Re: poly: The singleton hypothesis

From: Peter C. McCluskey <>
Date: Tue Jun 09 1998 - 07:04:25 PDT ("Nick Bostrom") writes:
>Peter C. McCluskey writes:
>> When the military has some needs that are different from those of
>> the open researchers, it may also have the problem that the best researchers
>> may prefer working in open, peace-oriented labs.
>A *good* singleton would be the ultimate peace- and openness-utopia.

 Just as benevolant tyrants have been better than the alternatives in the past?

>Failure to support the research in the military labs of their own
>nation could lead to some evil nation getting there first. Thus
>conscientious scientists should rally to the military labs (at least
>in the nations that are considered to be good by their citizens).
>This is what happened with the Manhattan project, which was supported
>by many of the leading physicists of the Allied nations, plus some
>defectors from Germany.

 Since they seem to do this only to defend against aggressors, not to
make aggression easier, this seems to be inconsistent with your expectation
that a military which is willing to strike first will be technologically

>> I agree that military labs will have technological edges in some
>> specialized areas. I don't see these specialized improvements giving
>> decisive advantage over what competing military organizations will
>> be able to create by copying and enhancing upon the open research.
>Suppose you have an assembler, and that there are a number of
>nanomachines around that perform various tasks such
>as cleaning up dioxin in the lakes. Then all that a military lab

 Hardly something I expect to be one of the first uses of nanotech.
People are much more likely to insist that nanomachines be designed
to reproduce only under special laboratory conditions until that
has proven safe (and it's probably easier to design such nanomachines).

>would have to do would be to design a variant of this nanomachine
>that, say, replicate and, with delayed action, eat enemy steel
>structures. Then they've won.

 They've won a battle. Plenty of people would still refuse to
surrender. Some independent nanotech research labs would still be at
least partly functional.

>Methodological remark: I wonder if that is the reason why people
>fail to realize certain consequences in this domain -- they keep
>thinking in terms of historical examples. I instead tend to think in
>terms of what will be technologically possible, and what a
>cost-benefit analysis implies that rational agents would do in these
>completely novel situations.

 Forecasting what is technologically possible is hard enough that at least
half the time smart people get it very wrong.
 Insulating yourself from the accumulated wisdom of history doesn't cause
your technological forecasts to be more accurate.

Peter McCluskey          | Critmail ( | Accept nothing less to archive your mailing list
Received on Tue Jun 9 14:20:58 1998

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