poly: Re: the destruction problem (was: singleton)

From: Anders Sandberg <asa@nada.kth.se>
Date: Fri May 01 1998 - 06:34:16 PDT

"Nick Bostrom" <bostrom@ndirect.co.uk> writes:

> Hal Finney wrote:
> > We already face
> > a situation where small groups are capable of causing immense damage to
> > the world, through biological or nuclear terrorism. At this point it
> > appears that this problem is only going to get worse.
> >
> > Advances in biotech may allow for tailored viruses like an air-vectored
> > version of ebola (which kills very quickly). In ten or twenty years it
> > is likely that virtually any motivated group could create such a bug,
> > and it is not at all certain that countermeasures would exist.
> >
> > Then of course nanotech will raise the stakes even farther, allowing
> > more destructive power and potentially easier design mechanisms.
> These are simple but very important insights. (I have yet to hear a
> sensible extropian proposal for how do deal with this situation.
> Personally I suspect that individual freedom etc. will in the future
> only be possible *within* the singleton.)

I agree that this is a major problem, with or without singleton -
after all, the singleton might not be able to keep every subunit from
doing something awful. This was my major complaint with Halperin's
world in _The First Immortal_: there is dangerous nanotech, but thanks
to the presence of truth machines it can be kept safe. Just because
you can ask everyone "Will you use your nanodevices for something
nefarious?" and get a true answer it does not follow that somebody
couldn't build them in secret, and plain mistakes can be just as

Peter's three solutions doesn't seem strong enough: basement ebola
strains are a threat here-and-soon, so we cannot rely on making
backups of ourselves. Being able to run doesn't help against many
threats, especially if we are still limited to one planet. And the
threat of retaliation only works against rational or traceable

I think the best solution is nature's way: maximum diversity and
dispersal in the large, and as strong defenses as possible locally. If
there are many and dispersed groups, then most threats will just
destroy a few, and the others may have time to prepare a defense. How
to achieve this dispersal and perhaps even isolation in certain
respects is tricky, but given either singleton intervention or a rush
outwards this might be possible if the technology and environment
allows it. Locally, each community/habitat/sub-singleton/whatever
would of course do its best to limit the risks of its destruction,
something that is of course evolutionarily encouraged. In this model
disasters would be limited rather than non-existent; a kind of
self-organized criticality where lessons from smaller problems are
used to prepare for larger problems.

Anders Sandberg                                      Towards Ascension!
asa@nada.kth.se                            http://www.nada.kth.se/~asa/
GCS/M/S/O d++ -p+ c++++ !l u+ e++ m++ s+/+ n--- h+/* f+ g+ w++ t+ r+ !y
Received on Fri May 1 13:41:51 1998

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