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Nanotechnology, US Government, and Secrecy 275

Posted by Hemos
from the in-the-open-or-in-the-clear dept.
Glenn Reynolds has written an interesting, albiet a bit speculative, in regards to the role of the US Government in the possible quieting of nanotechnology research. As Gleen points out, there's some good pre-existing guidelines to research as well, from the Foresight Institute.
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Nanotechnology, US Government, and Secrecy

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  • Nanotech != Good. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by NickRob (575331)
    Has anyone ever thought that nanotechnology can be used for a whollllle lot of evil. I mean, in theory, it could used as Syphon Filter or Fox-Die (anyone else notice those games had the same plot?). A programmable virus, effectively destroying whatever they want. The UN has mentioned that idealy 80% of the world's population would be killed.. This could be a means to do that.
    • Re:Nanotech != Good. (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Kintanon (65528) on Thursday April 25, 2002 @10:44AM (#3409386) Homepage Journal
      Fuck that! I want nanobots in my bloodstream that automatically repair wounds, keep my arteries clean, and generally upkeep my body. Prefereably extending my lifespan to 200 or so years. Which should be long enough to implant my brain in an immortal robotic body that is indistinguishable from human in all the important ways. If the government wants to make Nano-bombs, fine... As Long as I get mine.>:)

      Kintanon
      • by Servo5678 (468237) on Thursday April 25, 2002 @10:46AM (#3409397)
        I want nanobots in my bloodstream that automatically repair wounds, keep my arteries clean, and generally upkeep my body.

        I think this is how the Borg Collective got started...

      • I want nanobots in my bloodstream that automatically repair wounds

        You mean Platelets?
      • Our government is obssessed with power.

        Nano technology = the ultimate weapon

        You and I see nano technology as a way to extend our lives and make our lives better.

        Nano Technology is good, I support it, i think we should be spending hundreds of billions on nano technology and things like it.

        We also should be spending hundreds of billions on reforming the school system.

        Theres always ignorant people, the problem with public schools, the current system isnt built to create mature intelligent thinkers, its built to create good hard workers who respect authority.

        Thats good for a labor based society where you can be dumb as hell as long as you obey orders. As society changes to a more intellectual society, we need to teach children to think for themselves. we need to redesign school in a way so that it teaches them to think for themselves.

        College seems modern in this respect but highschool and middleschool need complete reform, kids are just doing work from text books and following scripts,

        you dont learn by following the script, you learn by creating the script.

        What we need to teach in schools now, responsibility, maturity, the ability to think for yourself, the ability to teach yourself and teach others, and the ability to learn from others.

        Ways to do this, Set up the school system so that students teach other students, set up the school system so students are often required to learn about something on their own without being guided by any teacher, get rid of tests and exams and use the portfolio system which judges a student by the quality of the results of their work and not how many small facts they memorize, and last, give the children state of the art technology, let highschool kids learn and do experiments with nano technology, let them learn about bio tech in highschool if they choose.

        By putting more money into the school system it will allow schools to buy the equipment needed to teach kids about these very important and dangerous technologies.

        If we keep doing things the way we do it now, we will create a bunch of drones who cant think for themselves, and eventually some intelligent terrorist will decide to attack us with a nano virus and no one will be smart enough to defend themselves from it.

        Instead by educated everyone about nano technology, everyone will be able to develop ways ot defend themselves from it, even if this means everyone creates various nano anti virii or develops a way to completely destroy nano bots such as EMP fields

        Education and Research is the key, we should be spending the majority of our money on this.
        • At the high-school level, I tend to agree with you. On the other hand, children at grade-school level are still in need of many basic skills that require lots of drill/practice/memorization.

          It's great to be a "free thinker", but you also need a core set of knowledge to base your ideas on. Otherwise, you end up with utopian dreamers, and people who frustrate themselves with failed attempts at achieving their goals, simply because they don't have the basic science and math needed to do it properly.

          I think it's best to get as much memorization and boring drill practice out of the way early in one's life. Until you reach a certain age, your mind isn't really ready to deal with more abstract concepts anyway. Use this to the best advantage by teaching handwriting, multiplication tables, phonics, spelling, etc. when the child is real young. (For that matter, parents of newborns should be reading to them and spelling to them. Sure, they're so young it seems pointless, but all those sounds they're hearing you speak aren't lost on them. Their brains are already hard at work, trying to process all of this to prepare them for speaking the language.)
          • Not everyones brains are designed for that.

            I think up until middleschool, kids should learn the basics. Once they learn to read and write, they should learn to think.

            memorizing multiplications are pointless when you have calculators

            soon reading may be pointless too, our schools need to focus on whats important, alot of skills being developed are skills no one ever uses and will forget anyway, so it was a waste of time.

            As technology advances, so should schools, we have calculators, why waste all these years in school teaching them to do math manually as if they'll ever need to do this?

            All this time they could be learning things like computers, and logic based math, most math now you need a calculator to do, and besides the really basic stuff like how to add, and subtract, you dont really need to do the other stuff in your head.

            How many people divide fractions in their head? if you have to do it on paper, then its no diffrent than doing it on a calculator, so why teach them to do it on paper at all?
        • Nano Technology is good, I support it, i think we should be spending hundreds of billions on nano technology and things like it.


          Nanotech is like all tech, merely acting as an extension of ourselves. Obviously the power this could impart could be tremendous... but as for good/evil, look at the people involved in its use.

    • Yes, it is possible that nanotech could be used in bad ways. The article is so vague that it is meaningless.. For example:

      Some work, presumably, would move into classified programs,...

      Gee there's some earth shaking news. Some stuff is classified. God damn gover'ment must be out to get me again!

    • by pagsz (450343) <pagsz81@yahoo.com> on Thursday April 25, 2002 @11:10AM (#3409552) Journal
      Like any other technology, it is not good or evil in and of itself. It just is. What people do with it is either good or evil.

      I must admit, there certainly are some scary possibilities with nanotech. Programmable viruses (as mentioned), which could be used to target specific groups or people (program by DNA); imperceptible tracking devices; and any other whacked idea you can come up with.

