June 16, 2006

Discussion: Limit access to dangerous information

Bill Joy (who previously wrote "the future does not need us) has a new message: limit access to information and technologies that could put unprecedented power into the hands of malign individuals

This runs counter to ideas by David Brin to use transparency and citizen empowerment to make the world safer

Not over publicizing dangerous information is prudent, but security that has secrecy as a primary defence is flawed.

Something else of related interest is that one can set up a significant biotech lab (with DNA sequencers etc...) for $50,000 from Ebay


Armchair Anarchist said...

Ah, dammit, that paybarrier at NewScientist always shuts me out of the one article a day I really want to read, and they're too savvy to not squelch BugMeNot accounts. It's not as if the site isn't plastered with hyper-monetisation ads, as well. Meh.

Anyway, ranting aside, just wanted to say that I read Brin's 'Transparent Society' recently, and although I find myself in disagreement with him on a lot of minor points, I acn't fault his logic on this subject. The current DRM arms race is a prime indication that trying to secure things digitally will be a constant battle; hackers love the challenge of something that is claimed as 'uncrackable', and such a policy would encourage even greater resentment in a world that is getting increasingly distrustful of big governments as time goes by.

As to the gen-eng labs on eBay; well, yes, it's bound to happen. But there's surely a huge barrier presented by having to get the skilled scientists to not only operate the things, but understand the principles involved - not to mention the fact that terror attacks are usually very low-tech because high technology needs time and space and resources to be deployed correctly. And if an 'enemy' can field those sort of resources, maybe it's time to consider diplomacy that doesn't grow from the barrel of a gun?

My ten pence, anyhow. Great blog, BTW; you may have noticed me linking you a few time recently over at Futurismic, and my own blog VelcroCityTouristBoard; you come up with some great stories here, and I am indebted to you! Carry on the good work.

bw said...

armchair anarchist

I like your Futurismic site.

I think that trying to keep some information secret can help to slow down or make it tougher for someone else to do something. However, this should only be a minor part of a strategy. Something that might buy a little time. For people who try to come up with patents in hot areas, you can see that multiple people often come up with the same or competing innovations simultaneously. Even if you are right and some opponents have some difficulty getting really top scientists. Then let us say that 60% of the scientists are strong supporters of something 20% are neutral. Then 20% could be opposed. From opinion polling you see that 100% of anyone never support anything.
So what do you do with a few months or if you are lucky years ?

You must push forward with defences and solutions and improved systems.
These initiatives have to be bold and innovative. Why? If technology improvement is accelerating as many believe (see kureil) and possibly at an exponential rate, then you have to put your research and dev into breakthroughs and leapfrogging.

Genetically engineer immunity and stronger immune systems into your population. (see gene therapy, iRNA, synthetic biology etc...)

Develop superrapid vaccine creation.
(DNA vaccines, rapid attenuation etc..)

Overhaul public health systems

Make people immune to radiation (mice have been given general immunity recently)

Regenerative medicine (mice can regenerate too now)

Trying to fight a standing battle in tech is dangerous. Eventually they find their way around. Opposing forces must be actively engaged and monitored and you need to constantly looks for ways to radically change the game in your favor.

bw said...

typo: see kureil should be see Kurzweil. as in Ray Kurzweil.