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Lifeboat Foundation Nanoshield

Hemos posted more than 7 years ago | from the protecting-us-from-ourselves dept.

73

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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73 comments

Get your sunglasses out, (4, Funny)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | more than 7 years ago | (#15858436)

'Cos it looks like we will all be blinded soon since we could be considered a ecophagic outbreak.

Nanoweapons scare me (3, Insightful)

xianfa (974194) | more than 7 years ago | (#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, ... (2, Insightful)

polar red (215081) | more than 7 years ago | (#15858475)

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.

Re:Nanoweapons scare me (3, Insightful)

lawpoop (604919) | more than 7 years ago | (#15858593)

"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.

Re:Nanoweapons scare me (1)

Jaysyn (203771) | more than 7 years ago | (#15858780)

Yes, especially in people with reduced or non-existant immune systems.

Jaysyn

Re:Nanoweapons scare me (1)

lawpoop (604919) | more than 7 years ago | (#15858976)

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.

Re:Nanoweapons scare me (2, Interesting)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 7 years ago | (#15859065)

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.

Re:Nanoweapons scare me (2, Insightful)

daeley (126313) | more than 7 years ago | (#15859920)

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. ;)

Re:Nanoweapons scare me (1, Insightful)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 7 years ago | (#15860615)

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.)

hooray, abuse of moderation! (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 7 years ago | (#15860810)

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.

Re:Nanoweapons scare me (2, Insightful)

Jerf (17166) | more than 7 years ago | (#15859256)

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 solution to that problem. I expect an artificially-constructed wrapper will be keyed to some unique aspect of the cancer cells, causing the wrapper to unwrap only when near (or, if we're really good, in) the cancer cells, releasing perfectly normal poisons into or near the cancer cells, killing only the cancer cells with minimal collateral damage. In fact, I expect our children or grandchildren to consider the era where we pumped the body full of drugs and just sort of hope that some of the drugs affect, say, the liver without causing too many side effects elsewhere to be the dark ages of pharmacology, in much the same way we view the times before anti-biotics.

The more I think about it, the more I disagree that we're all going to have a lot of little robots running around in our body, as I have yet to come up with a task where a general purpose robot is the best solution. And the robots are significantly more complex than special-purpose wrappers delivering custom-order drugs and chemicals; by the time we can build those robots, I'm going to want those robots to be my body, not fixing up my meat-bag. (Sorry, body.)

Re:Nanoweapons scare me (1)

drsquare (530038) | more than 7 years ago | (#15859367)

Do you think they could out-perform white blood cells?
Maybe nanobots wouldn't be so vulnerable to HIV?

Re:Nanoweapons scare me (2, Informative)

lawpoop (604919) | more than 7 years ago | (#15859827)

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.

Re:Nanoweapons scare me (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 7 years ago | (#15860601)

"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 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.

I think you are on drugs. Inserting genetic engineering into a fully-grown organism involves the use of retroviruses to rewrite DNA, which causes the now-conflicting parts of the body to get quite upset and do all kinds of bad things, which is why gene therapy has been known to kill people in trials.

However, teams of eensy robots, working together, can each do minor things which add up to a major repair. For example, certain of them could array themselves into sutures, while others exposed certain surfaces and placed themselves into the flow of blood to act as a catalyst for a coagulating process, et cetera.

Just because something is large does not make it necessarily suited for a given task.

Re:Nanoweapons scare me (1)

WilliamSChips (793741) | more than 7 years ago | (#15861565)

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.

Re:Nanoweapons scare me (1)

lawpoop (604919) | more than 7 years ago | (#15863341)

Are you suggesting a 'nanobot' that is more an organic cell then a small mechanical robot?

Re:Nanoweapons scare me (1, Insightful)

MrSquirrel (976630) | more than 7 years ago | (#15858803)

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 too much, because everyone's gotta die sometime.

Re:Nanoweapons scare me (1)

frank_adrian314159 (469671) | more than 7 years ago | (#15860375)

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...

