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An Overlooked Issue With the Coming Era Of Nanotechnology

By Edited Jun 26, 2014 0 0

A Glipse At How Todays Issues With Piracy Only Get Worse From Here.

      Just about everybody is familiar with the gray-goo scenario where some future software bug controlling millions of little nano bots causes them to go on a wild uncontrolled replication binge turning the entire earth (or at least everything living on it) into a cloud of nano bots. However this overlooks a far more subtle issue that could have a much more interesting impact on daily life.

      First some background information is needed; how do we determine if an object is authentic? If it's a painting one can look at the materials that produce the color and the craquelure or the patterns of cracks across old paintings. If the item in question is a bronze statue one can look at its weathering patterns and the specific ratio of different metals to determine the process used. For an ancient human remains one might use radiocarbon dating which looks at the ratio of carbon-14 to stable carbon isotopes to figure out when the person died.

      So, what does that have to do with anything right? Well the one thing that these all have in common is that they are only good if they the features they look at cannot be reproduced easily; and that's where the problem starts. Already humanity is building things on the nano scale; computer chips are already being produced in mass at 32 nm. As with just about every technology the longer we develop it the cheaper and better it gets. It is not inconceivable that in the near future humanity will succeed in building general purpose nanobots capable of building things from a collection of basic singular atoms and a blueprint.

      Thus the issue that everyone overlooks is the loss of uniqueness. When nanobot swarms becomes cheap enough that everyday people can buy them nothing will be sacred anymore. If a person was to walk into the Louvre and release a couple of nanobots to scan the Mona Lisa at the atomic level that person could then go home and create an absolutely perfect indistinguishable copy of the Mona Lisa and nobody and nothing not even the nanobots that created it could tell the two apart. The two copies would be beyond anything a forger could ever do; because this copies are complete down to the atomic level even if a secret message was discovered in the Louvre's copy of the painting and nobody had ever found it an existing nanobot copy would have that message too.

       Considering how society acts when people copy things today this would be an unparalleled disaster (although not an unsurpassable disaster, the gray-goo thing would definitely be worse). If everybody could make atomically perfect copies of anything then there would be no point in going to a museum; just download a copy from the internet. If one wants to have the newest car without paying for it simply download it from the internet. It would be almost impossible to prevent the scans taking place and as people know today nothing is ever removed from the internet it just becomes harder to find; all a person would need is access to the appropriate elements and isotopes, but with a nanoswarm this too is easily done.

       Long story short if the business world thinks that piracy is bad now with people downloading music and software for free just wait until people are downloading paintings, cars, and other gadgets for free. In order to keep society from collapsing under this burden we'll need to decide once and for all whether nondestructive copying is something that should be illegal or if its just a sign of human technological advances.

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