Re: poly: The singleton hypothesis

From: Nick Bostrom <>
Date: Tue Jun 09 1998 - 20:14:33 PDT

Peter McCluskey wrote:

> 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
> superior.

Scientists will prefer to help the powers that they perceive as the
"good guys", whether they be the aggressors or not. Of course,
historically speaking, aggression has usually been bad, so maybe
scientists have favoured the non-aggressors more often than
aggressors. Yet, the formation of a singleton by a responsible,
democratic power could well be seen as a good thing, especially if
one considers the alternative, which is that the evil guys form the

Often, scientists are opportunists and simply work for whoever pays
them most. Da Vinci made war machines for an evil monark, and today
Russian nuclear scientists help rouge nation develop the bomb.

> >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.

What if you have another nanomachine that eats enemy plastic, and
another that destroys glass?

> 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.

I'm leaning mostly on Drexler when I make assumptions of what is
technologically possible. If Drexlerian nanotechnology and
superintelligence are impossible then, of course, my argument fails.
Is this what you are suggesting?
Nicholas Bostrom
Department of Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method
London School of Economics
Received on Wed Jun 10 02:36:14 1998

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