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Bootstrapping a Nanofactory – An Inteview

2012Rocky writes "Chris Phoenix talks about his recent paper 'Design of a Primitive Nanofactory' with 'All About Bootstrapping'"

3 Responses to “Bootstrapping a Nanofactory – An Inteview”

  1. Morgaine Says:

    Somebody had better be looking at nano defenses

    I enjoyed the technical perspectives in that interview, to add to those in the paper.

    The political perspectives were less useful given the reality of the world. The key problem with that approach is that no amount of political action short of a global police state is going to stop nanotech development across several hundred countries and at potentially millions of development sites. If extremely strong coercive control measures are put into effect, they will at most impede the good guys. Hundreds of unaligned or counteraligned countries will exercise their sovereignty and ignore the "attempted technical imperialism" of the US and allies. Thousands of organized crime groups will do their usual nasty things out of the public limelight, and millions of independent developers will simply take exception to being branded criminals (file sharing comes to mind) and will potter along doing their own little bit towards progress. There's no stopping it.

    That's the real world, and political wishful thinking won't sweep it under the carpet. Global deadly force might work as a control, but I hope that we're not going there.

    Most people know roughly how the Internet works so perhaps that's a good metaphor for the problem that's developing, as well as for thinking up a few types of constructive solutions. Political action isn't going to stop spam nor viruses, nor will publishing guidelines for responsible action — they miss the appropriate targets altogether. But firewalls help a lot, as do application-level filters, cryptographic barriers, and so on.

    In a nutshell, we need to think about nanotech defense mechanisms, because while IBM's nanomachinery (as an example) may incorporate internal restrictions, the vast majority in the world will not. I know it sounds grandiose, but I for one would like us to keep this planet in some sort of reasonable shape at least until we have some alternative place to live, and mere politics is not going to achieve that. Of course military think tanks will have looked at the issue already, but when I say protect the planet I do not mean just protect the military installations and political systems, but also my and your neighbourhood.

    We need a reality check in this area. Looking to political measures to safeguard our planet is so short-sighted that it's not even funny. Somebody please stand up and say that it's not the only idea in the pot.

  2. ChrisPhoenix Says:

    Re:Somebody had better be looking at nano defenses

    There are several ideas in the pot, but I don't like any of them.

    A big question is whether defensive technology or offensive technology or suppressive technology will be significantly more powerful than the other two. I've been thinking for a while that defensive would be notably weak. This would be extremely bad; many scenarios lead straight to unstable arms races.

    I'm not quite as sure now, as it seems arguable that the thing to do is never build bots under a cubic millimeter, and instantly destroy any you find. This prevents a lot of sneak attacks–assuming the bot-finding technology is effective, but if not, we're eventually overrun by goo anyway. This really depends on whether non-proximal subwavelength imaging works out; I think you need something like that for a decent firewall.

    In theory, MNT-based suppressive technologies (surveillance + AI image interpretation + brain scanning and intervention) can trump offense and defense, but only if they can be used preemptively. This probably leads to a very oppressive system no matter who implements it.

    You worry about only military installations being protected. With distributed MNT manufacturing, any and every location is a potential military installation. One strategy, then, is to disperse widely and protect all areas evenly. But probably a better strategy is to apply a diversity of protection schemes to each area, which reduces the chances of the enemy wiping out the nation–but leaves many areas vulnerable. But if an attack can't succeed, it probably won't start.

    This is not even an overview of the options–just a sample of a few of the possible combinations of starting conditions from which options emerge. I do think that political measures will be important; even if they can't work in the long run (and I agree with you there), they may keep us alive long enough for something better to emerge.


  3. Morgaine Says:

    Re:Somebody had better be looking at nano defenses

    A big question is whether defensive technology or offensive technology or suppressive technology will be significantly more powerful than the other two.

    I don't really see it as a two-sided balance with the heavier (stronger) one winning. Attacks on the net probably give us a better metaphor (which you've used too), and although there are clear differences, quite a few of the possible attack vectors and defense strategies have counterparts in both areas. In particular, some of the very hard lessons that we have learned from DDoS attacks give us some insight into pre-seeding and multi-vector attacks, and make it pretty clear that no single strategy is going to offer a viable defense. Nor is any centralized strategy going to work, for pretty obvious reasons, nor is any purely passive strategy, because at the very least you need to disrupt the local attack pathways before you succumb to seige tactics.

    There are several ideas in the pot, but I don't like any of them.

    That makes two of us, and we're probably in the company of a few thousand more. :-) But the world changes, and while there are some who want to deny change despite denial being tantamount to leaving oneself open to destruction, the onus is on those who have a more constructive approach to "defend the world", as it were, or at least their families, homes and neighbourhoods. It does seem a worthwhile goal.

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