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Lifeboat Foundation Nanoshield 73

Posted by Hemos
from the protecting-us-from-ourselves dept.
Maria Williams writes "KurzweilAI.net says: Tomorrow's biggest danger may be nanoweapons (grey goo and other) created with molecular manufacturing. The Lifeboat Foundation proposes development of detection methods, such as infrared satellite surveillance for nanobot signatures, along with a three-layer defense system, with devices such as an orbiting mirror to focus concentrated sunlight on an ecophagic outbreak."
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Lifeboat Foundation Nanoshield

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  • by LiquidCoooled (634315) on Monday August 07, 2006 @09:26AM (#15858436) Homepage Journal
    'Cos it looks like we will all be blinded soon since we could be considered a ecophagic outbreak.

  • by xianfa (974194) on Monday August 07, 2006 @09:28AM (#15858446)

    I have been long considering a society of very long lived people through the use of nano technology. I have envisioned nano bots injected into a person to be used for "maintenance" of organs that fail over time. I always thought these bots could be programmed to roam our body and kill off viruses, bad bacteria, and cancer cells as well as repairing failing organs and using our fat cells as an energy source, thereby keeping us thin.

    My wife has always said a weapon would be developed long before any life enrichment uses. We have seen a steady flow of nano technology in the last decade or so, I just hope global nano terrorism is not just around the corner.

    • Virusses,Bugs, ... (Score:1, Insightful)

      by polar red (215081)
      me too, It's hard enough making simple software just bug-free, and I don't think the perfect virus-shield is around the corner too.
    • by lawpoop (604919) on Monday August 07, 2006 @09:54AM (#15858593) Homepage Journal
      "I always thought these bots could be programmed to roam our body and kill off viruses, bad bacteria, and cancer cells... "

      Do you think they could out-perform white blood cells?

      "as well as repairing failing organs..."Given that modern day robots millions of times larger have problems with simple tasks like picking up a glass, I think organ repair in the near future will be solved with genetic engineering over robots.
      • Yes, especially in people with reduced or non-existant immune systems.

        Jaysyn
        • I think that gene therapy will advance to the point where we can build or rebuild a person's immune system before we can make any kind of machine small enough and with enough intelligence that it can tell good cells apart from bad.
      • Yea, the real key to self-regenerating bodies is to figure out the chemical signals we need to send/block to tell the body to regenerate itself. Little machines could never do that good a job.

        Got to remember that, evolutionarily speaking, death is an advantage. If we never died, we'd never evolve. Every generation would be far more similar to past generations through back-breeding, and there would be much stronger forces maintaining the genetic status quo. Just a mess.
        • by daeley (126313)
          If we never died, we'd never evolve.

          While this might be true, it is also much more likely that we'd never evolve if we never reproduced. ;)
        • Yea, the real key to self-regenerating bodies is to figure out the chemical signals we need to send/block to tell the body to regenerate itself. Little machines could never do that good a job.

          yes, and the real key to propelling cargo down a street is to use really excellent horses, because internal combustion engines will never do that good a job. (This comment brought to you from the 1700s.)

          • A troll is when you say something you do not believe in order to elicit a desired response. If anything, this comment would have been more accurately moderated as "flamebait" - any comment intended (or so poorly crafted as) to piss people off. However, I was sharing an opinion and illustrating a point through a constructive example, which makes this particular moderation simple abuse.

      • by Jerf (17166)
        Do you think they could out-perform white blood cells?

        Artificial nanobots don't need to "out-perform" white blood cells, because we'll still have white blood cells.

        What they can do is fill in holes in the immune system, which is far from perfect. Any cancer that kills a person was clearly not caught by the immune system. A nanobot might be specifically tasked with killing that cancer, and it will do a better job that the human immune system.

        However, I doubt "a robot" of any kind will be the nanotech solutio
      • Do you think they could out-perform white blood cells?
        Maybe nanobots wouldn't be so vulnerable to HIV?
        • by lawpoop (604919)
          A percentage of the population is already immune to the HIV virus because of a mutation [wikipedia.org] that changes the structure of T-cells. I would bet that gene therapy will allow us to create resistant T-cells in the bodies of HIV+ persons long before we get any kind of nano-bot, much less one that can do anything worthwhile in a human body.
      • "I always thought these bots could be programmed to roam our body and kill off viruses, bad bacteria, and cancer cells... "

        Do you think they could out-perform white blood cells?

