Wednesday, April 03, 2019


Given the miniaturization of technology, does it really make sense to build ever larger aircraft carriers and submarines? Or can swarms of nano-weapons acting collectively achieve more effective results? And can they do so at far lower cost (measured in both human lives and capital)?

According to Louis A. Del Monte in Nanoweapons, the scientific community seems to agree:

In 2008 experts surveyed at the Global Catastrophic Risk Conference at the University of Oxford suggested a 19 percent chance of human extinction by the end of this century, citing the top four most probable causes:
  1. Molecular nanotechnology weapons: 5 percent probability
  2. Superintelligent ai: 5 percent probability
  3. Wars: 4 percent probability
  4. Engineered pandemic: 2 percent probability
Obviously nanoweapons are at the top of the list, having a 1 in 20 probability of causing human extinction by the end of this century. Notice that biological weapons (item 4), which have been a mainstay apocalyptic theme in both fiction and nonfiction, come in as a distant fourth, with only a 1 in 50 probability of causing human extinction.
The consequences could be alarming. Consider the following examples of possible nanoweapons, just off the top of my head:

  • Surveillance: thousands of tiny drones, each measuring perhaps 1 x 1 x 1mm, broadcast three-dimensional views of the battlefield to a remote command center in order to provide a tactical advantage
  • Spies: specially purposed drones, similarly sized, covertly enter enemy facilities. They do so through HVAC (ventilation) systems or surreptitious "tailgating" as humans enter and exit the facility. Spy drones can then disable defensive countermeasures, e.g., attacking alarm systems, unlocking barriers, or autonomously performing more malign activities
  • Pathogens: designed to infiltrate the human body, mechanically shut down key organs, and then dismantle into untraceable sub-elements
  • Kinetic weapons: swarming drones intended to attack engines, sensors, missile propulsion systems, etc. to disable or destroy them
Further complicating matters, the manufacture of such devices could be as simple as using a 3D printer.

Responding to these advances will require innovation surrounding defensive countermeasures. These could include the use of advanced sensors for detection and "killzones", perimeter points where drone technologies are disabled using audible, optical, and electronic means.

But it's safe to say that the rise of nanoweapons will be accompanied by redefining what can be called "weapons of mass destruction".

Hat tip: BadBlue Tech News


Whoopie said...

I think it far more likely (80%) that an economic downturn enables a dictatorial Socialist regime to take over plunging Western civilization into unrecoverable ruin with dire consequences for the rest of humanity. Gone will be innovation or even the means to maintain the high tech infrastructure mankind now depends on. The next dark ages.

directorblue said...

That's a valid scenario, Whoopie. For sure.