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« The Future Needs Us | Main | Asia Ahead »

January 23, 2004


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jim moore

Lets look at the independent development of nanofactories
from a prespective of long run strategic planing
for the US military. If you accept CRN's greneral
observation that the cost of developing nanofactories
should fall rapidly with time you must conclude that
your potential opponents will gain this capablity.
Thier military capablity will be limited for a period of time while they
develope nanoweapons and strategies for using the
new weapons. Becase nanofactoies give you the ablity
to rapidly protype new designs this period of time
could be very short. Within five years of developing
an independent nanofactory system you can no longer
assume that in a conflict with them you will have
military superiority.

Now this is not a hopeless situation for the US military
It will still be a massive nuclear power and have advanced
research capabilities and lot of experience fighting wars.
In this situation the US military can act as a deterent
but it will no longer be the only super power in the

Assume that eventutually this is how independent
nanofactory development is viewed strategically.
Nanofactories can do a lot of good things but
they empower our potential advasaries. Then
you find out the guys at DARPA have got a working
fabricator. Six months later you have several
thousand nanofactories and you have been very busy
turning old weapons designs into nanotech designs.
You have even been able to design couple of nanoweapons that
truly exploit the unique capablities of nanoscale diamonoid parts.
From intellegence reports you can be reasonably sure
that in the next 12 months several other nations will
have working fabricators. If this situation occurs
the US will know one thing for certin: This is the
time at which the power differential between the US and other nations
is the greatest. If the US decides to impose its will by military
force this is the situation in which it would be
most likely to attempt a military solution to MNT.

jim moore

The big problem with the first strike option is
what do you do after you are sucessful. With MNT
and careful planing the US might be able to
simultaniously kill or disable most of members
of the militaries and governments of all of
the potential opponents to the US.

Now if the US has wins the battle what should
it do?

One option is transform the nation state system.
Encourage other nations to break up into small,
prosperous, self suffienct and ecologically sound
communities. (thousands of city states rather
than 160 nation states) Smaller states will have
less brainpower to work on new nanoweapons.
The small states might be given nanofactories
limited not just by software but also limited by
the nanofactory only processing pre-made
nanoblocks. (Limiting nanofactories to using only
premade parts does not cripple most what you can
do with a nanofactory. It means you can't make
new nanoblocks on your own.) If all states are
given acces to a public domain with
nanofactory designs for all the necessities of
living in a nanotech enabled community most of
the people will be fat and happy. Yet all
of the communities will be dependent on the US for
its supply of nanoblocks. (if you can recycle
some percentage of the nanoblocks the short
term dependence is lessened but the military
implications don't change much) Now
if you combine
1.) The US with military dominance
2.) The US controlling the production of
3.) the break up of nation states
4.) distributing most of the benifits
of nanofactories widely with
5.)close monitoring of everyone who has the
intellengce and education to make a difference
in nanotechnogly and
6.)random monitoring of the general population

and you have the outlines of a system
that may be able to last for more then 10 years
after the deployment of nanofactories

Chris Phoenix, CRN

Jim's analysis looks right on to me. I'd just add that instead of random monitoring, molecular manufacturing may produce enough sensor and computer power to monitor *all* the population. We already have image recognition systems that can watch a real-life scene for a while and then start flagging unusual occurrences. With a million times as much computer power, a decade of algorithms research, and maybe some specialized hardware, it will probably be feasible to build a filtering system that correctly classifies 95-99% of human activity as standard, allowing the remaining fraction to be scrutinized by humans. Note that this does not require any sort of general AI.


Mike Deering

The idea of the United States being first to develop an assembler and a nanofactory is very plausible considering the diversity and quality of its R & D infrastructure in government, academia, and private enterprise. The US is not only a military superpower but a science and technology superpower. Of course, if other countries cooperated in joint efforts or specialized in nanotech areas, diverting funds from many other uses, they could generate some serious competition in the race to molecular nanotechnology manufacturing. The UK has some of the best scientists and engineers in the world. Japan is famous for being able to focus resources on a task. Australia's leaders seem to be aware of the stakes and willing to take steps to improve their future position. But the US is the clear favorite.

The military and national security issues related to nanotechnology are obvious even to the US government and assemblers or nanofactories will be classified technologies just as cryptographic technologies are today, and probably will equal effectiveness, which is to say, just to keep it out of the hands of the masses while having no appreciable effect of foreign governments or enemies of the state. The enabling technologies are so broadly distributed that no attempt to prevent the development of molecular nanotechnology can be successful.