        Yep. White blood cells can easily be confused and sometimes do the wrong thing, because there is no way to control them with external intelligence. These bots will be able to speak to each other and to a central system which will be able to make complicated decisions for them. Thus, yes.

        Given that modern day robots millions

      • Do you think they could out-perform white blood cells?
        Yes, especially if they're based off of the genetic code for white blood cells.
    • Nanobot terrorism would be extremely unlikely. The complex process of manufacturing nanobots is complex enough for corporations with billions in R&D funds, PhD scientists, and massive cleanrooms. There are also ways to stop nanobots (one such way would be pitting other nanobots against them and filming it -- providing hours of entertainment!). Much more effective means of applying terrorist resources (money, manpower, and facilities) would be to manufacture dirty bombs. Try not to fear the future to
      • The complex process of manufacturing nanobots is complex enough for corporations with billions in R&D funds, PhD scientists, and massive cleanrooms.

        1960: The complex process of computer-guided milling of precision components is complex enough for corporations with millions in R&D funds...

        • Your post is confusing, I would not like to subscribe to your newsletter.
          • That is fine. I do not have one.
            • Some kind of info would be nice. What happened in 1960 that everyone thought to be impossible because the complex process of computer-guided milling of precision components was complex enough for corporations with millions in R&D funds?
              • OK. I see you're a slow learner. In 1960, one could have said that only BIIIIIIG COMPANIES with R&D staffs and PhDs and millions of dollars (and, if you consider inflation, that was a lot of money back then) could ever afford to have computer controlled milling machines. Fast forward to today - you can buy a PC and a desktop milling machine setup for less than $5K. Today, the OP said that nobody except big companies will ever do nanotech because it's so complex and costs so much. That statement is
                • Ah, I guess I was expecting something more grand. But if we are talking about a period of another 40 years before nanotech becomes affordable to ordinary people, then that also means that we have 40 years to develop effective countermeasures. Somehow I think this oil&terrorism fad will have gone away by then, one way or another. So maybe instead of being afraid of nanotech, you could start looking forward to being able to have a swarm of nanobots keeping your body healthy. :)
    • Please, please.

      Please tell me this is a troll I am feeding.

      Set aside the sensible answers you have aleady recieved for your rational assesment of the risk new technology may be implemented into weapons.

      Think for a second: I just hope global nano terrorism is not just around the corner.
      Isn't this just a little too buzword compliant. Is it possible that americans are so scared and paranoid today that EVERYTHING has to do with terrorism??!!! Gosh, am I fed up.

      go discuss gray goo and doomsday but please leave
    • Orion's Arm, a hard sci-fi setting and global project, has posted a nice analysis of nanoweapons and nanodefenses.

      http://www.orionsarm.com/tech/Limitations_of_Nanow eapons.html [orionsarm.com]

      Really a good read - especially considering that none of it is bullshit.
  • by FooAtWFU (699187) on Monday August 07, 2006 @09:29AM (#15858455) Homepage
    The nanotechnologist types I've spoken with (as a component of a university seminar course) who are all quite dismissive of "grey goo" and such. In summary: It's not easy for those little guys to get energy to, say, systematically munch their way through concrete or solid steel or something - it will take more energy than it would consume. When you get down to it, we have little to fear from nano-sized robots that we don't have to fear from, say, bacteria - who already have billions of years' worth of experience in the just-above-the-nano-scale operations. Furthermore, even if we did have some miraculous way of getting those things the amounts of energy they would need, you're probably looking at them blowing apart from the amounts of heat involved. (Mind you, that's blowing apart on the molecluar scale, not blowing up like a bomb, so don't get ideas there either.)

    Most nanotechnology concerns at present are materials science affairs, and this is likely to remain the case for a while. Nanoscale robots just aren't very feasible under the currently known laws of physics, especially not the infamous "grey goo" variety.

    • So true, I'm significantly more concerned about skin irritation, blood stream poisoning and respratory problems due to nano-particles than some unrealistic nano-bot.