Re:Nanoweapons scare me (1)

ichigo 2.0 (900288) | more than 7 years ago | (#15861992)

Your post is confusing, I would not like to subscribe to your newsletter.

Re:Nanoweapons scare me (1)

frank_adrian314159 (469671) | more than 7 years ago | (#15863981)

That is fine. I do not have one.

Re:Nanoweapons scare me (1)

ichigo 2.0 (900288) | more than 7 years ago | (#15864126)

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?

Re:Nanoweapons scare me (1)

frank_adrian314159 (469671) | more than 7 years ago | (#15869392)

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 just as short-sighted today (vis a vis technological progress and price drops) as the statement that could have been made about CNC setups in 1960. In about thirty years anyone with $5K in their pocked will be able to buy Dr. Blood's Computer-controlled Home Genetic Engineering Kit and the refils for the amino acids won't cost much more.

Re:Nanoweapons scare me (1)

ichigo 2.0 (900288) | more than 7 years ago | (#15872296)

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. :)

Re:Nanoweapons scare me (1)

bindo (82607) | more than 7 years ago | (#15859025)

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 fox and bush alone....

The nanotechnologists I've spoken with... (5, Insightful)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 7 years ago | (#15858455)

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.

Re:The nanotechnologists I've spoken with... (2, Interesting)

RingDev (879105) | more than 7 years ago | (#15858489)

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

More things than nanoparticles can do that. (3, Insightful)

Kadin2048 (468275) | more than 7 years ago | (#15858535)

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.

Re:The nanotechnologists I've spoken with... (1)

LordKazan (558383) | more than 7 years ago | (#15858866)

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.

Re:The nanotechnologists I've spoken with... (1)

LurkerXXX (667952) | more than 7 years ago | (#15858999)

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.

Re:The nanotechnologists I've spoken with... (1)

LordKazan (558383) | more than 7 years ago | (#15859095)

I'm not dismissing concern entirely, i'm just dismissing the chicken-little type of concern we have going on right now

Re:The nanotechnologists I've spoken with... (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 7 years ago | (#15860635)

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 if it's too fine, it just ends up sticking into crevasses, sticking to cilia themselves, et cetera. The particles of nanobots and other nanoscale constructions are still smaller than that soot...

Re:The nanotechnologists I've spoken with... (1)

LordKazan (558383) | more than 7 years ago | (#15860955)

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

Re:The nanotechnologists I've spoken with... (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 7 years ago | (#15861236)

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) should occur down around step seven or eight.

Re:The nanotechnologists I've spoken with... (1)

smallfries (601545) | more than 7 years ago | (#15861208)

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 ...

Re:The nanotechnologists I've spoken with... (3, Interesting)

vertinox (846076) | more than 7 years ago | (#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.

Re:The nanotechnologists I've spoken with... (1)

MindStalker (22827) | more than 7 years ago | (#15859064)

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.

Re:The nanotechnologists I've spoken with... (1)

swv3752 (187722) | more than 7 years ago | (#15859752)

The lab can skip evolutionary steps.

Re:The nanotechnologists I've spoken with... (1)

Bender0x7D1 (536254) | more than 7 years ago | (#15860096)

Really? How? The lab is researching something new and doesn't know how to get to the end stage without trial and error. Sound like evolution? Of course, they can look at the most promising avenues and pursue those. Oh, wait. Evolution does it as well. I know! We will rely on the beings behind Intelligent Design to create them, and then just use them.

Sorry for sounding like a Troll, but you can't just skip steps in a lab if you don't know how to get where you are going.

Re:The nanotechnologists I've spoken with... (1)

swv3752 (187722) | more than 7 years ago | (#15861607)

The lab can have steps that would be evolutionary dead ends.

Re:The nanotechnologists I've spoken with... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15859093)

Kurzweil can argue anything the Singularity he bloody well pleases, but it doesn't make it any less claptrap.