But the idea of the US taking over the world, even if demonstrably necessary for the survival of the species, is ludicrous from a political point of view. It is opposed by the policy and cultural history of the US. The US is still a government "by-the-people" and "the people" would never sanction such an ambition. No political leader would take actions sure to result in their alienating the voting public, regardless of the reasons. The US would not have gotten into the second world war except for Pearl Harbor, or the war on Afghanistan and Iraq except for the Twin Towers. Before the US would consider "taking-over-the-world" there would have to be some major nano-disaster.

Mike Deering, Director,

jim moore

If the US has decided to go for a first strike
it could easily create a "nano-crisis" to
justify its actions.

Janessa Ravenwood

Jim: Once again, this "the U.S. is out to take over the world scenario" is just not accurate in the real world. That's not how we operate in this country, but for some reason you seem bound and determined to believe it; I have no idea why. Oh well, get back to us in a few decades after nanofacs come out and we still haven't done it and have no plans to do so.

jim moore

I do not want the US to engage in a preemptive
first strike. I do not think that the US should
engage in a preemtive first strike. I do not
think that it is highly probable that the US
will engage in a preemptive first strike.

But I do think that the US is the only "power"
that could engage in a sucsessful preemptive
strike. And then only if it is able to develop
and deploy nanofactories and nanoweapons a year or
two before everyone else. This option of
a preemtive strike has a limited window of
opportunity. If other nations are able to develop
independent nanofactories preemtive first strikes
become increasingly unlikely to be sucsessfu

Janessa Ravenwood

But still, given the past behavior of the U.S., why do think they actually would do so?

Mike Deering

Jim, no one I know wants the US to first strike the world. And your comments about killing military or government personnel disturb me. The diplomatic option has to be the one we advocate. Only wacko's endorse violence even by governments. The military solution is the one forced on you, not the one you make plans for. No one is going to take us seriously if we are discussing a US first strike on the world.

Mike Deering, Director,

Chris Phoenix, CRN

Let's take Jim's scenario as one possible outcome for *whoever* develops the technology first (assuming that they're far enough ahead of the pack--which may be well under one year). Even if the US does not carry its current doctrine of "preemptive" war that far, other nations may be more willing to. And Jim's analysis of how an aggressive first strike could be used to keep the technology under control looks pretty plausible to me.

Right now the US seems to be pretty far down the list of potential first developers--not just because of the NNI's protectionism, but because we don't have the right funding models, we're too complacent, and we may not be training enough scientists.

By the way, Jim, please send me an email from an address that works. Emails that I send you have bounced repeatedly. cphoenix at CRNano.org.

jim moore

Mike, I don't want the US to do a first strike
aganst the world. And the thought of a suprise
nano-attack that kills or disables the military
and government personal (or all of the citizens)
of other countries fills me with dred. I do not
want that to happen. I think that the conventional
(non-nanotech)power of the US military will discourage
other nations from engageing in the first strike
option. (Knocking out all of the nuclear subs and
other nuclear defenses would be difficult)

I have been thinking about MNT sense the late 80's
and I think that it has the potential to let everyone
lead long, prosperous, and freedom filled lives
without causing too much environmental damage.
That is the future that I want to see happen.

But, lately I have been thinking about how it can all
go wrong. While I was concidering some of the
likely developmental pathways for nanofactories
the evil idea of a preemptive stike occured to me,
and I have not been able to dismiss it.

Janessa, you ask why would the US engage in a
preemptive first strike (if it thought it could
be sucessful)?
1) fear. (of other nations or goups with
independent nanofactories and nanoweapons.)
2) lust for power ( a monopoly on nanofactories
would make some individuals incredibly powerful)

It is not uncommon for people seeking power to
use fear to get it.

My ISP had some problems and my e-mail should
back up toda

Janessa Ravenwood

Yes, but my point is not that we COULD do it, but why would we actually go through with it? I see no evidence from our past behavior that a "campaign of conquest and enslavement" is something we'd actually do. As Mike has pointed out above, no politician could survive that. Even taking out Saddam, a verifiable mass-murdering thug, has generated intense heat for President Bush. If lots of people think that keeping Saddam in power was a good idea, think how they'd react if a less-rogue state was attacked completely unprovoked! An outright "let's conquer our neighbors" campaign? Just not going to happen. Take out North Korea or Iran? Well, that I could live with.

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