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Some background on Bill Joys Dystopian views

By kraant in News
Wed Mar 22, 2000 at 01:39:45 PM EST
Tags: Science (all tags)

I've been thinking about Bill Joys "luddite" rant for a while. Especially the replies where people said that he was being far too pessimistic. So I started doing some research to see what kinds of safeguards people have in mind for self replicating nano machines. And no effort seems to be put into thinking of effective safeguards against the grey goo scenario...

This Link is the only thing I could find that really talked about it in depth and it mainly seems to focus on industry self-regulation as the best system, which I find kinda scary. What kind of safeguards do people think would work?

Another Interesting link is

Foresight Update 11


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Some background on Bill Joys Dystopian views | 13 comments (13 topical, editorial, 0 hidden)
If Joy is right, the raw materials ... (none / 0) (#4)
by bobsquatch on Tue Mar 21, 2000 at 08:36:21 AM EST

bobsquatch voted 1 on this story.

If Joy is right, the raw materials to create a huge disaster will consist entirely of:

  • A general-purpose self-replicating thingie maker (i.e. a virus manipulator or nanite factory)
  • A recipe for creating a nasty virus or nanite (i.e. a program)
No "weapons-grade material" required -- a terror weapon is the same stuff as a medical treatment, except for the programming.

If the first item becomes cheap or common enough (the second item comes free with the internet), you can bet there will be calls for the regulation of the tech. Expect "open-source" molecular biology to be smacked down hard once the Powers That Be realize (or just "think") that easy-to-obtain general-purpose bio/nanotech gives every hacker^Wscript kiddie with a grudge the ability to create a terror weapon.

Hell, we're seeing calls for computer regulation now, when internet data-transfer only threatens a few (obscenely fat copyright-driven) industries -- when the internet bomb plans get paired with easy construction tech, everybody's going to be calling for an internet smackdown.

Or maybe I'm just cranky.

It's not an issue of regulation. I... (none / 0) (#2)
by Nyarlathotep on Tue Mar 21, 2000 at 09:28:08 AM EST

Nyarlathotep voted -1 on this story.

It's not an issue of regulation. It's an issue of more educated FDA people following normal FDA procedures. I'm shure you have heard all those libertarian rants about how the FDA should be abolished, so people can experement with dangerous cures if they want. Well the truth is our FDA is designed to deal with some pretty angerous shit.. including potentially contagious things like gene thearapy. My point is we have a good/slow regulatory system. The thing we really need to restirct a little bit more is unqualified medical advice and psudoscience like herbal remadies and fake psychlogy (includes Freud's psycho analysis, self help books, scientology, religion).
Campus Crusade for Cthulhu -- it found me!

Re: It's not an issue of regulation. I... (none / 0) (#7)
by CodeWright on Wed Mar 22, 2000 at 02:02:55 PM EST

If the FDA tries to regulate recombinant DNA technologies (genetically modified organisms) and/or molecular engineering (nanotechnology), all that will do is force the technology innovators overseas. In other words, virtually guaranteeing that the next industrial revolution (ie, the one following the first [machine/hardware], and second [information/software]) will start someplace else -- relegating the United States to the same backward place in the world economy that the restrictive regimes of Europe have relegated them during the latter half of the twentieth century (even though they rode the crest of the first industrial revolution).

Chances are that the various pacific rim nations and/or India would have NO qualms about leapfrogging the first world and vaulting into the spotlight by pushing hard to develop nanotech.

At the very least, they would be able to become the military bullies that the US has become through riding the crest of the Second Industrial Revolution (ie, success in Desert Storm was solely due to American technological superiority in software -- Iraqi hardware was roughly equivalent and outnumbered the Americans 3:1).

A: Because it destroys the flow of conversation.
Q: Why is top posting dumb? --clover_kicker

[ Parent ]
Re: It's not an issue of regulation. I... (none / 0) (#10)
by Nyarlathotep on Wed Mar 22, 2000 at 03:23:10 PM EST

The FDA regulates the application of recombinant DNA technology now, at least as it pertains to medical care and food. The thinks they do not regulate are basic research and industrial applications. No one should be regulating the *kinds* of basic research which can be done, there are regulations on the *methods* of research when it involves animals/humans, and the industrial applications are harmless (consist mostly of tricking a bug to produce much more of something then would be healthy for it natrually). The researchers and companies are not going to move to third world countries because they need access to western Universities. success in Desert Storm was solely due to American technological superiority in software Software may have been a major part, but it needs to be integrated with the hardware to really do the job, i.e. Microsoft Office just dose not cut it. Plus, there are plenty of hardware advances in the US millitary (stealth planes, etc.), people just talk about software because it is in vogue.
Campus Crusade for Cthulhu -- it found me!
[ Parent ]
Re: It's not an issue of regulation. I... (none / 0) (#11)
by rusty on Wed Mar 22, 2000 at 03:38:06 PM EST

> i.e. Microsoft Office just dose not cut it.

