Sunday, February 15, 2004

I, for one, welcome our new nanotech masters

Douglas Mulhall, author of 'Our Molecular Future', is concerned that the directons being taken in our quest for nanotechnology are overlooking some important issues:

Yet each time that I suggest building such features into nanotechnology from the start, the reply is: "We've got other things to worry about such as how to build the darn assembler and keep it militarily secured, and besides that it might be hard to achieve such perfection with early versions."

This is disturbingly reminiscent of "nuclear power will give us clean limitless energy, and don't worry, we'll deal with the byproducts later because we'll have the tools by then.'

However, we can avoid such risks from the start by using "self-regulating assembly" and "disassembly."

It's a simple idea, really: if you are going to use nanotechnology to build incredibly tiny, complex, 'intelligent', and functional devices, it makes more sense (and indeed may be a moral requirement) to make one of their functions cause them to breakdown into their component elements, which can be recycled or even blow away in the breeze for that matter.

I don't have much doubt that the human race is going to kill itself off through greed and stupidty; I think it is a foregone conclusion that this will be the case. The chance that our nanotech creations will hook up with our genetic algorithm ideas and create something new and completely uncontrollable seem pretty high to me, and the simple expediency of building a time-to-die (doesn't anybody remember "Blade Runner"?) into the device would go a long way to hold off our inevitable doom a bit longer.