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« Nanotech Risk Governance | Main | When Nobody Knows »

July 12, 2007


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Michael Anissimov

Nice grid. Of course, CRN has been arguing for the tight technical restrictions/loose access & distribution for a while now. Do you have any ideas for greater specifics? Which products should be restricted? Don't be afraid to throw ideas out there, even if they're just hunches.

At the moment, I am in agreement with the military restrictions laid forth in "Military Nanotechnology" by Jurgen Altmann, and also have a working paper explaining which other product areas I think should be restricted, which will be published soon. Relevant parameters include: product volume, product energy density, product size, product autonomy, and product speed, for starters.

Unfortunately, it looks like the scope of necessary restriction to avoid danger might make the open source folks a little ruffled. This will inevitable create controversy at some point in the future. The question is: is CRN in agreement, and if so, shouldn't this controversy be confronted today rather than tomorrow?

Tom Craver

The grid seems to make some assumptions about who will place and enforce the restrictions.

For example, it appears to assume a single global regulatory system, else we end up not only with multiple approaches, but effectively a "loose-loose" situation, at least *between* governments.

It assumes that the regulatory entity will be wise and benevolent.

For example, suppose we have a tight-tech/loose-distrib scenario, but 99.9% of humanity is restricted to huge arcologies where they have to struggle to obtain the energy to meet their needs - human needs would not be well satisfied. Or perhaps enough energy for basics might be provided - but competition within the arcologies leaves most without adequate goods.

That could happen if the rich and powerful use the transition to nanotech to concentrate ownership of land and solar rights. Or it could happen because an extreme green group gained control of nanotech and decided to make most of the world into a nature preserve and force humanity to reduce its numbers.

Tom Craver

A factor to consider regarding the "loose tech" quadrants: suppose intellectual property rights did become impossible to enforce - would that world be such a bad place? Would no-one - released from the day-to-day struggle to feed, clothe and house himself - use his time and resources to do research? Would no large groups voluntarily form to achieve large and complex tasks? Despite the potential for conflicting claims to origination, would no creator be able to gain any praise for his efforts?

Also - under the "Tight_tech" row, you missed the "Second Ammendment" issue. It is virtually certain that eventually someone "in charge" will exploit their ability to by-pass any technical restrictions imposed on the masses, to gain power. To skip that is to unfairly give favor to those quadrants.

And to play devil's advocate - I don't know that any of the items listed under the "tight-tight" quadrant are inevitable. Those keeping tight control might give everyone every material thing they truly need (a "diamond rice bowl"), and make it easy to work to obtain a share of luxuries beyond that. I don't know that such a system would be stable - but it's certainly one that someone will want to try to implement. I'm not sure China would even consider anything other than that quadrant.

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