      -Rick
      • While your points are valid, why concern yourself with nano particles so much, when there are lots of things that could turn your lungs to a pink pulp or fill them full of phelgm and drown you, without looking to nanotechnology?

        I think we're overly complacent about the killer weapons (biologicals, particularly) that are already scattered around the planet in significant quantities; before we go and spend a lot of effort worrying about the possible effects of technologies that don't exist yet, we could spend some of the same resources cleaning up problems that exist right now.

        Dying from antibiotic-resistant TB may not be as sexy as being consumed by nanobots-run-amok, but at least in the foreseeable future, it's a lot more likely.
      • I'd be more concerned with second hand tobacco smoke, which is proven to be toxic, than specious worries about "nano-particles" possibly being toxic.
        • Specious? One only has to look at asbestos fibers to get an idea of what types of bad interactions some types of nano-particles might have with biological systems. I'm a biologist. Nano-particles are a valid area of concern.
          • I'm not dismissing concern entirely, i'm just dismissing the chicken-little type of concern we have going on right now
            • Particles from nanoscale materials are already causing health problems. It's not a chicken little situation if the sky actually is falling. Let me just present you with the following concept: cancer rates doubled during the industrial revolution. Now, cancer rates have risen as life expectancies have risen, so there is always some correlation there, but this is much more serious. Turns out the soot kills people. Well, we found out that if the soot is relatively coarse, your lung cilia will sweep it out, but
              • my point is - how many nanoparticle emitters are there right now? how many nanoparticles are being put into the air by nanoparticle manufacturing?

                as far as i know - none - they're doing a good job of not releasing "nanosoot" - so DON'T PANIC
                • as far as i know - none - they're doing a good job of not releasing "nanosoot" - so DON'T PANIC

                  I think we just found out that you don't know very much. It's quite irrelevant if they're releasing them. Actually, though, literal nanosoot is a serious problem... but the real point is that nanoscale structures break down into nanoscale "soot" (Stephenson called it "toner" in his work of fiction, The Diamond Age) when they come apart.

                  Your first step: engage brain. Engage mouth (or in this case, hands) sho

              • Why does that make it more serious? What do you think life expectancy was at the beginning of the industrial revolution - forty perhaps? What is now, eighty? And cancer rates have doubled you say ... what a suprise. It's only a suprise that they haven't more than doubled given that cancer strikes older people more often than younger. Almost as if all that soot is corrolated to a relative reduction in cancer ...
    • by vertinox (846076) on Monday August 07, 2006 @09:47AM (#15858543)
      hen you get down to it, we have little to fear from nano-sized robots that we don't have to fear from, say, bacteria - who already have billions of years' worth of experience in the just-above-the-nano-scale operations.

      If you ever happened to read Ray Kurzweil's, The Singularity is Near, he argues that the evidence that nanotechnology is possible is the human body, viruses, and bacteria. Chances are that the first nanotechnologies will resemble our own cells if not just modified versions of them. When we talk about grey goo and the like most people envision little tiny robot spiders manufacturing everything into themselves.

      However, we would more likely see a super virus or bacteria that kills off 50% of the population before we would see that. However, I'd like to point out gray goo is possible, but concrete and non-organic material would be resistance for a while. All the nanoids would have to do is process air, water, and sunlight much like plants.

      Think of it like a super plankton consuming the ocean and all life as long as it has sunlight and the ability to break down water into oxygen and hydrogen.
      • Exactly, but as the previous poster pointed out evolution has been working on creating bacteria/algie that can multiply rapidly and consume near anything for billions of years. What makes us think we can create something in the lab that will be able to do any better.

        Now given if we can develop some sorta energy technology that works on the nanometer scale that natural couldn't develop we might have a chance.
      • However, we would more likely see a super virus or bacteria that kills off 50% of the population before we would see that

        Why does everyone always assume some sort of catastrophic failure in future tech? Are you assuming that these tailor made organisms are going to go cancerous on us? or attack our immune system? I fail to see a future where we are smart enough to build these tiny devices/pseudo organisms, but we're not smart enough to put a kill switch on them.
        Hell, the only way we really will get nanot
      • It's a matter of energy availability. You can reasonably assume that if algae and bacteria don't already break it down, there isn't enough free energy to make breaking it down possible. And if they do break it down, you can reasonably assume a nanobot could do it no faster, not without basically requiring a power cord.
    • Gee, if power storage is a problem, I'm surprised they haven't considered solar power!

