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US military funding nanotech & implant research

from the implanted-nano-survelliance-for-combat-readiness dept.
William Morgan reminds us of the Defense University Research Initiative on Nanotechnology (covered here previously) and adds: "Topic #16…on this related page may be a mind-opener for some too!" CP: the whole list at that second URL is interesting; see also items 8, 12, 13, 18, 35, 36.

12 Responses to “US military funding nanotech & implant research”

  1. Kadamose Says:

    This is not GOOD news

    If the military gets their hands on Nanotech, the world is doomed…no 'ifs', 'ands', or 'buts' about it. They must be stopped at all costs!

    If you people truly value your lives, then take my advice and rise up against this abomination. Nanotechnology is meant for all of us…not for the government/military.

  2. jade Says:

    Re:This is not GOOD news

    This may not be good news, but at least we know that the military was always interested in nanotechnology; and I think we don't even imagine at what point. If governemental credits and funding to civil research were to be closed, due to various reasons (economical crisis, i.e), there would still be plenty of money for military research. Ralph Merkle wrote clearly that military applications of nanotechnology would push general nanotech research forward. This ain't a big surprise to me, folks…

  3. kurt Says:

    Re:This is not GOOD news

    Naturally the military will be interested in nanotechnology once they convince themselves that it is real and not flaky speculation. Since the military tends to classify as secret anything that it developes, much of thier development work will, of course, be hidden from public view. Really, the only way to deal with this constructively would be an "open-source" approach to developing nanotechology, like Linux. Also, everyone else and thier kid brother (other countries and people) will be working on the same developments as well.

  4. kurt Says:

    Re:This is not GOOD news

    BTW, the US military really wanted to develop bio-weapons when Nixon shut them down with the bio and chemical weapons ban treaty in 1972. The military was reportedly quite angry with Nixon over this. Of course, this treaty just paved the way for the Biopreparat program in the USSR, which was heavily funded during the 70's and 80's.

  5. MarkGubrud Says:

    A bit of perspective

    As long ago as 1988 I wrote that there should never be any military use of "nanotechnology" as I understood the concept at the time, i.e. as depicted in EoC in terms of self-replicating assemblers and super-AI.

    I have since modified this position: There must never be a military confrontation, such as the Cold War (and continuing) nuclear confrontation, at such a level of technology.

    However, any attempt to ban all military use of "nanotechnology" in the broadest sense of the term would be futile and perhaps even counterproductive. There can be no doubt whatsoever that much of the research effort in general nanotechnologies will be, and is, military-funded, and that early applications of general nanotechnology will be incorporated into military systems.

    Furthermore, there can be no doubt that the military as an institution, not only in the United States but in most other nations of the world, will continue to exist during the next few decades, i.e. the period in which we expect nanotechnologies, including assemblers and assembler-based nanosystems, and advanced artificial intelligence to emerge.

    So we will have to deal with the threat of future technology-driven arms races and confrontations in a more sophisticated way than by crying "STOP!"

    It seems to me that the military has a role to play in securing a peaceful future; the problem is to change the way that the military views its role, from "Preparing to fight the wars of the future," to "Working with the militaries of other nations to ensure stability."

    The military should become more deeply involved in arms control analysis and verification, should establish more and stronger ties with the militaries of other nations, especially possible future "peer competitors" such as Russia, China and India. The military should be encouraged to accept the notion that radical future technologies will necessitate radical arms control measures, and that the most advanced technologies should be applied not to weapons but to the means of verification of arms control and security-building agreements.

    Ultimately, the role of military establishments worldwide should be to cooperate in building an integrated international security system. Not a world government, which would prescribe laws to regulate civilian life, but a single system ensuring that no one would be able to use force in violation of international law or to assemble an offensive military capability that would threaten world peace. In that context, we would certainly want the military to have use of the most advanced technology available.

    But first it will be necessary to change ancient attitudes about self-defense, deterrence, and national power. The military must recognize that in the world of the future, a good offense will no longer be the best defense, since its possession would only plunge the world into an uncontrollable confrontation. They must come to recognize that if one wishes peace, one must prepare for peace, while preparations for war will lead only to catastrophe. Militaries and governments alike must realize that if we are to have a secure future there is no alternative to the rule of international law, and that the use of military power to settle disputes will lead eventually to the rise of competitors armed with super-technologies, and thence to catastrophe.

    Asking the militaries and governments to adopt this change of perspective is asking for a lot. I don't think the best way to approach this is to say, "We must stop them before they get their hands on our magic nanotech!"

  6. kurt Says:

    Re:A bit of perspective

    Military use of nanotechnology is a tricky issue, which has no easy answer. A possible approach may be simply to increase the amount of civilian control over the military (which the founders of America clearly intended). We may have to carry this to the point where we abolish the current military system that we have, and replace it with a "civilian-based" militia system much like the system that the Swiss use.

