Science Fiction Dictionary
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 |

Would you like to contribute a story tip? It's easy:
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add it here.

Comment/Join discussion ( 4 )

Related News Stories - (" Medical ")

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.

Do Contagious Vaccines Work Better?
'...suppose we do plant an epidemic of Nine-Day Fever in Zone Red.' - Robert Heinlein, 1952.

 

Google
  Web TechNovelgy.com   

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.

 

 

 

 

Science Fiction Timeline
1600-1899
1900-1939
1940's   1950's
1960's   1970's
1980's   1990's
2000's   2010's

Current News

CyberOne Robot By Xiaomi vs. Optimus Robot By Tesla
'I shall introduce myself... I am a robot.'

Giving Snakes Their Legs Back
Then some unknown race had chanced upon the dreamers and decided to 'help them out.'

'Ring Nation' Show Predicted By William Gibson In 1999
'... you had your trademark Lucky Dragon Global Interactive Video Column outside.'

SolarXOne Solar-Powered Drone Flies (almost) Forever
'It's an Indian Air Force drone; its solar cells could power an entire farm.'

Video! Chess Robot Breaks Opponent's Finger In Match
'A robot may not injure a human being.'

Virtual Co-Embodyment - Two People Control One Virtual Body
'... we were supposed to be forming five unit composites first."

The Wanderer: Eyebot From Fallout, Eye From Zelazny
'We send our eyes on their appointed rounds, and they can hover or soar or back up...'

Experts Decry Planet-Scale Schemes To Limit Global Heating
'Light from the sun hit those little spheres and bounced.'

OrganEx Revives The Organs In Dead Pig
'Wakened into half-life activity one hour a month...'

NAVER Labs Haptic Device 2.0 Robot vs. IKEA
'... the two pairs of waldoes in the screen followed in exact, simultaneous parallelism.'

Spaceships Should Last So Long
'THE SPACE VESSEL was traveling swiftly… For over five thousand years they had Voyaged on and on.’

Shine On, Portable Wind Turbine
'Sometimes a man has a windmill on his roof...'

Amazing Indoor Robotic Drones Mimic Dolphins and Whales
'They circled the vast audiences, dancing, twittering, chirping...'

Space Station Shutters
'The sun-quilt was a patchwork of colors and materials on the inward side, but silvered on the outward side...'

Tiny Mining - Extract Precious Industrial Minerals From Your Own Body
'Jim, I saw them reduce four of my doctors and nurses into those little cubes!'

MIT Proposes Space Bubbles To Combat Climate Change, Misses The Point Of Space Bubbles
'Fats Jordan was hanging in the center of the Big Glass Balloon, hugging his guitar to his massive black belly above his purple shorts..'

More SF in the News Stories

More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories

Home | Glossary | Invention Timeline | Category | New | Contact Us | FAQ | Advertise |
Technovelgy.com - where science meets fiction™

Copyright© Technovelgy LLC; all rights reserved.