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How to Control Runaway Nanotechnology

  1. Nov 4, 2011 #1
    Controlling Runaway Nanotech

    Keep in mind; the ideas presented below are wholly unvarnished and strictly theoretical. Therefore, I fear we may look back at these notes in ten years, assuming we're still here, and have a big laugh. Using history as guide, we probably shouldn't even try to assume the role of futurist. However, if only one person gleans just one idea of inspiration from the following, it may tip the balance in our favor. I sincerely hope so.

    In this chat, we all generally agreed that nanotech will eventually need some sort of control. The parallel to nuclear and biological weaponry is compelling. Therefore, we start from the premise that nanotechnology, or more specifically molecular nanotechnology, is both feasible and potentially deadly if not made safe by either regulatory action or some other form of control.

    A timeline for development of functional nanotechnology could be as early as 10 years or as many as 50 years away. The general consensus, baring any unforeseen catastrophe, is that we’ll see functional molecular nanotechnology developed within the next 30 years. By functional we mean, working nanotech assemblers capable of creating dangerous virus like replications; more popularly know as ‘gray goo’.

    The United States National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI::www.nano.gov), plans to spend $847 million in 2004, which will represent a 9.5 % increase over 2003 $774 million. Other governments such as Japan and a handful of private companies have already started their own nanotech projects.

    Thus, it's obvious the push is now underway to develop the technology. With this push, it's imperative that we consider and implement solutions soon before it’s too late.

    The following suggestions are ordered by perceived effectiveness. 1 - 3 are offered as primary suggestions. While 4 - 6 offer more controversial options. Ultimately we may see the need to use a combination in order to be successful. It’s worth noting that no one suggested we try and stop nanotech development completely. It’s generally believed that a total ban would lead to even greater problems.

    Preferred Suggestions:
    1. Openness Scenario
    Go forward with funding and promotion of nanotechnology so that the technology is developed out in the open. Allow for and encourage a public dialogue and debate on the impact and possible misuses of the technology. This will create an environment of innovation and openness that will inspire and give people more tools to plan and avert catastrophe.

    2. Benevolent AI
    Create artificial intelligence quickly. The thinking here is that a super intelligent entity could help humans with complicated decisions concerning nanotech. We would design the AI entity to a strict ethical and moral code. The AI would not have any self motivated or self-interest conflicts; therefore we could trust the entity to guide us with impartiality.

    3. Transhumanization
    Biology is delicate and vulnerable not only to nanotech but also simple aging and other threats to life. Therefore, this solution is highly favored as a general approach to physical immortality. As a possible solution to the threat of nanotech, a transhumanized body, augmented with upgrades and shields, would be better able to fend off dangerous nanotech.

    Controversial Suggestions:
    4. Accelerated Development – Stay one step ahead of dangerous nanotech by developing greater and smarter counter nanotech checks and measures.

    5. Human Control Measures – (Guns don’t kill people, people kill people) If we’re unsuccessful at keeping dangerous nanotechnology in check, and especially if we see horrific death tolls from terrorist use of nanotechnology; we may have to resort to human behavioral and monitoring options. All people may be required to undergo brain map screening for potential aggressive behavior. Or, a lie detector test may be a common check point apparatus. But, however, abhorrent this measure may seem, the alternative may seem justified in a time of crisis.

    6. Self Regulation
    This idea would leave the control and monitoring of nanotech up to the individuals creating it. There would be a peer review council involved to monitor the nanotech, but this controversial method would avoid government control completely and leave the decision making and monitoring up to private companies and individuals.

    - Bruce J. Klein
  2. jcsd
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