A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
Defending Against Harmful Nanotechnology
Robert A. Freitas Jr. and Bill Joy are the two winners of the 2006 Lifeboat Foundation Guardian Award. The award is given to scientists or public figures who have identified possible problems with futuristic technology along with potential solutions.
Robert Freitas Jr. is a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for Molecular Manufacturing (a non-profit foundation formed in 1991 to conduct research on molecular nanotechnology). He authored the Nanomedicine book series dealing with medical implications of nanotechnology.
In 2000, he wrote Some Limits to Global Ecophagy by Biovorous Nanoreplicators, with Public Policy Recommendations. The worst-case assumptions in this study about the use of "gray goo" (self-replicating nanomachines) showed that the planet's biosphere could be completely destroyed.
In 2004, he coauthored Kinematic Self-Replicating Machines with Ralph C. Merkle. Rob described a 137-dimensional map of the replicator design space, suggesting a number of ways that replicators can be preemptively disabled or rendered incrementally safer. This defensive map is the first such list ever created.
Freitas recommends "An immediate international moratorium, if not outright ban, on all artificial life experiments implemented as nonbiological hardware. In this context, 'artificial life' is defined as autonomous foraging replicators, excluding purely biological implementations (already covered by NIH guidelines tacitly accepted worldwide) and also excluding software simulations which are essential preparatory work and should continue..."
Bill Joy was the co-founder and Chief Scientist of Sun Microsystems, with more than 40 patents. Before co-founding Sun in 1982, he designed and wrote Berkeley UNIX, the first open source OS with built-in TCP/IP, making it the backbone of the Internet.
In 2000 he wrote "Why the future doesn't need us: Our most powerful 21st-century technologies—robotics, genetic engineering, and nanotech—are threatening to make humans an endangered species," a Wired magazine article that raised awareness of the potential problems with self-reproducing nanotechnology.
Of course, science fiction readers have known the potential dangers of self-reproducing machines for at least 65 years.
The best-known example of self-reproducing nanomachines in science fiction is probably found in Philip K. Dick's story Autofac, published in 1955. In the story, people succeed in demolishing a malevolent underground factory - but it begins to shoot pellets to far locations, rebuilding itself (read more about Autofac). The first scientist to speak formally about nanomachines, physicist Richard Feynman, did not do so until 1959 in his speech There's Plenty of Room at the Bottom.
As far as I know, the first person to truly describe nanomachines was Raymond Z. Gallun in his 1937 story Menace in Miniature.
With the Scarab as big as a beetle, I could make a Scarab as big as a sand grain. This second Scarab could build a miniature of itself, as big as a dust grain. The third Scarab could construct a fourth, bearing the same proportions as the first to the second, or the second to the third. And so on, down, to the limit imposed by the ultimate indivisibility of the atoms themselves.
(Read more about ultra-microrobots)
I believe the earliest story to describe (and warn about!) self-reproducing machines was Mechanical Mice, written by Eric Frank Russel (writing as Maurice A. Hugi) in 1941. In the story, an inventor creates a mysterious machine called the Robot Mother sends out tiny robots to scavenge for parts. When the tiny robots attack people, the Robot Mother is destroyed by the inventor. Or is it?
He said, "The Robot Mother! That's what I made - a duplicate of the Robot Mother. I didn't realize it, but I was patiently building the most dangerous thing in creation, a thing that is a terrible menace because it shares with mankind the ability to propagate. Thank Heaven we stopped it in time!"
(Read more about the Robot Mother)
Story from KurzweilAI.net.
Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 3/13/2006)
Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.
| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |
you like to contribute a story tip?
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add
Comment/Join discussion ( 4 )
Related News Stories -
The Autonomous Robotic Urethral Catheter - Would You Use It?
'It'll snake its way in on its own.'
OrganEx Revives The Organs In Dead Pig
'Wakened into half-life activity one hour a month...' - Philip K. Dick, 1969.
Prototype 3D Printer Could Print Arteries In Seconds
'... in the tank the new body and the new mind and memory and life has taken almost instant form.' - Clifford Simak, 1963.
NextSense Earbuds Spy On Your Brain
'Your cephalochromoscope that cost you nine hundred dollars... colors and ceph patterns...' - Philip K. Dick, 1977.
Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!)
is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for
the Invention Category that interests
you, the Glossary, the Invention
Timeline, or see what's New.
'Courier Commons' By Tomorrow Lab, From Karl Schroeder (and Bruce Sterling?)
'The pokkecon rang again. *The coffee’s for him?* Tsuyoshi said.'
Terrifying Robotic Apple Harvester
'... little machines, that went from plant to plant.'
Jetson-Style Clockwork Robot Nail Salon Coming To Target Near You
The Jetsons imagined so much future.
Mechanical Horse Sculpture Gallops In Place
'Rod placed the brain inside the panel... the horse raised its head, wiggled its ears, blinked twice, gave a tentative whinny.'
'Make Sunsets' Tweaks Climate By Atmospheric Alteration
'Pina2bo would have to operate full blast for many years to put as much SO2 into the stratosphere as its namesake had done in a few minutes.'
Eviation Alice Electric Plane First Flight
'A white electric plane approached at great speed...'
Hotels Turn To Robots As Human Workers Regroup
'Chain of hotels that specialized in non-human service.'
Changesite Mineral To Be Mined On Moon By China
'But then... not every bulldozer operator works on the Moon.'
Tongue-Controlled Tong Wearable Mouth Computer
'Griff found the white and pink map distracting and switched it off using his tongue mouse.'
Is It Better To Be Short?
'He was one of the smaller, energy-saving new breed...'
Taikonaut Tai Chi Foot Loops
'Jimmy Cardigan and Harlowe, staring through the darkside port, had their feet in the foot-loops...'
Space Billboards Would Ruin Our View Of The Cosmos
'But the rising sign, as it had been designed to do, held his eyes. A vast circle of scarlet stars came up into the greenish desert dusk.'
Orion's 'Skip-to-M'Lou' Entry
'A lightning pilot possibly could land that tin toy without power and still walk away from it provided he had the skill to play Skip-to-M’Lou in and out of the atmosphere...'
MarsCat and MetaCat, Your Robot Cat Companions
'It was you who betrayed me — you and your robot cat.'
Mars Mission Using Nuclear Thermal Propulsion
'with its atomic engine as noiseless as a dancing sunbeam...'
Physiotherapists Get Help From Robots
'Most of the Members went into cold-rest; the others tended them...'
More SF in the News Stories
More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories