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Gray Goo

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Feldion Feldion's picture
Gray Goo
Gray goo are nanobots that do nothing but eat and multiply, and are considered by some to an end of the world scenario. However, the idea that nanobots could go around eating the world un-impeded is ridiculous. First off, nanobots are incredibly tiny, hence their name; at that size, it is impossible to provide them any shielding or protection. Meaning that my grandmother armed with a wooden stick could probably stop a gray goo invasion. Also, it would be a simple matter to create anti-gray goo nanobots who could, while the gray goo is advancing and eating all the rest of matter, to sneak in and sabotage the goo from the inside. So, what are everyones' thoughts about gray goo and can you think of any reason why they might pose a threat to humanity?
GregH GregH's picture
Small... but nasty
My money is on the grandmother and the wooden stick, I have seen this potent force in action and it is not one to be trifled with:) That said. Bacteria and Viruses have caused astounding, horrific damage to ecosystems (to say nothing of lots and lots of dead humans), in both the initial killing-offs and the subsequent after effects of the damage and panic they cause. And that's a mere gooey lifeform... not something that might operate outside of parameters dictated by biological requirements (ie, not killing all hosts as that gets you killed as well). Maybe not eat the world... unless we are talking about VERY sophisticated nanotech (or alien stuff... both of which EP appears to have), but think of the chaos that would be triggered in simply knowing that there was some sort of killing machine that you couldn't even see, in the water, in the air, maybe right next to you... right now. Size really does matter in this case. If you can quickly take out a vial or vaporize a base... OK... maybe problem solved. But if these buggers operate with half the tenacity of, say the bubonic plague or the common cold, in a few days (or less) it's got numbers that would require serious amounts of manpower to contend with. "Blue Goo" could work, but I wouldn't want to get in the middle of a nanotech brawl (let alone have it occur within...) Just my 2 cents, what say ye Rob and company? For what it's worth, check out Greg Bear's "Blood Music" and "Centruy Rain" by Allastor Reynolds. Both give good examples of the kind of catastrophic disaster that can occur with runaway nanotech, the latter doesn't feature the grey goo as much but details a situation where attempts to control the initial outbreak ultimately only escalated the damage as both nanobots "evolved" in a human-made artificial ecosystem.
RobBoyle RobBoyle's picture
Well, two factors to keep in
Well, two factors to keep in mind would be self-replication and adaptability. Your grandma may kill some of the nanobots, but she's not going to kill them all, and the survivors are going to breed more. More to the point, they will have learned that grandma + wooden stick is dangerous, so next time they encounter said stick, they set it on fire. And yes, I'm obviously talking very advanced nanobots here ... not something that transhumanity is capable of creating in EP.

Rob Boyle :: Posthuman Studios

GregH GregH's picture
Is "Blue Goo" (nanotech
Is "Blue Goo" (nanotech specifically tailored to attack or otherwise restrain naughty nano) available? Though perhaps trying to set about a sort of Darwinism among the machines may be a bad idea... ... then again... sounds like it's too late already!
RobBoyle RobBoyle's picture
Nanoswarms used by
Nanoswarms used by transhumans are generally single-purpose, but there is a version that eats other nanobots. Nanoswarms generated by the TITANs, however, are much tougher and have more capabilities.

Rob Boyle :: Posthuman Studios

black campbell black campbell's picture
Like biological nanomachines
Like biological nanomachines -- virii, etc. -- mechanical nanomachines would have some problems, survival-wise. Working together for purpose would require communications between the elements. This could be jammed or possibly hacked and disrupted. Breaking off bits of the swarm might cause them to reset to a base programming. On their own, they would be prey for larger nanomachines... like virii or simple celled critters like bacteria. I suspect that you would see a short life span for the machines, as well, due to heat death or other quantum level forces. Some of the effects of the gray goo would be directed solely at reproduction -- kind of like a slime mold. Some would do nothing but replicate. Hack that, you could corrupt the wee buggers to your purposes.
Decivre Decivre's picture
Well, you are forgetting a
Well, you are forgetting a few things here.

One, grandma is probably going to barely be able to see the individual components of nanobot swarm. They would look almost as if liquid or vapor at their size and numbers... hence the term "gray goo". More to the point, microscopic organisms (and by proxy, microscopic machinery) is a great deal hardier than larger ones to impact force... try hitting bacteria with a bat sometime, and see how far you get at killing it (or even hitting it). To simulate the dangers of a flying gray goo nanoswarm, Try throwing some water at grandma sometime and see if she can swat it all away without any of it touching her skin. If she can't, then she too would fall victim to the might of a flying gray goo nanoswarm.

Even if we discounted flying gray goo (watch the new War of the Worlds for a great example of that), a ground-based nanoswarm would probably grow outward from a source not unlike something akin to lava. Grandma could outrun it for a while, but since gray goo theoretically processes all matter, she will eventually run out of land to travel to.

Gray goo is a truly nasty theoretic concept.
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