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« A Takeoff into Nightmare? | Main | Science in the Muslim World »

March 29, 2006


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Mike Deering

Mike and Chris, you guys have really done it! I think the powers may actually pay attention to what you are saying. What you have accomplished with this task force goes beyond the nanotech fringe of the internet community and into the mass media and halls of power. Henceforth, no serious discussion of nanotechnology will fail to include at least a recognition of your position. Congratulations on a job well done.

George J. Killoran

Mike, I found your essay interesting and informative but I find it difficult to believe that a war between two nano-enabled combatants would last a long time. Since it would be unlikely that both combatants would know for certain the capacities of the others’ nano-weapons arsenal, it seems likely that a nano-war would be an all out one and fought until one combatant was completely destroyed. With the awesome destructive power of nano-weapons, especially since they contain more destructive power than nuclear weapons, it is more likely this war will end quickly with one combatant being the conqueror and probably the new dictator of the world. I think that is the probable outcome unless both combatants have equal nano-weapons arsenals which would result in both combatants, and perhaps all civilization and life forms on our planet, being totally destroyed.

Chris Phoenix, CRN

Thanks, Mike!

George, there are a couple of questions that we don't have firm answers to.

Does offense beat defense? If I can build shells of diamond, hide out in outer space or oceanic trenches, etc., can you easily wipe me out?

Likewise, if I am an anonymous person living in one of your cities while I unleash nanoweapons remotely, can you find me?

Personally, I suspect that armor will be pretty useless, but hiding could be quite useful. I suspect this is what Mike was thinking of when he said nano war could last a long time.


Mike Treder, CRN

George (and Chris),

Note that my essay says: "if both (or all) sides are nano-enabled, that event could last a relatively long time, and casualties could be in the billions."

By 'relatively', I don't necessarily mean years. A single exclusive nano-enabled power might conquer the world in a matter of weeks, if not days. Compared to that, an event between multiple nano-enabled powers that covers a period of months would be a relatively long time.

Chris Phoenix, CRN

Months is still probably too long. If both sides started with a single nanofactory and a design team, it would take less than months to scale up to where they could produce a sufficient quantity of an advanced weapon in a single day. Advanced means that it could kill most unprotected humans and destroy all unprotected buildings in less than a day.

If they had good designers, they could also be developing those weapon designs quite quickly. Especially if they used semi-automated design techniques.

From there, the first time a defense failed to stop an attack, it would be all over.

As Tom Lehrer wrote about nuclear war in "So Long Mom": "I'll look for you when the war is over--an hour and a half from now!"


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