[FoRK] Smoking mad...

Jeff Bone <jbone at place.org> on Tue Feb 5 21:29:08 PST 2008

In general, I agree with the "private sector" argument.  I think  
nukes are an important edge case.  Similarly --- for example, who  
should be allowed to have GAI?  Who should be allowed to work with  
self-replicating assemblers?  Etc.  These are indeed thorny  
questions.  I'm generally in favor of allowing as much private  
control and as little government regulation as possible.  In the case  
of existential risks, it's a tougher call...  ultimately the ability  
to regulate such things is even more limited than e.g. the ability to  
control nuclear weapon technology.  And there's risks in *not*  
developing some of those technologies...  not the case w/ nukes.   
(No, don't even bother bringing up the whack original NASA "Project  
Orion.")

The problem with a purely private, economic / cost-based mechanism  
for managing nuclear weapons technology is this.  First, when you say  
"you could...  require... conditions" you're admitting the existence  
of a "public interest," further admitting that it may in some cases  
trump private interest, and that such trumping may require, at least,  
compelling the private interest to conform to the public in a legal,  
coercive way.  In for a penny, in for a pound...

Second, it's not at all clear that the ability to afford regulatory  
compliance, and the subsequent payment of costs needed to conform to  
such regulations, is in any way correlated to being responsible  
enough to handle such risks on behalf of the public.  Rich isn't a  
qualifer.  Just because e.g. Bill Gates *can* afford a nuke, that  
doesn't mean I think he's trustworthy enough to *own* a nuke.   
Particularly if I'm his next-door neighbor.  (Not that he's  
necessarily any more trustworthy than the monkey in the White House,  
but at least the massive bulk of the government and military  
bureaucracies provides a kind of stabilizing inertia preventing at  
least frivolous use of nukes.  It provides a kind of check-and- 
balance.  Cf. Cold War, reasons we made it through. ;-)

Generally speaking I'd prefer the monkeys to not have nukes. ;-)   
Given that some monkeys will have 'em, we should (a) minimize that  
set, and (b) make sure they're owned by diverse and hopefully inertia- 
bound *groups* rather than monocultures or individuals --- in the  
interest of continued existence.

All of this was merely to demonstrate that no, I'm not a totally  
black-and-white ideologue when it comes to private property.   
Believing that private sector and market solutions (coupled with a  
grown-up attitude about responsibility) cover most problems at an  
individual / below the mass-existential level DOES NOT imply that I  
think everybody ought to be allowed to have a nuke in the garage.

Cf.

   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dad's_Nuke


jb


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