      But there are also some productive possibilities as well. That same DNA programming could be used to detect cancer cells. Or imagine nano-surgical bots, fixing organs without ever having to open up the body again. The possibilities are endless here too.

      The point is, the technology is going to go forward anyway. It's not like the U.S. is the only nation on earth researching nanotech. The question is: What do we do with it? Does it remain secret? A potential government monopoly? That would, in my opinion, be worse. The best way to discover the constructive and destructive possibilities of nanotech is to openly explore them; not to let the government say, "Well, that's a potential weapon. No research down that route." As I mentioned before, the same techniques that could allow programmable viruses could also allow DNA-targeted therapies, attacking cancers, bacteria, and (natural) viruses. So what happens then? Does fear trump potential?

      That's just what I think. But then again, I don't really know what I'm talking about. I'm just winging it (ten years and counting),
      • by AndrewHowe (60826) on Thursday April 25, 2002 @11:34AM (#3409699)
        "Like any other technology, it is not good or evil in and of itself. It just is. What people do with it is either good or evil."

        That's right, and when I finish building my "Death Ray", I will only use it for good.
        Honest.


      • We are educated commputer users here on slashdot, you dont see any of us getting infected by the computer virus, you see dumb people who dont understand computers getting infected.

        The solution to this problem is to educate all computer users, and no one will get infected by virii.

        The same solution works for Nano Technology, Kids should be learning about nano technology in highschool.

        We need highschool reform badly, kids are still being taught einstiens theories, most kids dont even know about super string theory, neither do most adults,

        You cant teach kids from text books that are 30 years old or older.

        Kids shouldnt even be learning from text books, kids should learn to learn, and learn to teach, I didnt learn this in public school, however i went to an alternative school which taught in this manner and thats where i learned to think for myself.

        Our schools create zombies who USE technology which they dont understand.

        Schools must change big time, technology shouldnt be slowed down because the RIAA and copyright laws dont know how to handle it, laws must change, the RIAA must adapt or go out of business.

        Its that simple, if people want to share music via napster, you cant hold back the technology, the best thing you can do is change the laws to adapt to it.

        Old people running this country dont understand change, they dont know how to adapt, thats the problem with having all old people in the government.

        • We need highschool reform badly, kids are still being taught einstiens theories, most kids dont even know about super string theory, neither do most adults
          Einstein's theories are still perfectly valid for almost every case, and are much better known and easier to compute than anything involving string theory. Just as Einstein's theories didn't make everyone abandon Newton, we shouldn't discard Einstein's theories for new ones when they still work well for predicting all sorts of physical phenomena. We should never gravitate to something just because it's new; we should instead use both the old and new ideas, each in their own domains.
      • Programmable viruses (as mentioned), which could be used to target specific groups or people (program by DNA)

        There's an ethical/pragmatic decision here: Do you design the nano to destroy those with or without some specific genetic marker? For instance, let's say you had two markers, one that invariably indicated some French descent, and one that likewise indicated German. If you're trying to favor the French by hitting everyone with the German marker, you'll also hit a lot of the French; if you go with hitting those without the French marker, you'll leave some of the Germans untouched.

        So it's not too viable a weapon, because you always end up with mixed-breed cousins of those you just offed pissed and coming after you.
        ___

    • by ioscream (89558)
      "The UN has mentioned that idealy 80% of the world's population would be killed.. "

      Umm... citation?

    • by GuyMannDude (574364) on Thursday April 25, 2002 @11:15AM (#3409590) Journal

      The UN has mentioned that idealy 80% of the world's population would be killed.

      Do you have some kind of reference for this statistic or are you just scare-mongering? When you post something far-fetched like that you should include a hyperlink to some corroborating evidence on the web.

      From my perspective the entire article by Reynolds was largely hype and scare-mongering. He makes references to rumors and whispers of a military crackdown on nanotech but never mentions where he's getting this stuff from. For all I know, he could have overheard a bunch of tie-dye shirt wearing hippies down at the local coffee-shop/pseudo-intellectual-hangout.

      That having been said, I ask is it even possible for the government to suppress something as big as nanotech? A recent issue of Scientific American had a multi-article feature on nanotech and the possible uses. It just seems that this is going to be too big and wide-ranging for even the Pentagon to be able to control. Yeah, he cites some examples in past history of how militaries have tried to suppress "essential" technologies but things are different now. It was easier in "the old days" for the government to control information. With the amount of free-flowing data that we have today I doubt that the government would be able to do a very good job of controlling any exciting new technology. Yes, I understand the important role the Pentagon plays in determining what research gets done. But these people aren't idiots. They realize the best way for the US to gain the lead in nanotech is to just let scientists run for awhile. Maybe in the future they'll try to steer the direction of research. But until I start seeing some evidence of this, I disregard Reynolds and all the rest as revving up the hype machine

      GMD

      • It was easier in "the old days" for the government to control information.

        Yeah, they kept the Atom bomb classified for about 10 years. Then some scientists published plans in a science mag - the Pentagon tried to suppress the publication, but failed when the US Supreme Court ruled that they couldn't classify something that they hadn't produced.

    • Re:Nanotech != Good. (Score:2, Informative)

      by DarenN (411219)


      I think it's sad that we all have to think this way. Nanotechnology, and specifically the branch of nanatechnology known as molecular manufacturing is the bright light on the horizon. It _could_ be used to for good. Making goods with no imperfections, from the molecular level for instance.

      Think spacecraft that don't fail, all manufacturing producing 100% "perfection" rates, no failures. Goods that last for longer, and are more reliable.

      And what about the workforce. Oh, wait a minute. Seeing as virtually everything will be made by nanomachines, that removes any form of slavery....

      Unforunately, no-one in the current power structure wants these things. Goods that don't fail mean no replacement or servicing. Machines that can build houses quickly, and perfectly, kill the building industry. There goes a vast number of your workforce. And there's more!

      Basically, the advent of nanotech and molecular manufacturing will mean a seismic shift in our social structures and way of life, and like all such things, will be viewed as threats (like the tecnology that exists now) by those at the top of the food chain, because they threaten the power balance. And it's a sad indictment that this is so.

