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« Nanobots and Nanojobs | Main | Nanotech Products Cheap! »

June 18, 2004


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mark mcavan

I'm just sort of hoping I live through it...

I don't think personaly that an arms race of some sort can be avoided at all. Even if the general population completely disagrees with starting or continuing one, there will definitly be those who will stockpile none the less. However I do think that a high powered laser rifle and a nifty suit of armor for everyone and a really nice missle defence system that I can't even imagine might work. No country would invade the USA at least because at the first sign of an invasion the government would simply allow any restrictions on producing the most powerful personal firarm to be lifted imediately. The only chance I see for actual war in this country is if some WMD were used. I also don't see a simple winner in an arms race, noone will win unless the other is taken down, its all on who is willing to use their weapons, and if they are successful. I for one have great faith in American inginuity.

jim moore

Sorry Chris,
If you "play" a MM arms race "game" the most successful strategy for "winning" is to get to MM first then use your new capabilities to kill your opponents before they get MM capabilities. (unfortunately I think this outcome is very probable)

Now if you can avoid the preemptive first strike scenario and you have several groups with independent MM capability and if they have some time (a year or two) to work on offensive and defensive systems a Mutual Assured Destruction situation may come about. With several potential opponents all with capabilities you cannot know about in detail, there is not enough certainty of success to start a war.
Now if you combine the uncertainty of success in war with a reduction n the reasons to go to war this scenario may be stable for a while.

Karl Gallagher

Sigh. There's this recurring assumption that the higher-tech side always wins a war. History says otherwise. The US had better tech than Vietname, Germany had better tech than the US. For a good illustration in future tech let me suggest Clarke's Superiority, which shows how much trouble you can get yourself in by concentrating on tech over everything else.

MM may be a decisive advantage, but I suspect it'll be a lot smaller than folks here are assuming. Once we have actualy devices to work with rather than theories we're going to discover a lot of limitations on them.

jim moore

The difference in the capabilities in the weapon systems between the US and Germany in WWII was minimal. The important difference in that war was the factories in the US were not being bombed. In Vietnam the US never attacked the nations that supplied the vietcong with weapons (Not fighting WWIII was more important than "winning" in Vietnam.)

MM has the potential to increase the capabilities of weapon systems by orders of magnitude (not just by 20 or 30%). MM also has the potential to change the objectives is war. I think that the main objective in a MM war would be killing the "enemy" in order to make your group safer (instead of taking their resources, or enslaving the population.) Also the actions of an attacker will not be limited or constrained by the need for international trade.

Brett Bellmore

On the bright side, one thing nanotech weapons are likely to be very good at is selective targeting. We could see more in the way of governments being attacked, instead of nations.

Chris Phoenix, CRN

Brett: selective targeting is also really helpful to terrorism and criminal acts.

I'd expect the government to be quite well defended, and civilians less so. And some enemies would rather kill civilians anyway. If Al Qaeda assassinated congresspeople one by one, we'd rapidly become grimly determined to fight them off. If they assassinated civilians one by one, each death would merely be seen as failure, risk, and horror. I think they'd do more damage to us by killing civilians, and I think they already think this way.

And if WMDs become far more compact and powerful, much easier to smuggle and/or build locally, it'll be relatively easy to kill millions of civilians--enough to make a practical difference to a country, not just a terroristic difference.

On another topic, I completely agree with Jim that MM-built weapons will be orders of magnitude more powerful, and that this will probably be decisive. Obviously, any weapon is useless if idiots are in charge. But whoever has MM won't have to field soldiers; and whoever doesn't have it, will. The soldiers will die. The MM weapons will be virtually inexhaustible. You do the math.

If both sides have MM, then I don't have much idea how to estimate what would be the deciding factor. Probably a combination of information/intelligence gathering and processing, and skill at really rapid design of new products.