  7. MarkGubrud Says:


    1. The United States developed biological weapons in the 1950s and 1960s. It was helped by data from experiments conducted by Japanese Gen. Ishii on Chinese subjects. Ishii, BTW, was never prosecuted as a war criminal. The US was interested in possible use of these weapons against Asian populations, and allegedly made some experimental use of BW in Korea. However, the weapons were considered to be unreliable and unpredictable, and ineffective against troops in combat. The US military would rather fight on a battlefield without BW/CW, where US superiority in conventional warfare and nuclear deterrence can be expected to prevail. 2. The treaty you are referring to is the Biologial Weapons Convention, which was implemented without verification measures. This treaty does not address Chemical Weapons. Nixon did order a halt to US production of offensive chemical weapons, but the United States retained CW stockpiles until the Chemical Weapons Convention came into force in the mid-1990s. The CWC is implemented with strong multilateral verification and enforcement provisions. 3. The BWC did not "pave the way for the Biopreparat program in the USSR". It had no effect whatsoever on the Soviets' ability to develop biological weapons, and apparently little effect on their willingness to do so. On the other hand, it did make the program illegal, and the Soviets did not succeed in keeping it secret. The idea that US relinquishment of offensive BW, even without an international arms control regime, creates any kind of opportunity for competitors is a fallacy. If another nation wants to develop these weapons and is unwilling to agree to a verifiable and enforceable ban, there is little we can do to stop them. Development of our own BW arsenal would not help us to develop vaccines against unknown agents that another country might develop. Defensive measures such as detection, filtration, isolation and decontamination procedures can still be developed.

  8. MarkGubrud Says:


    You won't get very far with proposals to "abolish the current military system", and certainly not with proposals to replace it with a bunch of amateurs. This ain't Switzerland.

  9. Malcalyps Says:

    Re:A bit of perspective

    I agree that the one of the military's most important roles in the present and in the future will be to "keep the peace". If any agency or organization will have the capability to create and keep updated a good active shield, I should think it would be a military agency. Multi-national cooperation will hopefully enable overlapping active shields so that no "one" nation has an anti-nano-terrorist protection monopoly. And no "one" active shield has to face the responsibility to be able to counter every threat. Multiple cooperative shields will prevent abuse from corruption within any single shield controlling agency. "Who's watching the watchmen?"

  10. MarkGubrud Says:

    confusion about shields

    I see a lot of confusion about the concept of "active shields." Drexler introduced this term in EoC, and it seemed to have been inspired in many ways by SDI or "star wars," which was advertised as a program to develop weapons that would only be used as a defensive shield against missiles. In reality, almost all of the SDI-era proposals, many of which are currently being revived, could have other military uses, including uses that are either explicitly offensive, such as attacking satellites or ground targets, or could be part of an offensive strategy, i.e. suppressing retaliation after a first strike. This example illustrates the basic problems with the "active shields" proposal: How do you define "defensive," how do you guarantee that weapons and technology you develop as part of a shields program can't be used offensively or aggressively, and how can you reassure potential adversaries of your intentions, so that pursuing such a program doesn't end up compelling you to enter into an arms race that combines both defensive and offensive preparations? Drexler did not examine these issues in any detail, and to the best of my knowledge, neither has anyone else since.

    In the meantime, with the end of the Cold War, attention has turned away from issues of stability in big-power relations, and toward concerns about terrorism or WMD in the hands of "rogue" states that can't be trusted with them. In reality, it's hard to imagine a state more roguish than Iraq or North Korea, and both have had chemical and biological weapons capabilities for a long time. But neither has made any large-scale terrror attacks against the United States, so I guess deterrence still works, even against evil madmen like Saddam or Kim.

    There is no doubt a need for protective measures against terror attacks in the future, but we probably can't provide shields against deliberate attacks by states, or even well-heeled terrorists.

    I do not see "active shields" as providing a foundation for security in the future. There has been little or no work to flesh out the concept, so it's a bit hard to find anything specific to criticize. But it is clear that securing peace among and within nations is a more difficult problem than just a matter of coming up with the right combination of clever gizmos, and furthermore, there is a great danger in putting so much faith in our ability to devise foolproof "shields" that we ignore the reactions we provoke from those who might suspect us of being interested in "swords" as well.

  11. Demosthenes Says:

    Some food for thought

    What about the possibility of nanotechnology causing the end of the military and therefore war? Sound too Utopian?

  12. MarkGubrud Says:

    Re:some food for thought

    This is what we all hope, but I think you've basically got the order of events backward. I know that's the usual excuse for continuing militarism, but unfortunately it is probably the only way things can work. You have to ramp down militarism, create a structure of arms control and international security, have a long period of peace and institution-building, and finally the militaries of all nations will evolve into a single system not oriented towards fighting between states, but towards maintenance of peace and security among states.

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