Strict Liability for self replication!

Monday, March 13, 2006

In my previous post I talked about some environmental law aspects of self replication and the mechanism proposed by foresight institute to manage future self-replication. What I forgot to tell was that uncontrolled self replication of nanites can produces an phenomena popularly known as grey goo. Now, this is the what wikipedia tells about grey goo:

"In a worst-case scenario, all of the matter in the universe could be turned into goo (with "goo" meaning a large mass of replicating nanomachines lacking large-scale structure, which may or may not actually appear goo-like), killing the universe's residents. The disaster is posited to result from an accidental mutation in a self-replicating nanomachine used for other purposes, or possibly from a deliberate doomsday device."

(It might also be useful to take a look on CRN's position on Goo at its web and blog)

Now I want to discuss the legal liability for self replication. It is possible that in the future people deliberately build self replicating nanites, either for defense or friendly purposes. What if things go wrong with the devices, which liabilities applies to them?

Due to the hazardous nature of self replication, I propose that those in charge of this technology should be held strictly liable. That is to say, that  the person would be responsible for the damage and loss caused by their acts and omissions regardless of whether they have exercised sufficient due dilligence or not.

A classic example of strict liability is the owner of a tiger rehabilitation center; no matter how strong the tiger cages are, if an animal escapes and causes damage and injury, the owner is held liable. Another example is a contractor hiring a demolition subcontractor that lacks proper insurance. If the subcontractor makes a mistake, the contractor is strictly liable for any damage that occurs.

So, would you agree with me if in applying strict liability to self replication?


Mohamad Mova Al 'Afghani


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