Re: poly: The singleton hypothesis

From: Anders Sandberg <>
Date: Fri May 29 1998 - 00:38:19 PDT

"Nick Bostrom" <> writes:

> Since the open research is open, the military research could hardly
> fall behind -- they too can read all the papers that the open
> community publishes.

Actually, in reality they would tend to fall behind slightly since
open research is altruistic in a reciprocal way - while I publish my
results in widely accessible journals, I only tell my research
"friends" about what I am doing right now, the great idea I got
yesterday or the new lab technique I'm trying out.

For an interesting example of how this might work, look at virtual
reality systems. The military VR systems are *behind* many of the
civilian commercial systems since they tend to be developed in fairly
closed environments. This is actually even true for academic VR
research - while the concepts are great and can explore many new
directions, they are clunky and often behind that is done at
commercial VR companies.

> The question is whether, when the breakthrough
> is approaching, the military labs can push a head a little bit, at
> least regarding the military applications. This seems quite likely.
> (1) The civilians might not have much interest in the military
> applications;

Actually, civilians might be very interesting in countering military
applications, like developing protections rather than weapons.

> (2) They might even be banned from doing research on
> these aspects

Hard to do in a global research community, especially with *defensive*

> (3) An organization like the US military could muster
> enormous finansial resources if it thought US security critically
> depended on coming first to nanotech; it could buy up most
> researchers doing open research.

Could it? I think this is the mythical man-month idea, if you need
something done tomorrow, hire enough people to do it. Mongolian horde
tactics doesn't work well in research and development - people poured
money on SDI, and didn't get much. And buying up most resarchers
doesn't seem feasible unless there is a very small number (in
addition, other groups would be highly motivated to buy up the others
or help them remain independent if they perceived the US military as a

My impression is that the singleton hypothesis rests on the assumption
of dominant technology, i.e. some single technology or method that
gives you total power, especially in the respect of preventing anyyone
else from developing it. There is no evidence that such a technology
is possible, or likely to be developed.

Anders Sandberg                                      Towards Ascension!                  
GCS/M/S/O d++ -p+ c++++ !l u+ e++ m++ s+/+ n--- h+/* f+ g+ w++ t+ r+ !y
Received on Fri May 29 07:43:56 1998

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