According to Louis A. Del Monte in Nanoweapons, the scientific community seems to agree:
The consequences could be alarming. Consider the following examples of possible nanoweapons, just off the top of my head:
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.
- Molecular nanotechnology weapons: 5 percent probability
- Superintelligent ai: 5 percent probability
- Wars: 4 percent probability
- Engineered pandemic: 2 percent probability
- 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
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