Re:The nanotechnologists I've spoken with... (1)

miracles (93948) | more than 7 years ago | (#15861130)

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 nanotech working properly would be if we figured out a way to power them remotely, then to get rid of them, just kill the juice.

eh, that's my .02

Re:The nanotechnologists I've spoken with... (1)

Julian Morrison (5575) | more than 7 years ago | (#15864172)

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.

Re:The nanotechnologists I've spoken with... (2, Funny)

Lurker187 (127055) | more than 7 years ago | (#15858569)

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!

Re:The nanotechnologists I've spoken with... (1)

arodland (127775) | more than 7 years ago | (#15859366)

Your mistake was expecting Kurzweil's rantings to have anything to do with reality.

Signatures (3, Funny)

Rob T Firefly (844560) | more than 7 years ago | (#15858466)

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...

Re:Signatures (1)

RingDev (879105) | more than 7 years ago | (#15858482)

As if the NSA doesn't have enough to do already, we're going to put them on the watch for billions of nano-bots?!

-Rick

An orbiting MIRROR? Who comes up with this stuff? (2, Funny)

The_REAL_DZA (731082) | more than 7 years ago | (#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!

Nanospam, anyone? (1)

famebait (450028) | more than 7 years ago | (#15858538)

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.

Re:Nanospam, anyone? (1)

Metasquares (555685) | more than 7 years ago | (#15858577)

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.

Re:Nanospam, anyone? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15858622)

Guess we'll just have to put our faith in spammers' respect for the law and concern for society then :-P

Re:Nanospam, anyone? (1)

dr2chase (653338) | more than 7 years ago | (#15858674)

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 SPLUNGE. Without nanospambots, your purchase of an SUV might prompt me to consider acquiring my own defensive hardware in response -- my choice is influenced by yours).

Grey goo? (3, Insightful)

Sterling Christensen (694675) | more than 7 years ago | (#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.

Re:Grey goo? (1)

Jasin Natael (14968) | more than 7 years ago | (#15859196)

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 effectiveness and make decisions about the next generation's design, you'll end up with simpler AND more complex groups of nanobots. You might even end up with something like the Replicators from Stargate, given enough evolutionary pressure and time. After all, OUR single-celled ancestors made the jump to cooperative groups, resulting in us...

It would seem (1)

Blinocac200sx (955087) | more than 7 years ago | (#15858635)

if they can develop viral nano bots, that the possibility is there to develop antigen nano bots. Look out, your bloodstream may become the battleground in the next world war.

Re:It would seem (1)

adavies42 (746183) | more than 7 years ago | (#15858736)

Have you read The Diamond Age?

Re:It would seem (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15858989)

The real threat from Grey Goo is if somebody designed a superparasite, I dont mean to be parasitic to us, not at all, its not US we need to worry about. Lets say for example somebody made a nanobot that functions as a superbacteria and eliminates other bacteria we depend on in our bodies and in the bodies of animals. It would be like creating your own roaming version of a white blood cell. Plus, by targeting specific bacteria that a species is dependant on you can selectively kill whatever species you like. It wouldnt take much it would be just the same as "Cancer fighting nanobots" just instead of cancer, they destroy the ecosystem bottom up.

Get some perspective here (5, Interesting)

TheLink (130905) | more than 7 years ago | (#15858690)

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).

Re:Get some perspective here (2, Funny)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | more than 7 years ago | (#15858814)

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.

Perspective indeed (1)

The_REAL_DZA (731082) | more than 7 years ago | (#15860141)

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].

Re:Perspective indeed (1)

TheLink (130905) | more than 7 years ago | (#15863478)

Well I meant "killing ourselves" as in "killing humans".

As for the Lemmings game - I think humans did a fair bit of killing of lemmings too ;).

forget the bots, just the particles.. (2, Insightful)

zogger (617870) | more than 7 years ago | (#15858806)

...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 (industry academic shills with various letters next to their names "they") get to say "whoops, maybe we were wrong". Asbestos, silica, coal dust, fabric dust in mills, etc, a decent list.