      I mean, can you see the 1st world bringing the rest of the world to a par with them? I can't, to be honest. From what I've seen and heard, there are too many vested interests, too many chiefs, and none of them want to listen to the indians. Otherwise, frankly, there wouldn't be nearly as much suffering in the world (remember that the world already produces enough food by volume to feed everyone on the planet, but economics, and I'm sure, politics prevents it)

      Medical nanotechnology such as the nanites that could extend lifespan by repairing the minor damages that eventually knock us off is wayyy cool too, but again, FUD will hold us back. How many will say "They're out to get us" when the time comes? Lots I can think of :)

      Anyway, I'll leave my rant here :) But I would encourage you all to think what a world where unskilled labour is virtually unecessary, and everything is high quality and low cost. Because that's what nanotech will ultimately mean

    • In my previous post i mentioned how our government spends very little on nano technology. The reason is most people arent ready for even computer technology. Look at our laws and how our government and copyright system refuses to change with the technology.

      Old laws dont work anymore, its time to change.

      This is exactly why we need to educate the people to a much higher standard.
      Most of our money should be on building much better schools, we need a complete reform of the school system so school creates people who are free thinkers instead of bots who work in an office.

      More and more, our mental abilities will matter.

      Nano technology is good, we should put hundreds of billions of dollars into this, but if we are to accept these advances in technology we must advance socially as well..

      No more wars.
      No more creating terrorists (like bin laden)

      We need to find a way to handle oppressed people in the third world, so they dont all become terrorists.

      I'm personally ready for nano technology, I think alot of people on slashdot may be ready, but your average idiot is not ready.

      I'm hoping, if we spend vast amounts of money on education, it will cause less people to be ignorant, In a society filled with nano technolgy we cannot tolerate ignorance anymore, a KKK member will be able to destroy all minorities in an instant, a Nazi will be able to destroy all jews in an instant.

      The only thing we can do, is educate ignorant people in such a way that they are less likely to do stupid things.

      Some people we wont be able to educate at all, but at least by building better schools we give it a shot.

      • Old laws dont work anymore, its time to change.

        Old laws work just fine. They just need to be enforced - trespass is trespass. The only difference is that, with a computer, the trespasser can be remote from his activities. All we really need is for a couple of judges to rule on which juridiction handles this sort of thing and we should be fine.

        • Old laws dont work just fine

          Thats why no one agrees with them!

          If old laws worked fine people wouldnt be using napster,

          No one wants the old laws anymore, except the RIAA and maybe you.

          Most people want to either get rid of copyright, or tone it down a bit

          Lets think of copyright in the nano technology world.

          Imagine us telling some poor people "No, you cannot materialize your food, the apple is under copyright by FruitCo, you can just starve to death but you wont be breaking this law!"

          Or "No you cannot use your brain to computer interface to share such thoughts, these thoughts are patented!"

          You see, technology will make these laws seem like a joke. Laws have to adapt and change with technology, you cant have 200-300 year old laws with technology which is designed to make those laws obsolete.

          Its kinda like, if someone created software which generated all of the best possible music compositions, then the software creator patents it and copyrights everything, this guy now owns all the best music.

          Thats just BS, as technology moves fowards, laws should adapt, society should adapt, its the only way we will survive.

          Or else you'll just create more terrorists as the gap between the rich and poor widens, and the haves and have nots widen, these have nots will have nano technology but due to your laws wont be able to live like kings like you can, they'll become terrorists.

          Look at napster if you dont believe it will happen.

      • We need to find a way to handle oppressed people in the third world, so they dont all become terrorists.



        Excuse me?!? Osama bin Laden is an OPRESSOR, he's hardly some misused guy who's been oppressed. He's POed because we have a military presence in the patch of sand he considers holy (as differentiated from the patch of sand I consider holy, or you consider holy). We're there at the INVITATION of their government. This is the guy who helped the Taliban into power, arguably the most opressive government in recent memory. The take home story is that there are and simply will always be people who act in ways which can't be explained rationally. Alternatively, we're oppressive because we by and large let people live however they want to. Normally, I wouldn't say that, but in the context of people like the Taliban, we're a hippie's dream.


        The only thing we can do, is educate ignorant people in such a way that they are less likely to do stupid things.


        Fear this, because it will never, never, never happen. The day we give every Joe Sixpack the equivalent of a herd of nukes will be the day I switch my bet to amoebas as dominant lifeform on the planet.


        Of course, we could always cut the potential massive power of nanotechnology down to a manageable size. Just have Microsoft write the software (firmware? hardware?). If anything can absorb and negate vast computing power, M$ software can.

    • Car research should be stopped now; do you know how many people are already being killed every day by cars? The numbers are staggering.

      Car manufacturers are researching ways to make cars drive more efficiently (increasing the likelihood of long-term rampant roadkilling sprees) and increase their top speed (maximizing the damage done when one of these murderous machines hits its target).

      Did I mention that car ownership is on the rise? Did I ALSO mention that selling cars is a huge industry? I see conspiracies everywhere, trying to promote the pro-car lobbies!

      Something must be done. Write your political representatives and notify them that -- along with this newfangled "nanotechnology" thing -- you want the car lobby stopped.

    • All it takes is one bozo to put an = where he should have put an == to turn the whole planet into grey goo. I've been programming for nearly two decades now, professionally for a decade. I've followed behind other programmers. I would not trust 99.999% of them (Including myself, by the way) to program nanomachines.

      Oh sure, they'd probaly run simulations with the code first, and stuff. But SOMETHING always makes it through QC, and when a minor mishap could destroy all life on the planet, you REALLY want to be sure.

      • All it takes is one bozo to put an = where he should have put an == to turn the whole planet into grey goo. I've been programming for nearly two decades now, professionally for a decade. I've followed behind other programmers. I would not trust 99.999% of them (Including myself, by the way) to program nanomachines.

        If the level of competency of engineers designing molecular machines is that horrid, then, well, we have nothing to worry about.