      Hey, wait, the magnifying glass...

      Lifeboat Foundation! I have foiled your evil plan at last!
    • Your mistake was expecting Kurzweil's rantings to have anything to do with reality.
  • Signatures (Score:4, Funny)

    by Rob T Firefly (844560) on Monday August 07, 2006 @09:32AM (#15858466) Homepage Journal
    The Lifeboat Foundation proposes development of detection methods, such as infrared satellite surveillance for nanobot signatures
    We hardly need satellites to find them if the stupid bots are going to be writing their names on things! Dumbass punk robots and their gang tags...
  • by The_REAL_DZA (731082) on Monday August 07, 2006 @09:33AM (#15858474)
    I mean, have they assembled a team of 10-year-old boys as "consultants"? Maybe next they'll recommend a really big magnifying glass (especially for use against the ant-shaped nanites) or maybe a really really (REALLY) big satellite shaped like a shoe...
    Either way, somebody hasn't been keeping up with their classic sci-fi [wikipedia.org] studies!
  • Forget the blatantly harmful critters, what I'm really scared of are other types of nano-malware: I just hope they as quickly as possible advance to the level where they can just plain take over my mind and make me unconditionally go and buy whatever it is they're peddling, and let the intermediate phase with ads flashing over my retina or invading my daydreams be as mercifully short as possible.
    • That would be outlawed, or it would eventually cause the economy to collapse. Capitalism only works when at least the illusion of choice is given.
      • Free market economic theory doesn't say much about how we choose, only that we do, and that our utility functions have certain properties. As it happens, some of those theories (independent utility functions, full knowledge of choices) are more or less untrue, but capitalism muddles along anyhow.

        In fact, a nanospambot's utility function may be a closer match to the theory than the ones that we have already. Just for example, "MORE SPLUNGE GOOD!!!" is independent (no matter what you do, I want MORE SPLUN

    • This post brought to you by Lightspeed Briefs.
  • Grey goo? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Sterling Christensen (694675) on Monday August 07, 2006 @10:00AM (#15858629)
    If you're imagining a grey blob, don't. Remember conservation of mass - it won't get bigger/heavier than what it eats. Instead image grey mold growing on all the plants outside. Spreading more like a disease than a blob.

    Even if it could convert biomatter to nanobots with the fantastically unlikely efficiency needed to build up an actual sea or even just a blob of them, I sure wouldn't be so stupid as to program them to clump together into an easy target if it were me.

    A sea/blob won't happen by accident either, or else some strain of mold or bacteria would have done it by now.

    Unless you mean to sterilize an entire area as a last resort, a mirror would be useless. It won't be a big localized thing you can just shoot at.
    • A sea/blob won't happen by accident either, or else some strain of mold or bacteria would have done it by now.

      What, like a Portuguese Man of War? Or any number of colonial bacteria that eventually formed complex, higher-level organisms? I think you have to consider that evolution has a niche for every possible formation -- and that evolution would act on nanobots just as effectively as it does on other organisms competing for finite resources.

      As long as the nanobots have some ability to analyze their

  • by TheLink (130905) on Monday August 07, 2006 @10:11AM (#15858690) Journal
    Unless I see concrete reasoning/evidence otherwise, this worry about goo stuff is way overblown.

    Where will the grey goo get _energy_ from to be such a big threat? Solar energy isn't that great a source of energy.

    Bacteria have been around for billions of years, there are all sorts of bacteria "eating" all sorts of stuff. If it was so easy to turn the entire environment to goo, the bacteria would have done it already - it's practically what all of them try to do all the time (just look up fermentation).

    It takes a pretty sophisticated grey goo to do what bacteria do, and if the grey goo is made of stuff which bacteria or fungi can use, then I think it's the grey goo that has to watch out...

