Lots of news in the world of nanotech last week. A couple of items were of particular interest to Singularity Watchers. Both come via the Hard SF yahoo group again (those cats are busy):
What makes this remarkable is not the gruesome Night of the Living Dead aspect, but the illustration of how information, intelligence, knowledge moves. The flesh-eating story is akin to the Orson Welles debacle of early last century. Many people panicked at the thought of aliens landing in New Jersey (not sure why anybody would be worried about that, but there you go). This flesh-eating robot story had the same effect when it was reported to our little group. All those science fiction stories that have nanobots consuming entire planets came to our minds. How does one stop the Singularity when it is upon you? I accepted my fate and prepared for the worst.
Fortunately the Hard SF Group is a skeptical bunch. Within a day our fears were calmed by the follow-up link to the site that explained the flesh being consumed was vegetal only. The process seemed not much different than using corn to create ethanol. It’s not really like it, but the end results are the same: plants are consumed; motors run.
We heard the news, panicked, and were almost immediately reassured. By contrast, I’m not sure the world is over the War of the Worlds radio broadcast yet. Conspiracy theories abound. Today, through the efficiency of the hive mind, information is very close to being omnipresent and instantaneous.
I have no doubt that our intrepid scientists will one day create ‘bots that consume animal matter as well as plant matter. If one can conceive an idea, it won’t be long before we see a working model of it. Soon a small American town (in New Jersey, no doubt) will become victimized by runaway nanobots feasting on babies, pets, and bums sleeping in the park. In true Hollywood fashion, the town will be cordoned off and Bruce Willis, or Will Smith, or the latest up and coming hard body will be sent in to have sex with the starlet du jour and save the day moments before the entire population is consumed and the nanobots escape through the barricades.
I’m confident of the final outcome not because of misplaced hopefulness, or because I naively believe the CDC and nanotech community have a warm working relationship, but because what else can I do? I’m a typesetter for Cripe’s sake. Who can I go to, to complain about this? What organization can I send my money to, to ensure a speedy resolution to this latest crisis? I have no power, no link to anyone with power. I am not following the right people on Twitter, and they are not following me.
Regardless of how omnipresent the information is right now, (or maybe because of it) the world is too complicated, too convoluted. My brain is on overload. Please, science, could you discover the Theory of Everything, already? We need to simplify, compact and conserve, streamline. Throw out the excess; work with what works. Only then can I get my head around these flesh-eating nanobots feasting on the citizenry of small towns in Jersey.