Response to Global Governance Post by Brian Wang

Brian Wang:

There is also no need for official governance of what are currently other nations, because then the dominating country may have to extend citizenship and rights. The current system of keeping the weaker countries and citizens in check while not extending citizenship and rights is the more efficient system. If you actually take over then you have the headaches and responsibility of actually running a place that is often filled with (from your perspective) losers and schmucks. You can step in and stop what you really do not want to have them doing without the cost of and problems of taking all the way over.

With MNT, a “Leading Force” will likely emerge if the technology is sponsored by a state, most likely the USA, UK, Israel, Russia, or China, and roughly in that order of diminishing probability, in my opinion. (Other countries mentioned in the comments: France, Germany, Japan, and India.) The desire to take control of world affairs will emerge from the constant risk of a rival developing equivalent capabilities. The first nanofactories will be both impressive (in their exponential qualities and complete automation of manufacturing) and unimpressive (their chemical inflexibility, possible cooling requirements, electricity consumption, limited initial design space, etc.) I predict they will be revolutionary enough that the first model may also be one of the most widely distributed. Unless there are serious restrictions on nanofactory self-replication, a near-exponential flood of nanofactories and nanoproducts will follow, flowing from the first system to cross that adoption tipping point. My assumption is that offense is fundamentally cheaper than defense, and nanofactories will be a great worldwide military equalizer, like guns were the equalizer for individual people in the Wild West.

You get a situation where everyone can effectively get a first-strike kill on basically whoever doesn’t have the latest defense technology protecting their entire population. One way to launch such an attack would be through stealth assassin microrobots, like the kind in Dune, but better. People don’t like to live in hypoallergenically sealed compartments. So they are often outside, susceptible to anything just floating in silently off the wind. The jet streams provide a natural highway for airborne robots, located only 4-10 miles above the surface. Putting a bunch of constantly flying UAVs into the air over a continental or national area to vaporize every dust speck over millions of cubic miles is really difficult, even with MNT. It’s cheaper to send in assassin robots programmed to coast to the ground in cities and military facilities, navigate to humans by heat and sound, and inject them with a lethal dosage of botulinum. To counter that attack, you’d either need huge, self-healing, impenetrable domes around the city, or sufficient robots already on the ground to defend all human beings from the extremely small and camouflaged (as insects) assassin bots. Maybe none of this is an issue and I’m all wrong, but it’s just one scenario to throw out there.

Comments

  1. I’m curious what will be the route to one government.

    Also, in the United States’ current system of government, the legislative branch has few technology experts in office. Do we need to change that? How do we change that? When there is one world government, what kind of leadership do you envision? What kind of system will be necessary to achieve that leadership?

  2. Robert

    Ok you have to understand the pathology of certain transhumanists. Some people such as yourself vastly overestimate the knowledge they have and that is coupled that with grandiosity. Kurzweil does this all the time with respect to his understanding of what it would take for brain emulation. He is totally clueless when it comes to a realistic assessment.

    As for nanofactories, typing in google scholar for “nanofactory”, you get a paper like this with 0 citations from people other than outside your “circle of transhumanist friends” who link to their own paper multiple times.
    scholar.google.com/scholar?hl=en&lr=&cites=10162255354919205432

    You have to understand your brain is able to make many unique perspectives since it is fusing together things from various fields (high creativity). However you also have to understand your limitions. Your brain’s grandiosity and fusing categories skews you into believing that you have more knowledge than you do about a topic and you tend to fall for some things that aren’t true or scientifically fringe.

    You praised Lee Smolin’s book (the trouble with physics) in a previous post. In physics, though, Lee Smolin is not highly regarded among his peers. A lot of his papers are usually considered garbage by people who actually make serious contributions to science. Kurzweil has fallen for Smolin’s fecund universes (black hole natural selection) as well. However, while this theory is scientifically nice sounding (plausible), it is in reality complete and utter B.S.

    Your problem isn’t your intelligence (which is extremely high) and it isn’t about whether this stuff is possible or not. Its the grandiose claims and skewed representation of the world that may be inherent to a particular type of brain function.

    Brian Wang recently conceded he was wrong on a bet. He made a wager that terminator 4 would have a box office bonanza. He’s guilty of making grandiose claims too that are unrealistic.
    nextbigfuture.com/2009/06/conceeding-terminator-4-bet.html
    I knew he was wrong the second he made that claim. The director of charlie’s angels is not going to make a great terminator movie. Also Brian previously claimed that Hillary Clinton had a 80-90% chance of winning the election. Again Brian Wang is extremely smart, but that isn’t the problem.

