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决定性的纳米技术会是一个可怕的事情。

作者:田纳西州大学法学教授格伦H雷诺兹

   獨立學會柯大為 (David Kopel)

28年前,理查德 尼克松再一次当选为总统那是因特网时代的112年,因为因特网三个月等于普通时代的一年。尼克松时代有没有课程教我们类似当前21世纪的高科技?具体地说,纳米技术--- 一个正突出的热键事件?

绝对地-----如果你读了ED里吉斯的生物战争的卓越历史。生物的毁灭。里吉斯说明英国和美国生物战争项目从1940年开始到1972年生物战争会议签署时结束是着魔的并令人寒心的项目。尽管里吉斯努力让读者明白为什么科学家和军事领导者们认为生物战争项目是重要的。这个项目是如此的烦扰,以至于最终尼克松命令放弃的时候没有带给人一点点轻松。

但是这为时不久,因为它证明 宣布生物武器不合法的条约正好和发起人的意图相反。在美国、苏联、和其它国家同意生物战争禁令之前,美国和苏联把它作为次要项目都或多或少地前后进行着。但是禁令以后,苏联彻底地增加了这方面的努力。(相当多的小国也是,他们中大多还是会议的签字者)

随着生物武器的禁令,美国很可能遵守条约,赌注是相当高的。现在苏联可能取得一个决定性的优势。结果,苏联创造了一个新的研究组织叫生物准备,并大规模地增加了致命疾病的研究。苏联不仅扩大了他们传统生物武器代理的项目,如炭疽热, 野兔病等还“用武器装上”天花,积聚了巨大的病毒库存,特别地培育了致命性和毒性的病毒。(那些存储仍然存在,使根除天花的“胜利”只是个相当短暂的成就。)

这个例子与今天是有关的,因为我们正看到了撤消另一个技术的要求。现在这个情况下,它是纳米技术,一种目前只存在于计算机模板上的,还处在早期实践工作的技术。众所周知,太阳微小系统的比尔乔伊曾争论道:我们应该考虑在它还没出世前就放弃这个技术。以免世界误用它。(这也许将使乔伊的老板斯科特米克尼利不用再去威吓司法部来提出轻佻的反托拉斯诉讼反对第一个纳米技术超过太阳的公司)

尽管乔伊的争论到目前为止没有什么热烈的反应(不仅从技术评论员甚至从技术音乐家)但乔伊的理论占主导时会发生什么值得深思。不管今天腾飞的技术部门,那不是一个如此牵强的一个情节。欧州已正在面临新的勒德分子情绪的增长。与遗传工程相反,勒德分子的事情是可以看见的。在加州和国家的其它地方,拉尔夫内德的绿色党做得很好,他们提供纳德分子一个真正的反对以牺牲人道取得技术发展的选择,而不是赞成商务共和民主派成员附和。

极平常地,勒德分子有知识者正成功地宣传“预防原则”声明我们决不尝试新的除非我们确定它绝对安全。看一下预防规则开始展示的2002年美国环保署规定是否有一个民主党总统,或2007年左右假使一个共和党员跟随乔治布什 III 的环保署领袖威廉瑞利的脚步

决定性的纳米技术是一个可怕的事情。事实上,生物战争的例子提供了一个令人压抑的一个可能就是采取乔伊的“放弃”纳米技术的办法可能实际上使事情更糟。首先放弃会剥夺我们可能受益于纳米技术的好处的机会。如便宜的空间旅行,癌症治疗,保持年轻、健康、长寿的身体。更糟的是,放弃会加速破坏纳米技术的进度。在纳米技术失去法律保护的世界里,丧失公权者会另有动机来发展纳米技术。如果对纳米技术的研究(象生物化学战争的原形)可能在难以发现的设备上小规模地秘密地进行,这样研究的可能性相当高。恐怖分子会全力以赴地开发比传统的生物武器更致命的纳米技术。这使人们很难相信乔伊的放弃理论。至少这也暗示乔伊和那些支持他的人们坐到一起进行一些更世故的论点。没有人怀疑乔伊和他的支持者们的良好意图。但是生物武器的实例证明:好的意图甚至在大多数人都赞成放弃一个技术情况下不一定会有好的结果。

但也有好的一点,正如里吉斯注意到的,生物武器研究的事情从许多方面看是一个险恶的研究。但事实上所有那些武器从没被使用过。这个情形使很多人迷惑,但最好的论点似乎是里吉斯提出的:反对使用生物武器产生作用的政治文化作用远胜过使之成为可能的技术因素。

也许那也是一个教训。在努力防止将来技术的下降趋势同时,我们应该避免太狭窄地集中在技术上,多注意即将要出现的世界。在自由、繁荣、和平的世界,纳米技术不会有什么危险。在分裂、贫困、冲突四起的世界,其它技术(从高热原子核反应武器到变异天花)将足以毁灭人类。如果这是事实的话,技术问题不是决定性的。性质和文化起着一贯以来的决定性作用,永远会是这样。

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Wait a Nano-Second…
Crushing nanotechnology would be a terrible thing.