        Molecular machines that would self-replicate out of control isn't exactly an EASY thing to create. It's not like someone making a machine to snatch CO2 molecules from the air will accidentally insert an extra line of code that will make it turn into something that creates grey goo. You have to set out to make such a machine - and there really is no use to making something that will replicate out of control from elements abundant in the environment.

        There are multiple BASIC ways to prevent such a scenario - such as using a trace element in the machine that isn't widely available will make sure that you won't have widespread goo.

        The nanotech books Engines of Creation and Unbounding the Future, both available on-line at the Foresight Institute [foresight.org], both discuss this issue in detail.

        Runaway machines turning all matter into more machines created by accident are a far remote possibility. Now, ones created maliciously are a bit of a different story.

        Disasterbation [everything2.com] is a useless mental activity you should try to give up.
      • Theres no unlimited energy source so grey goo isnt as easy as you think. Also, you can EASILY make the nano machines malfunction assuming they use electricity, EMP would work. Shielding would work.
        The elements like extreme cold and heat would work,
      • Heheheh. I just contemplated someone designing the first self-replicating nanobot and getting it stuck in an infinite loop. :)
  • The government wants to quash this for a good reason.

    We can't all be beautiful people walking around in skintight suits with Borg implants in our faces.

    Tim
    • The government wants to quash this for a good reason.

      We can't all be beautiful people walking around in skintight suits with Borg implants in our faces.

      Sure we can! When did you ever see fat ugly Borg in too-skimpy metallic thongs?

  • They're planting nanomechanical bugs all over the place, in people, around places, it's a total conspiracy, I swear to GOD! The resistance told me all about it when I stumbled onto some stuff onl...

    Oops, my bad. That was just the two months of Majestic I played.

    ... Or was it?
  • by Aexia (517457) on Thursday April 25, 2002 @10:41AM (#3409366)
    is that it's not^H^H^H easily noticed. But my bloodstream could NOT be chock full of nanoprobes right now, subtley altering me, possibly even changing my thoughts and what I'm NOT typing right now, without me even NOT realizing it. It could NOT lead to some kind of cognitive dissonance where people are being told one thing but they DON'T believe they heard something completely different.

    The future of nanotech is a HAPPPY HAPPY scary world.
    • is how slowly it's going - despite no end of speculation as to where it's going & what benefits it'll bring. I remember reading something somewhere that Japan's business community had invested the profits from microprocessor exports into nanotech. Maybe that's why America wants to slow down on researching nanotech - because the Japenese have already got a big head start.
  • See Stanislav Lem, "Invincible", "Fiasco"...
    The evil in such technology is that after some time you can lose control after it...
    Sad that defense is involved in it...
  • Uh... (Score:3, Funny)

    by nat5an (558057) on Thursday April 25, 2002 @10:45AM (#3409390) Homepage
    Glenn Reynolds has written an interesting, albiet a bit speculative, in regards to the role of the US Government in the possible quieting of nanotechnology research.

    Um, is it just me, or is this sentence missing something, like what exactly was written?
    • Obviously, he wrote a "research"; there's just a misplaced modifier and missing comma in front of the last word, not to mention the other half-dozen problems. The sentence should read:

      Glenn Reynolds has written an interesting, albeit a bit speculative, research in regards to the role of the US Government in the possible quieting of nanotechnology.

      See how much more fun Slashdot is if you squint a little and don't think very much?
      • Glenn Reynolds has written an interesting, albeit a bit speculative, opinion in regards to the role of the US Government in the possible quieting of nanotechnology
  • First of all its not like any slashdotters are hacking nano in their basements here, we talking about the majority being govt funded university projects in the first place, this is no different that a half a dozen other similar things the govt has done.

    We slashdotters for the most part are tech-heads, the same guys that a couple of generations before came up with dynamite and made nuclear fission a possibility, neither in its inception was anything other than an experiment or theory, and YES it is the use that becomes evil no the technology, but thats our problem, we are blinded by our views and say but its just science.

    Its science at a crossroads, where VERY easily it could be turned for purposes other than the utopian ones us slashdotters first envision, we see medical uses, technololgical uses, another may very well see a quicker undetectable way of killing as many people they can while inflicting the most pain and suffering.

    In the end there is no difference between a quelch on this technology and nuclear science. It will go on, the same people will be doing it but under different guidlines of research and collaboration. Since the Govt. is footing the bill for the majority of this research (over 90% at this point) isnt it fair they decide how its disclosed ?

    I do.....

    • yes, this interests me a little more than most research that is going on, but this same thinking applies to EVERYTHING.

      maybe not on such a grand scale, but all research could be used for good or evil. we can't always assume that it will be evil or earth is basically dead.

      make your nano-bots... make them do useful things... take a million dollars from al queada and develop evil nano-bots... go to federal prison... USA will stop the bots and blow up your country... that is how it works. if you use new technology for evil, you will get knocked the fuck out.
      • make your nano-bots... make them do useful things... take a million dollars from al queada and develop evil nano-bots... go to federal prison... USA will stop the bots and blow up your country... that is how it works. if you use new technology for evil, you will get knocked the fuck out.

        Um, right. And the US gets to decide what is "evil" and what is not?

        Thanks but no thanks. Contrary to the current general delusional state, evidence strongly suggests that the US isn't a very good judge of what is evil and what isn't.

        • US definition of evil:

          anything that impedes freedom. pretty straight foreward.
          • US definition of evil:
            anything that impedes freedom. pretty straight foreward.

            Hoo boy. Even if that was the actual US definition of "evil" and not the PR version, that's not straightforward. Not at all.

            That's probably a fairly common impression in the US, though ... and arguably part of why the US is not a good judge of what's "evil" and what ain't.

            In fact, even thinking that it's about "good" vs "evil" is such a huge oversimplification that it's worthless ... except for manipulating public opinion, for which it's evidently incredibly effective.

          • US definition of evil:

            anything that impedes freedom. pretty straight foreward.


            Like Ashcroft's campaign to take away the freedom for people to commit suicide in Oregon - that the voters approved, twice?

            Like the fact that you don't have the freedom to marry whomever you wish?