I just got this bizarre image of a phalanx of winking animated paper clips arrayed across the desert as far as the eye can see, facing off against a platoon of Iraqi tanks. Thank you for providing my daily dose of surrealism. :-)

Not the real rusty
[ Parent ]

Re: It's not an issue of regulation. I... (none / 0) (#12)
by Nyarlathotep on Thu Mar 23, 2000 at 01:46:37 AM EST

I normally would not cross post from slashdot to here, but the following will add to your amusment. (This is in responce to post in the story talking about how the millitary was affraid of people hacking into their system. The post said "Duh, Don't use PC Anyware!") In related news the Cult of the Dead Cow announced that they were buying the makers of popular remote administration program PC Anyware. Members were reported as saing "We have cought a lot of flack for hackers who write remote administration software. This has allowed inferior products like PC Anyware to take some of our market. This merger is benifitial to both PC Anyware and Back Orafice. It will provide PC Anyware customers with the more powerful Back Orafice which has a better interface, plugin support, more portable clients, and is open source. Back Orafice will recieve use of the PC Anyware name which should allow more companies to use the product officially." The U.S. millitary seems happy about the merger. They reported that they have had security and preformance problems related to their new PC Anyware / NT driven missles. "Back Orafice's encrypted connections and higher preformance are exactly what we were lookng for in a remote administratin product and the Butt Plugs feature offers a better interface to specialised hardware then PC Anyware could" the report said. The repost went on to say that Back Orafice's interface looked cryptic and difficult when the product was first considered, but apperently a large portion of recruting age males recieve training in the use of Back Orafice from their High Schools and this is expected to offset any difficulties encountered.
Campus Crusade for Cthulhu -- it found me!
[ Parent ]
The subject's very interesting, but... (none / 0) (#3)
by henrik on Tue Mar 21, 2000 at 02:53:03 PM EST

henrik voted -1 on this story.

The subject's very interesting, but i think it deserves a better writeup. It'd be good if you could expand the story a bit, talk a bit more about what you found and possibly include some of your own ideas. (btw, anyone read the diamond age by neal stephenson?)

Akademiska Intresseklubben antecknar!

cool but not my thing... (none / 0) (#1)
by rongen on Tue Mar 21, 2000 at 07:10:32 PM EST

rongen voted 0 on this story.

cool but not my thing
read/write http://www.prosebush.com

I've seen a few decent refutations ... (none / 0) (#5)
by dgfitch on Wed Mar 22, 2000 at 09:56:14 AM EST

dgfitch voted 1 on this story.

I've seen a few decent refutations of the grey goo concept itself. Can't find any right now, but this is an intruiging subject.

... (none / 0) (#6)
by marlowe on Wed Mar 22, 2000 at 10:39:08 AM EST

marlowe voted 1 on this story.

--- I will insist on my right to question ---
-- The Americans are the Jews of the 21st century. Only we won't go as quietly to the gas chambers. --

Re: Some background on Bill Joys Dystopian views (none / 0) (#8)
by CodeWright on Wed Mar 22, 2000 at 02:17:39 PM EST

There are a fair number of people working on research and techniques to build the bottom level tools (building-blocks) for the technology of molecular engineering (the list includes: biochemists, genetic engineers, gene therapy researchers, industrial chemists, particle physicists, computer scientists, mathematicians, and roboticists).

Although only the most rudimentary devices (gas filters, small motors, atomic manipulation tools, dna computers, synthetic bio-organisms) have been created thus far, it is just a matter of time before the first "programmable devices" are built, and the first "assemblers" will follow soon after.

With the entire science being almost single-handedly founded by K.Eric Drexler (himself a student of the august Richard Feynman), one only needs to read the books of Drexler ("The Engines of Creation", "Nanosystems: Molecular Machinery, Manufacturing, and Computation") to see that he has a clear grasp of the Gray Goo concept.

The visionary spec-fic author, Neal Stephenson, provided a very lucid description of the risks of unregulated nanobots and the PRECAUTIONS taken by the "have's" (vs. the "have nots") to protect themselves from the adverse effects of hostile nano (The Diamond Age).

In short, the people working to make this a reality have already considered the risks, and will, no doubt, take steps to protect themselves (at the very least) from the adverse effects.

My advice? Be enthusiastically involved in the development of nanotech -- you'll make a fortune and ensure your own physical safety (that's my plan anyway!).

A: Because it destroys the flow of conversation.
Q: Why is top posting dumb? --clover_kicker

Re: Some background on Bill Joys Dystopian views (none / 0) (#13)
by Anonymous Hero on Thu Mar 23, 2000 at 02:27:17 PM EST

As far as I can tell grey-goo was never really considered by anyone as a realistic possibility given the difficulty of making even quite tightly constrained assemblers. However, the point that `enthuisiastic people working on the projects will ensure safety if only for their own safety' is a dangerous assumption. It's commonplace for businesses to take minor risks when they believe the potential payoff is worth it. And to see that this applies equally well to scientists just look at the cases of researchers working on infectious diseases who have breaches of quarantine procedures to some extent and then violate the procedures that they've set up for such a breach because they're too inconvenient and the probable risk is minute. (Take as an example the history of the `Ebola Reston' outbreak described in `The Hot Zone': major breach of procedure for people possibly exposed to a very deadly infectious virus which as it happened turned out ok.)
I personally think that we'll develop these new technologies in a safe way but only because people who are deeply worried about the consequences will force the pioneers to sit down and plan contingencies even when they don't want to, and will make sure that nothing where the risk/danger ratio isn't sufficiently good is developed beyond the initial idea stage.

[ Parent ]
Daunting (none / 0) (#9)
by nascent on Wed Mar 22, 2000 at 02:54:49 PM EST

Joy made an observation that sorta ...[thwacked] me on the side of the head.

The observation is that any defense or safeguard that we might come up with likely be more dangerous than the threat. The canonical example for years to come will likely be the never-quite-got-there Star Wars program thought up by (I believe) Reagan.

After all, when you can locate and stir-fry every leader and military counterpart in an enemy country from lower earth orbit, how crude is non-discriminating nuke??


Some background on Bill Joys Dystopian views | 13 comments (13 topical, 0 editorial, 0 hidden)
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