Brett Bellmore

Depends on the nature of the society. Killing leaders tends to piss off the citizens of democratic countries, because they have some emotional investment in the leadership they themselves chose. A different dynamic would probably be active in non-democratic countries. And in both cases, the reaction of the surviving leadership would include as much self-preservation as vengence. Whether they thought they could successfully defend against further attacks would play rather heavily in the calculations of how to respond.

In any event, directly attacking the leadership might be more difficult, but it also carries much higher leverage. It's an empirical question which would be more effective.


How come a person is first going to think to kill off everybody? Maybe he fears everybody is going to develop mm and wipe him and everybody else off? Well, either way, it seems to have something to do with what they are doing in life. Why would somebody kill somebody who's purpose in life was exploring the universe? I suppose if somebody didn't want you going to the stars, finding a cure for spinal cord injuries and is pointing a gun at you; maybe that is a good reason; hell, we all feel justified in shooting some stranger breaking into our houses . . . .

Anyways, anything can be used as a weapon; even if you label a weapon as defencive, it can be used for offense. Now, I remember being on an aircraft carrier, and it was kind of curious how part of why it was safer being on an aircraft carrier(unless your working on the ships decks all the time) was because just to launch the airplanes, we had to be way out in sea - so far away from the enemy.

Putting two together; 1a everything can be used as a weapon, and 1b, all defence weapons are also offence weapons, and the point about the more sophisticated the technology the further you are away from the enemy means that if you are just a curious scientist who can't wait to learn more about the universe just makes you safer from those who are just trying to use mnt for evil purposes; consider this! Those who just want to use it for conquering this little world of ours will be wasting their time and getting behind in the race for ever more knowledge, that they will be left far behind.

Now, Maybe you don't value science in the making of a human personality - the courage, honesty, and skepticism of oneself; the spirit of dedication and discipline that goes into doing science twenty four hours a day(if you could) like apparently Bill Joy and the "enough" guy; maybe, you don't see that curiosity and the fact that humans are defined and distinguished by the other living creatures by its dependence on knowledge of itself and the environment, then maybe you shouldn't be looking into the above strategy . . . .

jim moore

It looks like we agree, if one group's military is able to develop MM 1-2 years before everyone else, there would be a tremendous temptation to use your immense yet temporary advantage to recreate (through force) the global political system to serve your desires.

In order to avoid this situation, I agree with CRN's advocation of a semi-public MM crash development program. I think this approach would ensure that was at least one public program and most likely several secrete programs. Thus ensuring that the window of opportunity for a successful preemptive strike is as small as possible.

Mike Deering

Kill, kill, kill. One of the great things about MM weapons is their versatility. You don't have to kill everybody if you don't want to, and why would you want to? Sure, it may be marginally easier to kill them than to limit their options in other ways, but the really hard part is getting to MM before them. After that, the incremental difference between killing them and something else is insignificant. And who are these enemies that you are talking about killing? Anyone who could develop MM on their own and who might object to our monopoly, that's everyone else, every country not in the little of club allies that we trust enough to share MM with.

Given the past record of secret government research projects into every crazy idea from ESP, to LSD, and UFO, to NBC, does anyone seriously think that there is no secret research into MM? Get real. SNL, LLNL, and LANL are probably all working on it. I'm going to assume that the NSA gets there before the IMM. What then? Are we S O L, or is it the advent of the NWO?

CRN is looking for stability in a nano-arms race, but they are looking in the wrong place. There is nothing stable about a multilateral balancing act. Stability is 1WG (one world government). Borders between empires should be determined by the speed of light. The longer the communication delay the more political independence.

I want to go on record as stating that I'm against killing. I'm against war in the traditional sense of killing. We humans, have more in common than differences. Why do we have to be so separated? Can't we all just get along? No? Okay then, we'll have to do it GWB's way. Ultimate power! Liberate the world!


what crn are doing is "wishing" things.

I understand their getting unnerved; after all, they are not in a position of power, but then again, since when are those in power thinking about how to use mnt to take over the world? Maybe they shouldn't have told those who spend all their time thinking about how to gain power about mnt? Oh well, to late now . . . .


i take back the wishing statement as I can't seem to find a concrete example.

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