Dangers of Molecular Nanotechnology, Again

Over at IEET, Jamais Cascio and Mike Treder essentially argue that the future will be slow/boring, or rather, seem slow and boring because people will get used to advances as quickly as they occur. I heartily disagree. There are at least three probable events which could make the future seem traumatic, broken, out-of-control, and not slow by anyone’s standards. These three events include 1) a Third World War or atmospheric EMP detonation event, 2) an MNT revolution with accompanying arms races, and 3) superintelligence. In response to Jamais’ post, I commented:

I disagree. I don’t think that Jamais understands how abrupt an MNT revolution could be once the first nanofactory is built, or how abrupt a hard takeoff could be once a human-equivalent artificial intelligence is created.

Read Nanosystems, then “Design of a Primitive Nanofactory”, and look where nanotechnology is today.

For AI, you can do simple math that shows once an AI can earn enough money to pay for its own upkeep and then some, it would quickly gain the ability to take over most of the world economy.

Have Giulio or Jamais read “Design of a Primitive Nanofactory” or Nanosystems?

Knowledge of where we are today in nanotechnology, plus Nanosystems, plus “Design of a Primitive Nanofactory”, equals scary.

Where we are today: basic molecular assembly lines
The most important breakthrough: a reprogrammable universal assembler
Shortly thereafter: a basic nanofactory
Shortly thereafter: every nation with nanofactory technology magnifies its manufacturing potential by a factor of hundreds or more.

Chris Phoenix gets it. Jurgen Altmann gets it. Mark Gubrud gets it. Thomas Vandermolen gets it. Eric Drexler seems to have gotten it a long time ago. Michio Kaku, Annalee Newitz, and many others have called molecular nanotechnology “the next Industrial Revolution”.

When will others get it? Here’s a quote from the CRN page on the dangers of molecular nanotechnology:

Molecular manufacturing raises the possibility of horrifically effective weapons. As an example, the smallest insect is about 200 microns; this creates a plausible size estimate for a nanotech-built antipersonnel weapon capable of seeking and injecting toxin into unprotected humans. The human lethal dose of botulism toxin is about 100 nanograms, or about 1/100 the volume of the weapon. As many as 50 billion toxin-carrying devices–theoretically enough to kill every human on earth–could be packed into a single suitcase. Guns of all sizes would be far more powerful, and their bullets could be self-guided. Aerospace hardware would be far lighter and higher performance; built with minimal or no metal, it would be much harder to spot on radar. Embedded computers would allow remote activation of any weapon, and more compact power handling would allow greatly improved robotics. These ideas barely scratch the surface of what’s possible.

Will weapons like these in the hands of every backwater terrorist and militia lead to a future that is “slow” or “boring? It could lead to a future where numerous major cities become essentially uninhabitable.

Here’s a potentially illuminating quote:

“Revolutions are cruel precisely because they move too fast for those whom they strike.”
Jacob Bronowski

Comments

  1. Michio Kaku, Annalee Newitz, and many others have called molecular nanotechnology “the next Industrial Revolution”.

    Maybe – but IMO, it is more likely the next “industrial” revolution will be in IT – with a nanotechonolgy/robotics revolution lagging some years behind.

  2. An “industrial revolution” tends to involve manufacturing…

  3. Gus K.

    Tim:

    What do you mean that the next industrial revolution will be in IT?

    I don’t necessarily disagree. I just don’t understand what you mean.

  4. Michael

    I think Tim might be referring to this:

    http://www.accelerationwatch.com/lui.html

    http://memebox.com/futureblogger/show/822-avatars-will-soon-be-everywhere#fold

    Basically computers that “talk” with the user through avatars, running web searches by voice on smartphones instead of typing on desktops, mobile broadband everywhere etc.

  5. pold

    Michael, you are a noob.

  6. Gus K.

    Michael:

    Thank you for answering my question and pointing out those sites to me. This is fascinating research.

    Any narrow AI application that can improve search and related abilities will not only create billions of dollars in value but increase the collective intelligence of groups of humans (IA).

  7. Hello there, just wandered by. I have a Phoenix 4g website. Amazing the amount of information on the web. Not what I was looking for, but great site. Cya later.

  8. Excellent article. I am experiencing many of these
    issues as well..

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