    So just learn your limitations. You can make as many grandiose claims as you want, I don’t care. Just when you get arrogant about it, it can be annoying.

  3. Stuart

    When people disagree with you, it is generally unwise to call them stupid and expect them to take you seriously. It makes you come across as petty and bitter. If your argument is insufficient to convince, then I would place the blame with the (structure of the) argument rather than the audience.

    It is unfortunate that you are unwilling to listen to dissenting views when they aren’t sourced from your friends or peers. Perhaps if this discussion were occurring somewhere other than in public on the internet that might be more understandable (to some). This has the effect of appearing as though you are unwilling to address valid criticisms of your arguments. Attacking the person instead of the idea merely serves to weaken any discourse.

    What exactly are you trying to achieve here? It would appear that you have a very well defined view to push, and it appears that view isn’t up for debate or discussion. Don’t you think it should be? (Even if only to bring the ‘uneducated’ up to speed on your rationale for views that can objectively be described as unconventional). I believe that you are operating on assumptions that many of your readers don’t share – you make some very bold assertions that in my world are simply not going to fly. I’m sure that I’m not the only one in that boat. Bottom line: is this a discourse or a sermon? Are you willing to have a debate or are you just preaching?

    At the rate you are going it isn’t going to matter if you are right about everything – no one will be listening any more. Do you really think you are the smartest person in the room? An expert in MNT and politics? I think you’ve got a lot more to learn ahead of you (but you are a young man, so that’s hardly a surprise).

    Here’s your homework: learn about *people*. It will make your arguments better.

  4. Hervé Musseau

    While we must be careful about military consequences of MNT, I don’t believe that the scenario here is likely. Reason and peace and prosperity triumph over aggression.
    Nukes were developed, but rarely used. We use nuclear electricity every day. Planes were developed mainly for war, yet we use them mostly for civilian transportation. Computer networks were developed by DARPA for war/resilience, and that’s not exactly how we tweet. Not to say that we shouldn’t worry about (and try to prevent) nuclear dissemination, planes flown into nuclear plants, skynet, or MNT killer insects, but.

    Note that I was also surprised to see UK second in your list, and wondered whether there was something I wasn’t aware about UK research. As a Frenchman/European I don’t see France there first either. However, a EU (primarily UK, Germany, France, plus maybe Benelux, Italy and Spain, ie the core) or EU-Israel or even EU-Russia, may come in second after the US. I’m surprised China isn’t higher on your list, and second the surprise at lack of India.
    It would be interesting, maybe in a follow-up post, that you explain your reasoning for this ranking. And cross that with Brian’s view, as well as Chris’s over at CRN. I also wonder whether Eric Drexler would agree.

  5. Neil

    Funny how many college drop-outs think that they know everything because they’ve read a book.

  6. jerry

    Proofread your posts a day or two after u write them..my god that was snobbish! We all have to work with all kinds, how about we all work to make the playing field more even..?

  7. There are many scenarios where something very bad could be done with MNT. The key question for the proposed global governance is how would this solution or part of solution work to prevent the bad scenarios. Likely only the dominant MNT power has the option to choose (although there could be a window for a near MNT power with a lot of nukes and other weapons to do something before an MNT leader reaches critical capability)

    I think if you are looking at complete prevention you are looking at combinations of
    1. Killing everyone you do not trust
    2. Oppressing everyone you do not trust
    – variations on this is that MNT oppression could be made something that the oppressed are not aware of
    3. MNT-enabled vigilance (basically hair trigger oppression/inhibition on demand)
    4. altering minds – programming people. (Oppressing people and making them like it)
    – bribing and education of people is the light versions of altering minds – but is not assured. But you could create a combo of carrots-bribes-liberal guaranteed wages etc… and monitoring to make the restrictions as pleasant as possible.

    Something akin to –
    you can live and be ruled in Heaven or do it anyway.
    Also. Being made an offer that you can’t refuse

    I do not see where “governing” [respect my authority] ensures anything.

  8. Robert, where in this post do I make a grandiose claim? The military is full of strategists doing thinking on advanced miniature robotics. People have the right to have discussions where people have at least a minimum level of background knowledge. They can disagree with the whole thing, as Richard Jones does. They just have to have some knowledge. Nanosystems is not obscure, it won the Association of American Publishers award for Best Computer Science Book of 1992. The ideas in the book have been mentioned in thousands of mainstream articles.

