Legal aspects of self replicating nanotechnology

Thursday, March 9, 2006

We have not address the legal impacts of self-replicating nanotechnology. Broady speaking, the problem of self-replication can be divided into: (1) institution, (2) control and oversight, (3) environmental, (4) criminal and (5) intellectual property. I'll try to summarize.
1. As for institutional issue, the question is what and which institution would be feasible enough to manage self-replication. Dr. Rothblat had proposed to establish intelrep  (thanks to Amara for sending me the link), an INTELSAT -like international organisation that would control self-replication. This proposal has both weaknesses and strength, which we will discuss later.
2. Control and oversight has been discussed by the foresight institute, known as "foresight guidelines" (see, version 4.0, 2004), which in essance, require inhenrent control of self replication in nanomachines. According to the guideline (excerpted):
  • When molecular manufacturing systems are designed or implemented, they use no self-replicating machines.
  • Any molecular manufacturing device designs specifically limit proliferation and provide traceability and audit trails.
  • Encrypted molecular manufacturing device instruction sets are utilized to discourage irresponsible proliferation and piracy.
  • Use of self-replicating systems is avoided except in approved and controlled circumstances.
  • Self-replicating machines (if any) have absolute requirements Thus, self-replicating machines are designed to be incapable of replication in any natural environment.
  • Self-replicating machines (if any) are incapable of evolutionary change. For example, the information that specifies their construction is stored and copied in encoded form, and the encoding is such that any error in copying randomizes and thus destroys the decoded information
  • It is unclear if it is soft laws (declarations, memorandums and other heteronomous laws) or is it hard laws that is better to embody those proposed norms above. We'll discuss it further later.

    3. Environmental aspects of this self replication relates to what is known as "global ecophagy ". The most important discussion is of course, the liability and responsibility imposed for self-replication. This is going to be my favourtite discussion, but we'll deal with it later too ;)

    4. Much of the criminal discussion would relate with point (3) and (2) above. The future law can contain criminal sanction for deliberate, illegal self replication. This is also an interesting issue.

    5. Although it is certain that people dont create self-replication for general business purposes (man, it'll be scary if they do), there could be useful self-replications in emergency events, such as those which are intended for terraforming of disaster mitigation. The IPR (intellectual property right) issue is this: who have the copyright or patent of the nanite's offsprings? Who has the IPR right for accidental self-replication? Now, when we mix this with AI talk, its getting even more interesting. If nanites can have mind on its own, then no other minds can 'own' them. "I am not a property!" said the nanites*

    Seems all of them interesting. Hmm. Let me know if you have more ideas, who knows maybe we can add more issue. Kindly leave a comment and a link to your site. 


    Mohamad Mova Al 'Afghani

    * No, I dont want to be the future member of "Nanites Rights Movement" ;)



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