By Glenn H. Reynolds, professor of law, U. of Tennessee, & Dave Kopel, Independence Institute 

Richard Nixon was re-elected to the Presidency twenty-eight years ago. That's 112 years in Internet Time, for which three months equal one year of ordinary time. Does the Nixon era have any lessons to teach us about high technology in the twenty-first Rcentury? In particular, nanotechnology, an emerging hot-button issue?

Absolutely — if you read Ed Regis's excellent history of biological warfare, The Biology of Doom. Regis's account of the British and American biological warfare program, from 1940 to its abandonment in 1972 when the Biological Weapons Convention was signed, is a fascinating and chilling one. Though Regis manages to give a readers an understanding of why scientists and military leaders thought the biowar program was important, the story is so disturbing that the program's eventual abandonment at the orders of President Nixon comes as no small relief.

But not for long. Because it turns out that the treaty outlawing biological warfare had exactly the opposite result that its sponsors intended. Before the United States, the Soviet Union, and other nations agreed to a ban on biological warfare, both the U.S. and Soviet programs proceeded more or less in tandem, with both giving biowar a low priority. But after the ban, the Soviet Union drastically increased its efforts. (So did quite a few smaller countries, most of them signatories of the Convention.)

With biological warfare outlawed, and the Americans likely to abide by the agreement, the stakes were much higher: now it was possible for the Soviets to obtain a decisive advantage. As a result, the USSR created a new research organization, called Biopreparat, and drastically increased deadly disease research. The Russians not only expanded their stocks of traditional biological warfare agents — like anthrax, tularemia, and such — but also "weaponized" smallpox, accumulating huge stockpiles of the virus, specially bred for virulence and lethality. (Those stockpiles still exist, making the "triumph" of smallpox eradication a rather contingent accomplishment).

This example is relevant today, because we are beginning to see calls for relinquishment of another technology. In this case, it is nanotechnology, a technology that so far exists only in computer models and some very early practical work. Bill Joy of Sun Microsystems, of course, has famously argued that we should consider abandoning this technology before its birth, to spare the world the potential consequences of its misuse. (Perhaps that will save Joy's boss Scott McNealy from having to hector the Department of Justice to bring a frivolous antitrust lawsuit against the first company to outcompete Sun in nanotechnology.)

Though Joy's argument has so far met with a fairly cool reception — not only from techno-commentators, but even from techno musicians — it is worth considering what might happen if his ideas start to take hold. That is not so farfetched a scenario, despite today's high-flying technology sector. Europe is already facing a growth of neo-Luddite sentiment — visible in things like opposition to genetic engineering. In California and the rest of the nation, Ralph Nader's Green Party is doing pretty well by offering Luddites a genuine anti-technology choice, rather than an echo of pro-business Republicrats.

More generally, Luddite intellectuals are successfully propagating "the precautionary principle," which states that we should never try anything new unless we are certain that it is absolutely safe. Look for the precautionary principle to start showing up in EPA regulations around 2002 if there's a Democratic President, or around 2007 in case of a Republican one that follows in the footsteps of George Bush III's EPA head William Reilly.

Crushing nanotechnology would be a terrible thing. In fact, the example of biological warfare offers the depressing possibility that adopting Joy's "relinquishment" approach to nanotechnology might actually make things worse. First of all, relinquishment would deprive us of the potential benefits of benign nanotechnology, such as cheap space travel, cancer cures, bodies that stay younger and healthier for longer. Even worse, "relinquishment" would probably accelerate the progress of destructive nanotechnology. In a world where nanotechnology is outlawed, outlaws would have an additional incentive to develop nanotechnology.

And given that research into nanotechnology — like the cruder forms of biological and chemical warfare — can be conducted clandestinely on small budgets and in difficult-to-spot facilities, the likelihood of such research going on is rather high. Terrorists would have the greatest incentive possible to develop nanotechnologies far more deadly than old-fashioned biological warfare. This makes Joy's relinquishment argument hard to swallow. At the very least, it suggests that Joy and those who agree with him need to step up to the plate and make some more sophisticated arguments. No one doubts that Joy and the rest have good intentions. But as the example of biological warfare illustrates, good intentions, even when embodied in popular agreements to abandon a technology, don't necessarily have good consequences.

There is, however, a bright side. As Ed Regis also notes, the story of biological warfare research is a sinister one in many ways. But, in fact, all those dreadful weapons were never used. Why that is the case has puzzled many people, but the best argument seems to be one set forth by Regis: political and cultural factors that militated against the use of biological weapons trumped the technological factors that made them possible.

That, perhaps, is a lesson too. In trying to deal with the downside of coming technologies, we should avoid too narrow a focus on the technology, and pay more attention to the world in which it is to appear. In a world that is free, prosperous, and at peace, nanotechnology poses little danger. In a world that is divided, impoverished, and conflict-ridden, other technologies — from thermonuclear weapons to mutated smallpox — will more than suffice to wipe out humanity. Given this reality, the technological issues look less decisive. Character and culture remain decisive, as they always have been, and always will be.

Copyright  2015 David Kopel 柯大為