent proliferation of MM. And it would take very strong (and probably oppressive) policy, implemented globally, to keep MM out of the hands of civilians.
I remain unsure whether a situation with widespread civilian access to MM can be stable. Some form of concentration of power seems inevitable, whether it's governments keeping ahead of weapons development, or warlords arising to protect their clients from crimes.
Without universal surveillance, I strongly suspect that offense will beat defense, and that attackers will generally be able to remain anonymous and unaccountable. This does not seem to be a recipe for stability. I know that in World War I, people incorrectly thought that artillery would beat defense, not realizing the defensive power of dirt (trenches). But in World War II, the only thing that could defend against airplanes was more airplanes.
We desperately need more analysis of these issues. If our preliminary analysis is right, the game favors preemptive strikes and global dictatorship. I really hope that's wrong, but in many years of thinking about it, I haven't managed to convince myself...
The only hope I can see is that MM, properly used, could create enough abundance to eliminate economic reasons for war. Then we only (!) have to worry about human psychology. People do not deal well with abundance. Many turn into lotus-eaters, not bothering to take even the minimal steps necessary to maintain their system; others turn into monsters of acquisition or ego, and these threaten to bring down the whole system.
A little healthy competition seems to be good for us. But the competition will only stay healthy if it occurs in a context of limits. Perhaps the most fundamental problem with MM is that it will bypass most natural limits, without which humans and human systems will go to destructive extremes. I hope I'm not getting too philosophical here. To put it in concrete terms, I really worry about any system that gives world-class power to numerous humans and groups. MM will do that.
I hope this is relevant to a discussion of national security and secret-keeping. I think my point is that technology transfer may be overshadowed by the mere existence of the technological power.