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July 8th, 2009
If molecular manufacturing has to be controlled, how much of society needs to be controlled to accomplish that?
A few days ago, I wrote an article implying that liberty in the U.S. may be at risk due to an ongoing state of near-war. I quoted Aldous Huxley: "Permanent crisis justifies permanent control of everybody and everything by the agencies of the central government."
A commenter asked: "I wonder, however. Considering the rather draconian measures you believe would be required to control nanotechnology, do you think this is a bad thing?"
First, let me clarify (for any new readers) that "nanotechnology" here is used to mean molecular manufacturing—its original meaning—not all the newer stuff that has been grafted onto the word, such as nanoparticles. No one is suggesting that nanoparticles might need draconian control measures—though some kinds of nanoparticles might need a bit more control than they're currently getting.
So, molecular manufacturing: tiny nanotech machines, made out of precisely designed molecules, that can rapidly build more machines of equivalent precision and complexity. A manufacturing revolution: general-purpose manufacturing, using non-scarce equipment, of inexpensive and highly advanced products. And the manufacturing systems could be small, easily concealed, easily duplicated—very difficult to control, if an unrestricted system was ever in civilian hands.
Pretty revolutionary—which means disruptive—which means potentially destructive. So, does it require draconian control measures?
Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies
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