    Stuart, I’m just exhausted with people trying to contribute to high-level discourse on a topic without reading the basic literature. I’ve said a million times that it’s not about people disagreeing with me (Brian disagrees with me, so why on Earth would you claim that I’m against disagreement when I link him first thing?), it’s about people having zero background knowledge about any of this stuff and offering opinions reminiscent of the comments section on Digg. Certainly I am willing to have a debate, all I really asked was that people read Nanosystems. If 10 people who had read Nanosystems and a few books on global politics walked into the discussion, I would gladly trade them for 1,000 commenters who hadn’t read Nanosystems. They don’t have to be in my circle of friends. They can be aliens from Mars for all I care.

    I know plenty about people, enough to know that I’m willing to piss off hundreds of them to get a fruitful discussion with a few dozen of them to produce insights that I can actually use when I interact with other high-level thinkers in person.

    Jerry, grammar and spelling looks fine… guess I proofread! The odd thing is that if a non-expert walked into the middle of any high-level college class and started throwing out their uneducated opinion, they’d probably be ejected from the class, but no blog is allowed to have high-level discussion that involves any degree of background reading? People on the Internet are spoiled by the “cult of the amateur”.

    Hell yes I will harangue my audience. The Internet is filled with people that can hide behind their lack of ability to read with their anonymity. Of course they’ll be pissed off if I call them out.

  9. “To counter that attack, you’d either need huge, self-healing, impenetrable domes around the city, or sufficient robots already on the ground to defend all human beings from the extremely small and camouflaged (as insects) assassin bots.”

    I would add you pre-emptively take them out or incarcerate them before they can launch or before they get to far in the prep phase but far enough so you can say gotcha.

    However, then the question is where does global government come into the picture about doing something ?

  10. Seppel

    Funny how you didn’t address the points raised about that list of yours. I guess you can’t think of a way to justify your half-assed guesses.

    You basically repeated what you already said, i.e. more BS. I would like to know one thing: What qualifications do you have (college or university degree, working experience etc.) besides reading some books? Which is fine but I’m pretty sure most of the people reading this blog have done the same. My point is: You’re in no position to tell your readership to educate themselves when it is all too often obvious that you need more education on a lot of topics yourself.

  11. You’re totally right about the other countries, I hope to make a post on them soon. You’re right, the MNT development thing is a bunch of guesses. The landscape is changing constantly. I don’t disagree that I make some guesses, but when I make guesses, at least I admit it. My opinions are just opinions — the point I am complaining about are people that skim a couple popular books and look at a WIRED article on nanotechnology and then talk here like they’re experts.

    I’ve not read “some books”, I’ve read hundreds of papers and dozens of books, both academic and popular, on the issue. My mailbox is exploding with dozens of books and DVDs that various nanotech policy and educational organizations send me for free. I have a whole section on my bookshelf for those.

    I’ve spent 7 years studying science and technology almost full-time, writing over 1,600 short articles for wisegeek.com. I have over a million published words on S&T issues online, have been participating in CRN’s Global Task Force since it was created, have served as a peer reviewer for scientific conferences like the European Conference on Computing and Philosophy, and have been involved in the Foresight Institute for almost a decade. Sure, I always need ongoing education, but when it comes to MNT, I know quite a bit about both the science and policy discussions, which is why I’ve been on panels at conferences and leaders in the field debate with me. Me being arrogant does not equal my education being bad. Me realizing that space travel costs millions of dollars and is uneconomical and dangerous at our current level of tech does not equal my education being bad. I can be the most arrogant person in the world who laughs at space travel and still be very well educated on these topics.

    Seppel, I obviously know a lot about space, you just have a problem with me because I recognize how difficult it is to get there.

    In the end, I’m just trying to discourage “casual readers”. I want them to be angry at me. I want casual readers to feel alienated. I want them to leave. I want them to go read a few things and come back when they understand the basics. They don’t have to agree with the basics — just understand them. If they want to criticize the basics as foolish, that’s great — as long as they know them.

  12. Sir IQ

    “I’ve not read “some books”, I’ve read hundreds of papers and dozens of books, both academic and popular, on the issue. My mailbox is exploding with dozens of books and DVDs that various nanotech policy and educational organizations send me for free. I have a whole section on my bookshelf for those.”

    Nanotech is a technical field not a non-technical field so unless you understand the technical aspects of it you are an outsider. Do you understand advanced theoretical physics and chemistry? If I were to give you a Quantum Chemistry problem could you solve it? Could you pass a Princeton Math Graduate Studies entrance math exam in abstract algebra? What about passing a graduate final in group theory at MIT?

