Thursday, July 18, 2013

Grey-goo - what's all the worry about?

What is often overlooked when considering the machines that would be created in the singularity is the fact that these are machines with functions and controls.  Sure, a machine that appears intelligent may be frightening were the machine to begin attacking humans, one must remember that it is still a machine.  This is cause for inspection not fear; fear is the mind-killer.

Let us consider the Grey-goo, that wave of nano-machines that would conceivably consume all matter on earth, including humans.  One might look at the Grey-goo with a sort of resignation at the hypothetical; it seems futile to try to fight the Grey-goo, given the assumption that such machines would tear apart even the most impenetrable of human barriers.  However, this power that is seen in the Grey-goo is not the complete picture; there are aspects of the Grey-goo that could lend to their trivial destruction.  Suppose the Grey-goo consists elector-mechanical nanobots; you need only set off a nuclear bomb at 17,000 kilometers above the surface of the earth, and the Grey-goo turns into a pile of sand-like metal to be blown away by the wind.  Suppose the Grey-goo were to consist of a biological pathogen, a sort of biological nanobot; kill it with fire.  Napalm might be banned for use on human soldiers by international treaty, but the Grey-goo isn't exactly human.  The smell of napalm might be appealing, but the stench of the burned pile of Grey-goo might be overpowering.

While I will admit that it is possible that the gray-goo could consist of neither electro-mechanical or biological, or even that the goo could find solutions to these serious flaws, it nevertheless stands that if we are to be concerned about the Grey-goo, then we ought to find ways to defeat it (if peace is not an option).  Worrying about the insecurity of one's own house against burglars normally encourages people to actually improve the security of one's house; no change would take place if the person did not care enough to bother.  Whether or not the house is actually insecure is irrelevant; the Grey-goo does not exist, at least not in so far as it is actively consuming Earth.  Burglars do exist and are actively breaking into people's houses.  If you care about Grey-goo, then think of how you would stop it from consuming the planet; worrying without consummate effort amounts to learned hopelessness.

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