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Everyone’s soooo scared of gray goo – ya know, wantonly self-replicating, nanofabricating killer nanobots run amok and end all life on Earth through an orgiastic wave of ecophagy (literally, “eating the environment”). These pesky critters would be based on the molecular assemblers and nanfabricators envisioned by nanotech pioneer Eric Drexler, which “would join molecular building blocks to make products with atomic precision and unprecedented capabilities.”
While the possibility of this happening is remote and preventable (as described by Drexler and Chris Phoenix), the fact that it is even possible was enough to generate a new batch of fervent end-of-the-worlders. They’re so obsessed, in fact, that nobody’s discussing the next great wave of computer viruses that I poetically call blue goo.
Allow me to explain: First, we need to take a quick trip to the emerging threat of hardware trojans – intentionally-place, impossible-to-detect defects that would drastically reduce the relibility and life expectancy of processors and memory chips. It’s serious enough that, among others, the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is tracking the issue.
In my view, however, this is a weak hardware trojan (as in weak encryption or weak AI). So, you may well wonder, what would a strong hardware trojan be like?
Glad you asked. By exploiting the software that will control nanofabricators – which, by the way, use basic molecules as feedstock – such future micromonsters would commit technophagy by commandeering computer (or phone, or whatever) resources to create a small army of self-replicating nanonbots that devour the device from the inside out. Like parasitic wasps. (Warning: not for the queasy.)
Be afraid…be very afraid. And this time I mean it.
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