    “I’ve spent 7 years studying science and technology almost full-time, writing over 1,600 short articles for wisegeek.com. I have over a million published words on S&T issues online, have been participating in CRN’s Global Task Force since it was created, have served as a peer reviewer for scientific conferences like the European Conference on Computing and Philosophy, and have been involved in the Foresight Institute for almost a decade. ”

    What are you Charles Dickens and paid by the word? Please I would be impressed if that were per year but over 7 thats almost laughable. Since I do 360,000 words per year or about 5-600 pages assuming around 600 words per page which is probably low but of course nobody counts that way. Mike there is nothing wrong with being arrogant if you are truly superior intellectually.

    Mike I am going to let you in on a secret since you are unlikely to discover this for yourself don’t post your credentials unless you actually have some. You are not a scientist nor a researcher, nor an inventor you have no room to speak of credentials nor to talk down to anyone. If some day you actually have written some math papers or invented some technology please tell us otherwise you are a nobody in the tech world.

    “Seppel, I obviously know a lot about space, you just have a problem with me because I recognize how difficult it is to get there.
    In the end, I’m just trying to discourage “casual readers”. I want them to be angry at me. I want casual readers to feel alienated. I want them to leave. I want them to go read a few things and come back when they understand the basics. They don’t have to agree with the basics — just understand them. If they want to criticize the basics as foolish, that’s great — as long as they know them.”

    So Mike since you harp on knowing the basics allow me to demonstrate your complete ignorance of the basics… if you delete this post it will be evidence that I am right so here are two basic problems for you to solve and Mike these are basics in the real science world not the fantasy one you inhabit:

    1.) This problem is related to physics: prove that the eigenvalues of hermitian operators are real.

    2.)Another physics related problem: If O_1 and O_2 represent two different solutions to the Laplace equation show that O_3=O_1 +- O_2 and that O_4=O_1 * O_2 does not satisfy the Laplace equation.

    So Mike time to show your stuff to flex the muscle between the ears. I want to teach you that even if you think your smart there is always someone smarter. Hanging around with dumb people tends to give you an inflated view of yourself. So if you want serious scientists to take you seriously show you know your stuff by proving you know the math. Until then your claims of knowledge are meaningless and make me cringe as do any claims such as yours with no proof to distinguish them from the other deluded ignoramuses out there. Mike you are not that smart and I am smarter then you. So prove me wrong that your not just an arrogant ignorant person and solve the problems above. Oh by the way show your work. No work no proof.

    Sorry about any grammar or spelling errors I am writing this way to late.

  13. Sir IQ, I can’t do those problems because I’ve never studied quantum mechanics. I guess you win!

  14. Seppel

    I’m not that impressed with your credentials if you can call it that. However I believe that you’re capable of making valuable contributions to the discussion (you don’t have to be an engineer or scientist to do that), just stop being so arrogant.

    “Seppel, I obviously know a lot about space, you just have a problem with me because I recognize how difficult it is to get there.”

    Everybody recognizes it’s difficult to get there. But there are some very smart people today who are actually building rockets who think that it is possible to lower the cost of access to space with current technology by a factor of ten, maybe even more. That alone would change a lot. Google SpaceX.
    In the long run extremely cheap access to space is feasible and thus space settlement and resource utilization. I believe humans (present day models and enhanced versions) have a future in space.

  15. jerry

    I wasn’t commenting on your spelling.
    Your a very good writer.
    I got exactly what u were saying.
    That’s the problem, I picked up the attitude too.
    People can read books, and not get “it”.
    They can have certificates, high IQ, learn how to use spell check, and still appear heartless.
    I was suggesting you give your posts
    a day on your desk, re-read them with a new perspective, u might see something u want to change.

  16. Dom

    I very much think that you might look back and read this article in 5 or 10 years and it will make you cringe.

    Anyway, are you not supposed to be some sort of public outreach person?

  17. Sir IQ

    Mike you misrepresent me, my interests are not in winning some intellectual pissing contest with you of course I’d win, I am just trying to get you off your high-horse. Stop being a hypocrite and either admit you are just an observer with no credentials beyond that or learn the science and become more. If you want to legitimately distinguish yourself from the average person then you have to do the scholarship otherwise welcome to the land of average people. If average land is your choice fine then don’t be so arrogant since it is unwarranted.
    Don’t worry I won’t post again, your blog is a total waste of my time.

  18. All that I requested is that people have some knowledge before they speak. For instance, I’d bet that less than 50% of commentators in some of my MNT threads have even read the Wikipedia page on MNT. Is it so arrogant to request that commenters have at least have a bare minimum of knowledge on the subject?

    This is especially true when I get such fine responses from commentators on other blogs — Richard Jones, J. Storrs Hall, Paul Raven, et al. Many blogs like this have simply disabled comments. I could easily engage almost exclusively with other knowledgeable people if I disabled comments, yet I haven’t yet done so, in respect for those 30% or so of commenters who have some background knowledge.

