[extropy-chat] Re: Recipe for Destruction - Joy/Kurzweil NYTimes Op-Ed

The Avantguardian avantguardian2020 at yahoo.com
Tue Oct 18 01:43:07 UTC 2005

--- "Eliezer S. Yudkowsky" <sentience at pobox.com>

> Szilard and Rabi together voted not to publish, and
> Fermi felt obliged 
> to go along with the majority.  As a direct result,
> the German A-bomb 
> project did not realize that graphite was an
> effective neutron 
> moderator, and went with the less efficient
> alternative of heavy water. 
>   This is one of the major reasons that Germany's
> A-bomb project, which 
> got started before the Allies, did not achieve a
> chain reaction before 
> the end of the war.
> It's not like this kind of situation is historically
> unprecedented, for 
> all that only historians know the precedents.
> I have to agree with Kurzweil and Joy.  Publishing
> the genome of the 
> 1918 Spanish flu in open-access databases seems, to
> me, stupid.

There is a glaring difference between the two
situations, Eleizer. In one case you are talking about
publishing a potential component for a new high-tech
weapon that had never before existed. Like publishing
the blue prints for the detonator of a photon torpedo
or something. In the other, you are talking about
publishing the genome of a flu strain that has been
around for almost 100 years. It is as if there is an
uproar over somebody publishing the blue prints of a
civil war era gattling gun. It's not even as bad as
publishing the polio genome since, at least, the polio
virus no longer exists in nature.  

Yeah, influenza COULD be used as a bio-weapon but it
would make a lousy one. You need at least a level 3
biocontainment lab even to work with it, it doesn't
live very long outside of a host, and there are no
easy ways of infecting your enemy with it without also
infecting your own population. Even with suicidal
mujadeen hosts, you would have to keep them in an
airtight container until you got them to the enemy.
Meanwhile the optimal window for transmitting the
virus is only about 48-72 hours. If it was really that
useful as a biological weapon, WE would have have
weaponized it by now.

Terrorists probably would not have even considered it
at all if there were not op/eds in the NY Times about
using it as a bioweapon. That's the problem with
scare-mongers is that they insist on performing some
of the hardest parts of terrorism for the terrorists.
Namely figuring out what scares the populace you are
trying to terrorize. About the only saving grace about
all this nonsense is that if the media were to be
believed, they would have to conclude that Americans
are AFRAID of EVERYTHING which has got make it tough
for the terrorists to decide on a specific course of


The Avantguardian 
Stuart LaForge
alt email: stuart"AT"ucla.edu

"I don't want to achieve immortality through my work. I want to achieve it through not dying." - Woody Allen

"Our hope of immortality does not come from any religions, but nearly all religions come from that hope" - Robert G. Ingersoll

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