            Like the fact that in some states, you don't have the freedom to have sex with another adult of the same sex? (even if the laws aren't that enforced)

            That in some areas of the country, women don't have the freedom to live in a house in large numbers? (sorority houses are banned in places such as Evansville, IN, because they're defined as a "brothel")

            I can go on and on about how many ways the government willingly impedes freedom.

            "Freedom" is a buzzword in America that isn't really taken seriously.
    • Since the Govt. is footing the bill for the majority of this research (over 90% at this point) isnt it fair they decide how its disclosed?

      "The Govt" is not footing the bill. The govt does not have any money. What it has is significant control over what is done with tax revenue, and it is at least supposedly accountable to the people whose money it controls and it is at least supposedly committed to implement the will of the people whose money it's spending.

      Now granted, reality has diverged a long way from the ideal, at least in the US, but that's no reason to think that the decisions should be wholly theirs. Though no doubt many of them would be happy for us to believe that.

    • " First of all its not like any slashdotters are hacking nano in their basements here..."

      Mwaaahhaahaahaaa...that's what you think !!

      (Note to any .gov agencies who might be reading this: it was joke OK, a JOKE) !

    • knowledge kills, we need to have equal knowledge.

      If the common man knows about nano technology, defending against it will be easi, there may be a suit which can do it, maybe emp waves or static electricity
  • Help! Someone please remove these evil nanobots from my bloodstream before they....achphbtptp....There are no such things as nanobots, it's all a conspiracy.
  • by ezekeze (451493) on Thursday April 25, 2002 @10:57AM (#3409470)
    Openness is a competitive tool, but now that the
    U.S. is clearly by itself as the worlds only superpower,
    its looking at errecting barriers to entry against
    competitors aspiring to catch up and surpass. Forget
    Europe here, think ahead a generation and look at
    India & China. We are talking about technology as
    a strategic asset, not just militarily but economically.
    And I think it won't be just a nanotech thing.

    Amazing how this trend runs counter to movements
    (enabled by the internet!) for scientists to be
    more open and abondon traditional publishers for
    easily accessable electronic publishing!
    • There are some things that should not be open knowledge because some people are just not ready for the responsibility of the knowledge. Nanotechnology can pose a great threat to our survival. In fact, I bet there are more evil uses of this technology than there could be benifits.
      I think you're just being paranoid about the US.
      • In fact, I bet there are more evil uses of this technology than there could be benifits.

        If you really feel that way, you must have a serious lack of imagination.

        Utility Fog [everything2.com] is just one of the creative ideas that has been come up with.

        Go to the Foresight Institute [foresight.org] web site and read Engines of Creation and Unbounding the Future if you want to see how much benefit is possible from molecular machines.

        Nanotechnology can pose a great threat to our survival.

        Nuclear weapons pose a great threat. Genetic engineering poses a great threat. New technology always brings new dangers along with new benefits.

        The fact is, nanotechnology is coming. Attempts to stop it are futile - and will likely result in bringing around the bad effects originally predicted. Trying to stop or slow it isn't the right approach if you want to prevent it from being used in negative ways.
  • research squelched? (Score:2, Informative)

    by brarrr (99867)
    As an student who will be entering grad school in materials engineering this fall with the intention of doing research in nanotech type things (opto electronics and molecular electronics) this is mostly horseshit. (also doing research on constructing photonic band gap materials currently)

    The state of nanotech (a word that is surely to become a buzzword more overused any before) is such that no useful devices will come from current research for years. Compare it to the creation of the mechanical computer. The ideas are there certainly, but the execution in a useful mannar are long off. We just cannot control the exact placement of single atoms well enough, and possibly never will due to thermal energy (kT being larger than the intermolecular forces)

    Certainly there are and will be uses for nanotech in the near future, but none will be NEMS (nano electro mechanical systems) or other machinations or devices. Also it will be years before any 'intelligent' device could be created that could do more than just move from one place to another.

    Don't get me wrong, I'm excited about all that is in the field (comp sci, materials, bio, chem, physics) of nanotech, but it really is in an infancy. The current threat of anything being used harmfully is as far away as anything being use for good. There will be some things that will be 'censored' but those will be the monumental jumps in logic and technology that make the science become engineering, and useful products.
  • Duality (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Oculus Habent (562837) <oculus.habent@gm ... minus herbivore> on Thursday April 25, 2002 @10:58AM (#3409482) Journal

    Nanotech has some great possibilities, but some of the biggest advances are also the biggest problems.

    Like he mentioned - nanotech could "cure" old age. What, then, will we do with the rapid population increase? We don't have the resources to handle that many people. Move into space, perhaps. And what happens to our rights when an "old" person decides they now want to grow old and die? Suicide is illegal here, might that not also be? Can you imagine being imprisoned for life if life meant forever?

    Also, electronics are succeptible to electromagnetic fields. No MRIs for the people with nanotech running around inside them. And if you stand too close to the microwave or have a cellphone? It's bad enough with a pacemaker. What happens when nanotech is used to compensate for brian deterioration? Lead hats?

    Presumably the technology won't ever self-replicate. That would be a nightmare. Imagine the resources it would consume. We would need huge processing power in tiny spaces to prevent deaths from over-replication.

    Don't get me wrong. Nanotechnology has some great potential benefits - going where no doctor could safely go, curing terminal diseases, destroying viruses, and much more. But at first, all those advances will come at a pretty high price.

    It has been said that science and discovery is neither good nor evil, but scientists have to look at the potential consequences of their actions. Both Einstein and Oppenheimer were opponents of nuclear weapons after they had been created. A few quotes to close:

    I do not know how World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.
    -- Einstein

    I am not an evil man, but I have done evil things.
    -- Oppenheimer

    • by 2nd Post! (213333) <gundbear@pacbe l l . n et> on Thursday April 25, 2002 @11:19AM (#3409619) Homepage
      Why do nanobots have to be metallic and reliant upon the whims of EM?

      Virii and bacterium have been doing fine for millions of years without caring about magnetics except where it was an advantage.

      Cheese and yogurt, as an example, are produced by the action of special natural nanobots that react and process milk into portable storable food products. Beer and wine, as well.