    My “high horse” is a very low one — anyone can ascend to it in a few dozen hours of serious study. I know 16 year-olds who have achieved significant background knowledge in nanotechnology and MNT, like Bryan Bishop.

    For the purpose of this post, “arrogance” is being defined as having the gall to demand any level of background knowledge from the audience. Even if it’s only a few dozen hours of reading. I guess, on the Internet, the standard is “we can comment on everything no matter how little or much we know, and if you object, we hate you.” Otherwise, my request for a little bit of background knowledge would seem entirely reasonable.

  19. jerry

    It’s the way you said it ok!
    I think your blog is the best, really.
    Been reading it for along time,
    never said a word.

  20. Greg

    I have long been skeptical of the whole “Leading Force” (first mover military advantage) scenario. My reason for believing this is based on the observation of the past few years that as the progress towards MNT has been made, the advances have not been proprietary to any one country, the technologically advanced nations of the world have been traveling more or less in lockstep. It is, of course, possible that someone (or several players) have been funding a “black” military tech development effort(s). The inherent problem with such efforts is that they cut off the natural and powerful feedback mechanisms that come from interacting with the academic and business R&D world in order to preserve secrecy.

    But let us assume, for the sake of argument, that someone does manage, via a “Nanhattan Project”, to build a primitive nanofactory in advance of other advanced nations by a significant amount of time, I would estimate a year or two to be achievable, whereas anything in the 3 to 5 year range starts seeming increasingly implausible to me. That nation, I would contend, would now be the proud possessor of a Eutactic Paperweight. Like the computers at the dawn of the computer age, a proto-nanofactory is all potential and very little (immediate) utility and for the same reason: no pre-existing software to run on your boxes.

    So let’s look at your “Stealth Assassin Microbot” (I will call it SAM, for short) scenario as illustrative of this dynamic. First off, even if the military of the nation you are talking about manages to come up with a set of design codes that the primitive nanofactory can produce with acceptable yield, they are far from home free. The thing about modern weapon system development that is not well understood by those outside the Military Industrial Complex is that most such programs are better understood as embedded software development efforts with some new hardware on the side. The software development effort dominates the schedule and budget for the new weapon systems in a way that I am sure the average person in the street does not comprehend. The effort to develop a deployable SAM will, I think, be even more software intensive than most- you are trying to crowd an awful lot of autonomy into an awful small package. Given that it is not unknown for military software development projects to stretch to decade long efforts, even if one can crank out large numbers of SAM copies, they would be “all dressed up with nowhere to go” for what is likely to be an extended period of time.

    Furthermore, by the time the software has been developed for SAM (by which time the potential adversaries will all likely have nanofactory capability of their own) it faces range of potential countermeasures that potential victims can deploy. But before I attend to any question of countermeasures, I would like to point out that using the jet stream to distribute SAM is highly problematic for a reason that stretches back to the Age of Sail, the wind goes where “it wants to go”, not where you want it to go. Depending upon such an unreliable vector to get your SAMs within striking distance is likely to be suspect, at the very least, from a military perspective.

    So, that said, there are a decent range of options that a prospective defender can deploy with some methods requiring more tech than others. Let’s start with mosquito netting either as a point defense or nanofabbed into an area defense. Here’s one of the more exotic ideas that occurred to me: wind machines might make a surprisingly effective point defense (thanks to Reynolds number considerations there are definite limits on how fast a microbot can go in sustained flight, too much of a headwind and the SAM will be unable to compensate). Another countermeasure can be to repurpose the laser bug zapping tech that the folks from Intellectual Ventures LLC are developing (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123680870885500701.html). If the defender possesses nanofactory capability, this approach can potentially be made to scale up from a point defense into an area defense method. There is also the classic Engines of Creation-style active shield, which would certainly require nanomanufacture capability to implement. In addition to all of the above, given a somewhat moderate nanomedical capability it will be much harder for the SAMs to kill anyone. There are antitoxins for botulinum which, presumably, can be fabbed and since the toxin tends to kill by paralysis of the respiratory muscles, respirocyte infusion should provide the time needed to either neutralize or excrete the toxin. Finally, there is the good old low tech approach: declare that SAMS are WMDs and announce that any attack with them will be treated as such (implicitly threatening a nuclear response to such an attack) allowing one’s existing deterrent force to deter SAM attacks as well as other NBC type attacks.

  21. Greg, what sources or news sites do you usually use to stay up-to-date with advances in nanotechnology?

    Nice ideas for anti-SAM countermeasures, I’ll try to remember those when I’m a military commander fighting against a nanofactory-armed rival. ;-)

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