Feeds

World safe from nanobot 'grey goo'

U-turn by prophet of doom Eric Drexler

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

New hybrid storage solutions

Eric Drexler, the man who made nanotechnology synonymous with 'grey goo', now says there is no need for self-replicating machines at all. So the world is in no danger of being mined indiscriminately for all its carbon, and we can all breath a sign of relief.

Phew.

Drexler is known as one of the leading thinkers in nanotechnology. In his 1986 book Engines of Creation he cautioned that self-replicating machines could just keep on replicating until there was no material available for them to build more copies of themselves, leaving the world a seething mass of grey goo.

Now, however, he says runaway replication could only be the result of deliberate engineering, not something that happened by accident. And anyway, we can't build them with the technology available to us at the moment.

In a new paper, published in the Institute of Physics journal Nanotechnology, Drexler and co-author Chris Phoenix, argue that discussion of grey goo is distracting from serious debate on the subject.

The authors argue that self-replication is unnecessary. Like Asimov's vision of a robotic future, the vision of self replication is based on lots of self contained, highly complex units being used to carry out tasks. In reality, we use robots as components, arms in car factories and so on. It will be the same on the nano scale, with all the machines being tools, not able to operate autonomously.

However, we cannot rest easy. Far more serious, according to Phoenix, is the possibility that someone could deliberately abuse the technology.

"[There is] the possibility that a large-scale and convenient manufacturing capacity could be used to make powerful non-replicating weapons in unprecedented quantity, leading to an arms race or war. Policy investigation into the effects of molecular nanotechnology should consider deliberate abuse as a primary concern, and runaway replication as a more distant issue," he said.

Don't you all feel better? ®

Related stories

Europe slips behind on nano technology
Nanotech buckyballs kill fish
Nanotech researchers see the light

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

More from The Register

next story
Boffins: Behold the SILICON CHEAPNESS of our tiny, radio-signal-munching IoT sensor
Single ant-sized Stanford chip combines radio, 'puter, antenna
Thought that last dinosaur was BIG? This one's bloody ENORMOUS
Weighed several adult elephants, contend boffins
Drones swarm over bearded Brit billionaire's island getaway
Just to take lovely pictures though, after Richard Branson invests in 3D Robotics
Chelyabinsk-sized SURPRISE asteroid to skim Earth, satnav birds
Space rock appears out of nowhere, buzzes planet on Sunday
California blue whale numbers soar to historical levels, say boffins
Still far too many of them being struck by US ships, mind
City hidden beneath England's Stonehenge had HUMAN ABATTOIR. And a pub
Boozed-up ancients drank beer before tearing corpses apart
'Duck face' selfie in SPAAAACE: Rosetta's snap with bird comet
Probe prepares to make first landing on fast-moving rock
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.