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« The Arms Race Has Begun | Main | Surprising Roots of Terrorism »

July 03, 2004


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Brett Bellmore

What can each of us do? Well, it's not exciting stuff, but here's a short list:

1. Stockpile food, potable water, basic medical supplies, and a few disposable chemical toilets. If there's an attack, you want to be able to hole up, where you won't be exposed to noxious stuff, help spread it around, and get in the way of emergency personel. And in bad emergencies, basic utilities tend to break down. You want to be able to cope if the power goes out for an extended period, or your tap stops delivering water, or the sewers block up.

2.Make your home reasonably airtight, with a GOOD filter on the intake. A home can be built, at no great expense, (In fact, the increased energy efficiency pays for it.) to be so tight that you can maintain it at slight positive pressure, and keep out any noxious dust. At least have a room like that, for emergencies.

Most potential terrorist attacks aren't like the World Trade Center attack, where you're on the 70th floor of a burning building, and doomed. Mostly they'd be attacks on infrastructure, with the actual human harm coming from our immediate reliance on that infrastructure. And even when nanotech arrives, staying indoors and breathing filtered air would be adequate protection against most attacks, once they're spotted.

3. When other defenses start to become available, don't wait until they're mandated by building codes, or prescribed by your doctor. Be an early adopter. An example to your neighbors.

Mr. Farlops


These defensive measures may work, but I predict that they won't be widely adopted by most people until it's really cheap and convenient to do so. Remember the survivalist movements and bomb shelters of the cold war? Remember what a joke they were?

I mean it wasn't a joking matter obviously but most people, even under threat of nuclear annihilation, didn't seem willing to radically alter their lives by turning their homes into a fortresses, unless it was really cheap and convenient to do so.

Obviously nano-defense will emerge and grow cheap and easy at roughly the same time as nanotech itself grows cheap and easy, but until then the time and money of citizens concerned about a safe and secure world would be better spent on supporting policy and politicians that actually are trying to fix the many lingering sources of global discontent.

To summarize, a techno-fix will be insufficient to solve a social problem. I'm not really saying that gas masks, bomb shelters and ammo caches aren't a way to deal with the problem, I'm just saying that it won't be enough.

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