    Viruses, bacteria etc can be a problem to us, because they can get energy and resources by parasiting _us_ and other creatures we depend on, in often harmful or deadly ways. They are made from the same stuff as us and thus they can build themselves from us (or subvert our machinery to build themselves).

    So if you have a "naive" organic-based goo, good luck stopping fungus and bacteria etc from eating it the moment it gets wet :). I call a goo with no such defenses "naive" - because it was just born yesterday - unlike bacteria etc which have been battling each other for billions of years.

    In theory if you have a normal naive (no defense against other micro/nano organisms) organic-based goo our immune system (phages) would probably be able to eat it too. Now if you design a goo that subverts our immune and other systems, then we could have a problem, however I suspect it will be easier to modify an existing virus than to build a "goo" one from scratch.

    Alternatively if you have a metal based goo, these would only be a problem if you could create a grey goo that can somehow float around, land and burn/catalyze oil and air and use the energy to shape metal in a way so it can reproduce and repeat the process... The big issue is the burn/catalyze part. Catalysts used by common living creatures (enzymes) are mainly made of commonly available materials - only very trace amounts of other elements are required (if at all). If you prefer to burn instead, then you need to store a fair bit more energy, be able to release it at a high enough power and at the right time to start the burning process.

    I recall there was a fungus in South America that was eating CDs - polycarbonate and metal.

    So IMO, the most likely great danger to humans from micro/nano stuff would be biological viruses whether modified/bred/engineered or "natural".

    I'm not a biotech person but I believe one can feasibly breed viruses to be more dangerous - just get tons of cultures of human cells, then expose the viruses to them, and repeat the process with viruses that produce the effect closest to what you want. No need for much engineering - could probably be very automated. Or do it in conjunction with a carrier organism and human cells - basically breed the virus to survive and spread sublethally in the target carrier organism - rat/roach/flies etc, but be really bad to human cells. The danger is some person/organization actually doing this for USD100k or something.

    For macro dangers it'll be one of those meteorites/comets, or humans (we are probably one of the best things at killing ourselves).
    • Where will the grey goo get _energy_ from to be such a big threat? Solar energy isn't that great a source of energy.

      Supposing someone put up a big satellite with a magnifying glass to amplify the available solar energy?
      I guess then they would have enough to take over the world faster ;)

      It seems like a big flaw in their plan.
    • For macro dangers it'll be...humans (we are probably one of the best things at killing ourselves).


      Granted, Humans [wikipedia.org] were pretty self-destructive, but not quite as much so as Lemmings [wikipedia.org].
  • ...are a possible big threat. The fact of nanoparticles becoming a very common substance in our day to day environment could turn out to be a huge problem later on. I'm not saying it will, but I am not convinced on their "safe" claims either. These tiny particles are easily inhaled in some situations and so far they are shown to be easily absorbed, even into the brain. Look at the past track record of industry and small particles in general, all that stuff that was "perfectly" safe then later on they (indus
  • by DoninIN (115418) <don.middendorf@gmail.com> on Monday August 07, 2006 @11:04AM (#15859001) Homepage
    Well, what I mean is that nano-bots that can almost magically eat everything from concrete, steel and dirt and reproduce may be impossible, or at least a really tall order. What about nanomachines that eat plants and use the material to reproduce? As we sit on the pristine concrete in two feet of plant eating nanogoo (Green Goo?) I'm sure we will all feel so much better knowing the concrete is safe.
  • From what I've read so far, energizing the nano is a major hurdle to medical uses in the body. Why not design them to feed off of the bodies wastes and such? I know that there are certain fats that I certainly don't want and my body doesn't regularly use without great exertion, or plaques(?) that can cause blockage in veins. I would think that instead of trying to get them to run off of plant matter which would have to be regrown, just have them use the worlds wastes and byproducts instead.
  • ...a cofounder and chief scientist at Sun Microsystems. Wrote this article: Very interesting, and given his experience, its credible. http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/8.04/joy.html [wired.com]

  •   What would be the point? We'd just use nukes. Much cheaper and already at hand.

    SB
  • or would the "anti-nanos" be better?

The bugs you have to avoid are the ones that give the user not only the inclination to get on a plane, but also the time. -- Kay Bostic

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