      Nothing says nanobots have to be metallic at all.
      • Why do nanobots have to be metallic and reliant upon the whims of EM?

        You're right. They could be ceramic. But the leading research right now is using metallic atoms right now. Ceramic molecules tend to be on the large side for this scale work.

        Virii and bacterium have been doing fine for millions of years without caring about magnetics except where it was an advantage.

        Ok, a couple things here... first off, some of the nanotech that's going on make a virus look like a freaking planet. And bacteria are that much bigger yet than virii. So the scale is off.

        Second, you are no longer talking about nano-technology here. You're talking about biologics. The two are vastly different (although there is some work [eetimes.com] being done using bacteria as transistors). Bacteria and virii tend to be self-replicating, which is not a necessary goal for nanotechnology (nor is it inherently a good thing for nanobots - c.f. gray goo [50megs.com]). They are constructed entirely differently, and it's doubtful that we'd ever bother to build one "from scratch" instead of taking something that works and modifying it to do what we wanted to.

        Yeah, I suppose you could try and build nanotech out of protein chains and whatnot as well, but that's another field of research that's in it's infancy, even as compared to nanotech.
        • Is that what it's called?

          Anyway, scale aside, a machine doesn't have to be metallic or ceramic for it to work.

          There are different problems and issues with biological machinery than with robotic machinery, on the cellular scale, and I'm not sure that either one can be claimed to be 'out of infancy', though perhaps in strict comparison with nanotech, biologics is more primitive...

          I don't think we have a solution in either technology that can repair a genetic disorder yet, though we already have biologic agents that can kill people already.
        • Second, you are no longer talking about nano-technology here. You're talking about biologics. The two are vastly different (although there is some work [eetimes.com] being done using bacteria as transistors).

          Just a point of information...

          I'm not entirely sure what you mean by "biologics", but I'm guessing you mean studying biological, as opposed to man-made and mechanical, structures. If so, then you have a misconception.

          I think the popular conception of nanotech is these tiny robots or whatever, but this is a very bad misconception. In reality, most of the successful research in what is called "nano-technology" is really in the realm of biology. Just peruse the NSF's site [nano.gov] and you'll see all kinds of biological stuff here at first glance.

          One more thing... the plural of virus ain't "virii".

  • keep yer pants on (Score:5, Insightful)

    by OxideBoy (322403) on Thursday April 25, 2002 @11:05AM (#3409519) Homepage
    Considering where we are with current nanotech research, I'm a little surprised everyone's so worried about it. What's the forefront of nanotech right now? You have molecular machines, but so far no known way to really make them independently powered or make them self-replicate in anything more than the simplest manner -- "goo" (harmful self-replicating swarms of nanomachines) is a long long long way off, if in fact it's ever possible. While several researchers have used nanotubes to demonstrate some interesting electronic devices, such as single-atom transistors [cornell.edu], but the performance offered by such devices is still not "leaps and bounds" ahead of silicon CMOS. More conventional solid-state work is going on in pursuit of quantum computation [umd.edu] that the US DoD is sponsoring, not suppressing.

    I thought the analogy with 1950s comptuers was interesting, but I think a more appropriate analogy would be 1930s computing -- we're still a long way off.

    And did anyone else note that Reynolds of the article didn't cite any sources for these "rumors" of a "nanotechnology clampdown"? Bad journalism + ignorance = hysteria.

  • I've been working with nanotech for 2 years now. I don't understand people like this, suspecting the government of quieting our technology. We are allowed to freely... KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK

    Just a minute, let me get the door...

    403 - forbidden

    ACCOUNT DELETED
  • Especially this early in the morning.
  • by Byteme (6617) on Thursday April 25, 2002 @11:16AM (#3409595) Homepage
    ...from the Engines of Creation author makes this interesting statement [foresight.org]. QUOTE: The basic concepts have also been more controversial than I had expected. Even now, after (for example) the US Science Advisor has called for the development of molecular manufacturing, segments of the science establishment are still having difficulties with some quite simple ideas. I know it is a little old (1996), but the US has had this in the bag for a while I assume. Then again, I am sucker for a conspiracy.

  • How long will it be before the real (certifiable) paranoids start claiming that it's nanobugs making their lives hell instead of radio waves?

    Will the dust mask replace the tinfoil hat as a symbol of paranoia?

    I think it will be interesting to see how quickly this disseminates into the insane. Florid schizophrenic (hallucinating) paranoiacs weren't talking about being manipulated by radio waves a hundred years ago.

    Since schizophrenia often begins in adolescence, there are probably some like this already. On the other hand nanotech doesn't have the near universal recognition that radio does.

    No, I'm not on the government payroll trying to discredit anyone. This respirator is for my allergies.
  • I can think of a great example, I think a new intravenous delivery device based on the MEMs blood sugar monitoring devices with the bloodless micro-needles could be the answer to the vast majority of problems associated with drug abuse.
    Most of the clinically documentable physical health concerns associated with drug abuse have to do with damage to the organs through which the drugs are administered and with overdose. An internally regulated device that went directly into the blood stream without exposing the user, or those around the user to the user's blood would be a panacea in my book.
    But to people morally against the use of drugs rather than strictly concerned with the health effects, such a device would be the devil's own tool. For the same reason that I see such a recreation device as a promising panacea that could make even hard drugs socially acceptable and thus much more manageable, others would say is was the mark of the beast etc etc.
    So, in deciding what is abusive and what is not, you get into some rather grey areas. It's easy to say don't do bad things, but getting down to brass tacks on what's bad and what's good is not quite that simple when you're dealing with laege groups of people such as nations and planets.
    Even the notion championed by foresight of universal prosperity could be hard for many die hard capitalists to come to terms with.
    Texas Instruments has clearly shook up the projector world with it's Digital Video Processor MEMs chips. How long before Taiwan tools up to starts making those in mainland China. What will that do to projection TV makers and projector LCDs? Entire markets can be disrupted quickly by new technologies on a micro scale.
    Who knows? And what's taking so damn long? All I really care about is, when can I get a six pack of six second release Cocaine dermal patches and a few joints for me and the wife at 7-11 so I can go home and watch big screen movies from the hot tub in full effect. Is that too much to ask?
  • What I see as the real beauty of nanotechnology is this: if nanotechnology is able to scale-down well enough to allow for generalized molecular manipulation (which is definitely a controversial point), or further than that - generalized atomic m/subatomic manipulation, the rules which we use to govern information will have application to physical reality.