Basically I am a default skeptic, and I don't take as a given their tinfoil hat pronouncements of stuff being "safe" just because they say so. Fool me once and etc. One thing we have learned with industry over the years, if there's a buck to be made, and especially billions of bucks, anything and everything they do is "safe" from their POV and they have shown they have zero problems getting "learned" folks to back them up anytime they choose. I like tech, think it's great, but am no longer the young naieve guy who used to trust them implicitly.

Gray Goo is NOT the only threat! (2, Insightful)

DoninIN (115418) | more than 7 years ago | (#15859001)

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.

Energy (1)

konigstein (966024) | more than 7 years ago | (#15859127)

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.

Wishlist (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15859280)

And a pony! I want a pony too!

Worst... idea.... EVER! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15860693)

I'm sorry, but these guys are asking for money to create a space laser that can fry cities as easily as (or MORE easily than) the non-existent nano-bots that they claim to want to protect us from. This is the kind of weapon that James Bond-Villains fantasize about. Isn't this the device from "Die Another Day" [imdb.com], a space mirror/laser that is "for peaceful purposes"? No, wait, it must be "Diamonds Are Forever" [imdb.com], where the bad guy is making laser satellites out of diamonds.

Besides, as people have noted, nanobots can't turn the planet into grey goo until they can get energy from splitting atoms, as all the other undefended energy sources have been consumed by bacteria. The best they can do right now is convert iron into rust, aluminum into aluminum oxide, and oil (and other organic matter like food) into CO2. Gee, sounds a lot like PEOPLE. Although people always stop before the organics run out; that's why deserts don't exist.

On top of that, any actual grey-goo nano-bots are going to be able to travel underground, in air, and in water. Good luck frying them all with your single-point laser!

Um duh?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15862334)

Isn't anyone using common sense anymore? I can count the number of accurate non-speculative posts on this topic with one hand.

#1: Ecophagy is not possible. The issues of gravity, heat, changes in pressure, changes in gravity due to mass, resource consumptions, available resources, susceptibility to destruction by excess energy, and too many other reasons to name, the biggest threat a grey goo scenario can truly muster (which could only be done with a variety of types of nanotechnology) is somewhere between a bomb, a deadly virus, and pollution. These are all prone to the same properties that bacteria, virii, nanoparticles, and agricultural/energy waste have.

And as a few logical slashdotters pointed out, energy usage is a major issue. I'm not going to be redundant by talking about it here.

#2: We're already headfirst into nanotechnology itself; even the khaki pants you may be wearing right now (if they're the new wrinkle-resistant/stain-resistant kind, then it's microtechnology) have benefitted from this research. Micromachinery (pardon the pun) already exists, as well as nanomachinery - and rudimentary microbots exist. (I don't know much about how far we are into nanobots, but I do know we are already knee-deep (if you could call it that) in nanotechnology and the only real worry is how the waste prudocts, failures, chemical and physical interactions affect their environments.)

Try worrying more about real life stuff, like big biz's lobbying of the USA to make healthy food expensive and on the farthest areas from the entrances and checkouts, while making subsidized, American-grown, deadly foods cheap, available in areas closest to entrances and checkouts, and even prevalent in schools? Hells, bacteria won't even attempt to eat McDonald's fries - now that's a lot of intelligence for a brainless single-celled organism! I'd go on, but I'd be way off topic.

What about our immune system? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15862723)

Has anyone considered our immune system might be able to fend off these little critters? It deals quite successfully with legions of viruses already.

And I don't see these nanobots mutate as cleverly as viruses anytime soon either.

Re:What about our immune system? (1)

famebait (450028) | more than 7 years ago | (#15864547)

The normal bugs are all built of proteins and lipids. I'm not at all convinced it would know what to do with radicaly different stuff.
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