    That's a pretty bold claim, let me explain. Let's presume that such molecular/atomic manipulators would be computer-guided, I don't think that this is in dispute. Furthermore, let us assume that such techniques will allow for the production of much more powerful computers, capable of storing and manipulating the vast amounts of data necessary to model physical objects in molecular or atomic detail. Given these points, all that will be needed to convert an idea into a physical manifestation will be software, energy, and raw materials.

    Now, given that these things come to pass, we'll face a situation in which script-kiddies kill, DDoS is warfare, and P2P applications redefine the nature of culture (shared knowledge). If software can manipulate the physical dimension, the same rules which govern the Internet and digital technology will apply universally.

    The preventative measures we come up with today will set precedent for the measures which will be used to avert disaster in this hypothetical future, it would be wise to treat computers as we would treat citizens when we define new security protocols - we may end up living under them ourselves.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    The military (DARPA, Special forces, NRL) recently hosted a conference entitled Scientists Helping America [sysplan.com] which I attendeded. You can read notes on what kind of applications to nanotech and MEMS the military is interested in this [sysplan.com] big PDF document.

    It seems the DARPA guys read a lot of SciFi too.

    Topic include:

    • Signature Reduction
    • High Bandwidth/Reachback Communications
    • Underwater Communications
    • Unmanned Systems
    • Batteries/Fuel Cells
    • Remote Sensing
    • Advance Training Systems
    • Bioengineering/ Chem-Bio Defense
    • Directed Energy Weapons (DEW)


    I'm posting anonymously because I am PI for two MEMS projects for the military.


  • The RIAA killed napster because it threanted to change the system, change the laws, and advance technology.

    You see, our government doesnt want the system to ever change, but a system has to adapt or it will become obsolete.

    We are using a system thats thousands of years old, from back in the times of rome, its advanced very little sense then, we have been given freedom of speech and other freedoms however our laws dont fully follow, copyright for example is not even constitutional because its a form of censorship.

    Face it, we have been moving backwards not forwards. Until we as a society advance, all the technology inn the world wont help us.

    The gov and RIAA should have embraced napster, napster is what the people want, its the new technology, instead they tried to kill it.

    Now nano technology is being threatened. The reason? It, like napster will change the system completely, but unlike napster which only changes the music system, nano technology would completely change the whole economic system of the world.

    So, will governments do whats good for the people, or whats good for them?

  • Glenn Reynolds has written an interesting, albiet a bit speculative, in regards to the role of the US Government in the possible quieting of nanotechnology research.

    Time for some sentence structure review. Take out the comma segment in the beginning of the sentence, and we get "Glenn Reynolds has written an interesting in regards to the role..." Has written an interesting what?

    Come on, Slashdot! If you want people to pay for this damn site, you really ought to at least proof read your friggin' postings. Sheesh.

  • I work on nano technology, and at a secret government lab no less. So maybe I can say something intelligent. First, its pretty scary how misinformed the commentary here. what is nanotech? actually there is no such thing. its a marketing buzzword I put in my proposals to get them funded. One of the main funding sources for NANOtech is going to be the department of energy and the National Institutes fo health. nobody got upset when we all were talking about "microtechology" for the last 20 years. And that was an amorphous term too. And why anyone would think the governement would want to supress this is beyond me. With NIH and SBIR funding for this at record levels the answer is quite the reverse. The problem is that many of the nano-tech fronteirs are not ready for commercialization. thus Much of the funding is going to be governmental till certain breakthroughs happen. Certainly where it is looking viable, such as carbon nano-tube applications industry is jumping all over it. as for nanobot viruses. go buy yourself a slurpee and rent another startrek video gomer. good old biological viruses will do just fine for now and the forseable future. No one with any sense takes nanoviruses seriously. In fact its by studying cells and genomes and, most importantly, protein complexes that we will learn how to make self assembling molecular machines. and were no where along that path. Want to read up on this. see the DOE web page on the Genomes-to-life program. that's what that is all about. what science is on the verge of is using self assembling compounds to make hyper sesnistive transducers. like noses and such. Someday we will be able to clear landmines by sniffing them out. and even that is not practical yet.
  • Sounds bogus. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Animats (122034) on Thursday April 25, 2002 @12:32PM (#3410082) Homepage
    I don't see this. Mail-order gene synthesis [gene-synthesis.info] is still available with no restrictions. You can fabricate your own viruses that way. That seems more of a near-term risk than nanotechnology.

    Current US-government research [nano.gov] is becoming more heavily funded by the military. The near-term application seems to be sensors for various biological and chemical threats. That makes sense - one tiny nanotechnology unit is useful in that application. There's ongoing interest in a DNA reader, one of the obvious nanotechnology applications. Again, single units, perhaps assembled with a STM, work for that.

    Self-replicating nanobots are still a long way off. That's the application that gets everybody excited, but it's hard to do.

    • Re:Sounds bogus. (Score:3, Insightful)

      by gdyas (240438)

      I don't see this. Mail-order gene synthesis [gene-synthesis.info] is still available with no restrictions. You can fabricate your own viruses that way.



      Speaking as a molecular biologist who works with bacterial viruses, I'd like to quibble a bit about this. All the link you gave is to is a site that makes synthetic DNA sequences and puts them in a plasmid or phagemid vector. That has no relation to making a unique virus. Theoretically, I'd say custom-designing an AIDS-like viral disease vector from the ground up would take the full effort of about 6 people over 3-4 years & would require Biohazard Level 3 facilities to avoid killing yourself. A good Ebola-style killer is much more difficult because of the BL-4 conditions needed, probably needing almost a decade. Factor in even longer time frames if you'd like to invent a cure for this bug before you throw it out there, so you can keep your evil friends from dying.

      DNA is just a chemical, and alone it just sits there. The DNA the company you linked to makes is not in the form of a viral genome, and therefore can't be a viral component. Assuming the DNA itself has the proper phage origin of replication needed to perpetuate in a virus, it still needs a good bacterial host and a "helper" phage of some sort to co-infect with it and provide the remaining genetic material, the genes encoding the proteins your DNA lacks.

      Lastly, the main thing keeping biological weapons from being mass-produced is the fright level. The people with the knowledge of how to do this stuff know they can, with the design of the right agent, eliminate humanity. Most of these people are pretty smart and don't want to do that.

      Current US-government research [nano.gov] is becoming more heavily funded by the military.



      It always has been. DOD/DOE have always been big funders of research.

      There's ongoing interest in a DNA reader

      What, you mean like this one [appliedbiosystems.com]? Of course it's not nanotech, but you can usually get one for about 300K a pop. The ABI 3730xl DNA analyzer is the current state of the art in "DNA reading", and requires its own benchspace. Somehow I doubt I'll be doing high-quality DNA sequencing in my pocket anytime soon.

  • by mmacdona86 (524915) on Thursday April 25, 2002 @12:50PM (#3410177)

    It can't be that most of what we claim to be able to do one day is, in fact, impossible, with a good body of theory demonstrating that truth. If we are going to keep getting grants (and, God willing, venture capital someday) we have to keep our buzzword hot.

    The government is really interested in what we're doing, but wants us to keep real quiet about it. The government is suppressing us--yeah, that's the ticket. The government is suppressing us. Oops, I wasn't supposed to say that (wink, wink).

    Now, how can we get the message out? Who has watched so much Star Trek that they'll believe any damn thing is possible? I've got it!


  • Just imagine, for example, a similar effort devoted to computer technology, circa 1955

    This is exactly what happened in the UK after WWII. After building the world's first digital electronic computerw, the Colossi [codesandciphers.org.uk], they were destroyed and kept secret by the orders of Churchill. The result: the US took the lead in computing.
  • Ok, let me start off by saying that IANANTD (I am not a nano-tech dude); I'm actually not a scientist at all, technically, but a mathematician. That being said, I am an applied mathematician, I am involved with a group of mathematicians who are identifying theoretical questions in the theory (which we will subsequently try to solve). Also, I am at a university where a huge amount of experimental work is being done in nanotech, and we have of course been talking to the experimentalists extensively about what they are doing. So, long story short, I'm not quite an expert, but I'm on the fringes. I'd like to hear what an experimentalists out there might think...

    Put simply, this article is utter horseshit. This should be obvious to anyone to begin with, since the author repeatedly mentions the fact that he has no evidence to back up his claims, and the article turns into a polemic on "why it would have been bad for the government to restrict computers". In fact, the only content that I can see in this article is that he thinks it would be bad for scientists to ignore a new technology. Wow, that's a controversial opinion. Let me be a little more explicit: This article is simply muckraking, and has little to no evidence backing up any of its claims.

    The facts are that the money flowing into nanotech is just unbelievable, and a good portion of this is from the U.S. government, through agences such as the NSF, etc. (I won't attempt to hide the fact that this is exactly why the group I am involved with is trying to find good mathematical problems in the field.) Several national agencies have specific nanotech initiatives, and, consequently, the number of good people working in this field is exploding. Of course it is impossible to know what is being done that is classified (that's the point), but the amount of open science being done is

    • both extensive and growing rapidly,
    • strongly, strongly, strongly encouraged by both public and private funding.

    Also (and this is somewhat tangential), I think most people have a bit of a misconception about what nanotech is, because I certainly did. The impression I had a few years ago was that engineers are building some really small robots to do stuff on small scales (like in that book by Neal Stephenson, I forget the title, but it might have been his second?). Anyway, this is very much what is not going on right now (since this is far in the future). Essentially, the successful research being done in this field is two major groups: material science and microbiology. People are finding ways to build structures at the nanometer scale (but very simple ones, like tubes and boxes... no machines as of yet). People are also studying "biological motors", for example very complex proteins in our cells which convert energy to complex mechanical operations. Long story short, the problems are not nearly as sexy as is portrayed in the media (which should be no surprise), although they are very interesting, IMHO, from a physical and chemical viewpoint. (Not to oversimplify, there is work that is being done that doesn't fall into either of these two categories, but these are the biggest two.) Anyway, what I'm saying is that even what the engineers are doing right now is building things which, for the most part, have no specific purpose, but are just simple building blocks for something we may one day build.

    Disclaimer (if I need it): the above does not reflect the opinion of any organization with which I am affiliated, or the opinion of the university to which I am attached. It is simply the personal opinion of a working mathematician.

  • *smirks*

    Don't worry, missing the thrust of the argument isn't necessarily a bad thing. Surely, the article speaks about nano-technology, and surely there is a debatable issue here: Is nanotechnology a "Good Thing(TM)"; however, a more important point is also made by the article.

    Namely, that the US Government may be causing real and irreprable harm to the interests of the United States of America (and don't forget, the US Government is not the USA) by limiting the advancement, research, and free (as in speech damnit) discussion of a new and important area of research.

    As the article points out, the US did not become a^H the world superpower by having a larger military, or government; rather, the US out-witted the competitors by being (in the words of the article) "a more vibrant, [and] faster-learning society...." This is, and should always be the key to success in a rational and grown-up world.

  • Nanotechnology has moved to the same secret labs in the government where you find partially dissected alien bodies, antigravity machines, eternal motion machines, and the fountain of youth.

    In different words, nanotechnology is a lot of hot air. It has utterly failed to deliver on its promises: universal replicators, and the like, and there is no light at the end of the tunnel. The successes attributed to nanotechnology have instead come from traditional fields like materials science, physics, VLSI, micromachines, and molecular biology.

  • It is interesting that whenever people say something along the lines of "Terrorist-of-the-day is going to make nanotech to reduce Washington DC to it's component atoms" or "Grey Goo will devour the Earth", remember that, like Ninjas fighting Ninjas, nanotech can fight nanotech. Little bug wars happening inside your body and in the air you breathe...

    Tim

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