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Suppose in the future there emerge some technologies that are very dangerous and cheap.

One example is a technology that allows people to release a lot of energy at once; it emerges as a result of progress in building superconducting accumulators. And such accumulators are installed in every vehicle. Another technology makes it easy to make antimatter or a nuclear bomb. Still a third technology allows people to make a dangerous virus using just a home computer and a DNA printer. There is a lot of cheap energy available, stored and transmitted via public networks.

How can the government control the people so that there will be no terrorist attacks or evil-minded sociopaths that would desire to destroy humanity?

Will total mind control become inevitable? Or will private possession of anything more complex than a screwdriver be outlawed?

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  • $\begingroup$ People can pump gasoline from a station, pour it on something and drop a match on it. Smaller scale, but still terribly dangerous. How has the government responded with regulations to that? $\endgroup$ – BrettFromLA Apr 8 '15 at 22:37
  • $\begingroup$ @BrettFromLA and some people do it. And others kill airplanes either by shooting on them, bombing them or colliding them with earth. Now suppose a technology cheaply available that can kill not hundreds but millions of people or the entire planet. $\endgroup$ – Anixx Apr 8 '15 at 22:40
  • $\begingroup$ I've wondered this ever since that one scene in Star Trek Into Darkness when that one guy drops a ring into a glass of water and blows up the entire building. However, I have no answer other than emergency time travel. $\endgroup$ – DaaaahWhoosh Apr 8 '15 at 22:45
  • $\begingroup$ @DaaaahWhoosh in ancient world a single person could not kill a hundred of people other than by being in command of an army. Now just one pilot can kill hundreds just aiming a plane to the ground or a building (in the later case he would be able to kill thousnds). $\endgroup$ – Anixx Apr 8 '15 at 22:52
  • $\begingroup$ In reality this is happening already, there are many important infrastructures and sophisticated technologies being targeted by computer hackers. The financial loss and potential abuse of weapon of mass destruction is unimaginable, people can log into a secure military server can retrieve confidential documents pertaining to developing low cost aerial unmanned vehicle that can be armed. This is what happens when unauthorized people have the know-how, now imagine these people give away the stolen data to every people including the terrorist group. $\endgroup$ – user6760 Apr 9 '15 at 0:09
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There's a bit of a viewpoint error here. Not your fault, it's very common. It's the assumption that something dangerous will be used for malicious purposes all the time and there's no way we can stop it.

Take, for example, the comments. Someone can quite easily buy a load of gasoline, pour it on someone they don't like, and set them on fire. Yes, it's been done. But we don't see it every day.

In this case, the government would most likely respond by observing: they'd out some initial, probably quite strict regulations in place for initial protection, then observe the actual use of the new technologies and adapt their regulations to match.

Expect to see lots of new subcommittees set up to regulate each new technology, then disbanded a month or two down the line when it's discovered it's not really necessary.

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  • $\begingroup$ Suppose a technology such that a single malicious use is totally not acceptable. Say, it can kill half of humanity or a city of millions. $\endgroup$ – Anixx Apr 8 '15 at 23:49
  • $\begingroup$ @Anixx If that's what you want from answers, it's best to specify explicitly in the question. I'll make some edits. $\endgroup$ – ArtOfCode Apr 8 '15 at 23:51
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There's a novel (adapted into an anime), Shinsekai no Yori (From the New World), that essentially addresses this.

The story's premise is that approximately 0.1% of the world's populations spontaneously gains psychokinesis of an extreme form, allowing them to individually kill millions without breaking a sweat. Even though the majority of people aren't PK, and the majority of PK people are normal, the power of the ability both in attack and defense in the hands of those who would use it without hesitation leads to global war and genocide. Ultimately, the situation stabilises due to scientists implementing extreme social control. The PKers become basically a subspecies, using brainwashing from childhood (and infanticide on those who prove resistant to brainwashing) to make themselves incapable of harming other PKers. The non-PKers in turn become slaves. Even this is suggested to be unstable in the long term.

So, if sufficiently dangerous technology become available, the answer seems: either you have bloodshed until society destroys itself to the extent the tech is lost, or you adopt tyrannical social controls to ensure it is not misused. Or both.

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This depends on how extreme you want to go.

The minimal case would be to outlaw the sale or possession of the weaponized version of whatever technology is available (or even the normal version of the technology). Businesses and organizations that relied on such technology would be closely monitored, regulated, and inspected by the government. There would be strict guidelines on security measures. This situation still leaves the Black Market dealers, who operate outside of government control, so those with the means will still obtain the technology.

The maximum case is, by nature, extreme. Here, the governments of the world determine the threat from a particular, common technology is so great that the general public, military, and all of humanity is unable to be trusted with it. In this case, everyone is going to be connected to The Matrix, even against their will. Some trusted individuals may be left to monitor and maintain the systems, but these may eventually be replaced by robots.

Because humans are, well, human, there will always be disagreement between factions. As these disagreements fester, they escalate to aggression and, almost inevitably, to assault. When there is a gross difference in power, terrorism ensues. Modern governments have to try to balance individual rights with the security of the whole. If you really want to remove any possibility of terrorism among humans, you have to remove the human factor, something governments are averse to doing.

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Outside of a biological weapon that can spread without the requirement of an external energy source, the type of technology you are concerned about is unlikely to ever come about simply because of the need for massive amounts of energy. Yes, one could make a pretty big bomb and destroy several buildings but that type of destruction is unlikely to cause tidal shifts in the treatment of people. Of course, several recurrences of these incidents will gradually lead to a more tyrannical society. It has already happened. America is nothing like it was 30 years ago. It is markedly more restrictive and tyrannical.

But back to the issue of releasing a deadly pathogen by way of "printing" or otherwise cheaply creating it. This is the worst case but most feasible in my opinion. If that were to ever happen there would be quite a strong reaction by the public to ban, search, and destroy the components for general consumption. For any fringe element that may want to do this I would envision that the pathogen would likely kill its creator first. The risk of this may be enough to make it self-governing.

But consider the purely logical outcome of such episodes: Would it overall be bad for humanity if the population were somehow cut in half? Probably not given the shrinking resources and escalating fights over them. And would a government run by "star chambers" (probably like what really goes on now) be totally opposed to something like that? Hmm. Maybe not. Maybe they would be the ones to instigate it. After all, they are at far less risk than the rest of us if they know when and where it will happen.

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That future is now!

There's this dangerous chemical, dihydrogen monoxide, that is actually produced in copious amounts by the so-called 'clean' newest fuel-cell technologies. Tests have conclusively shown that death can occur due to inhalation of DHMO, even in small quantities. Moreover, prolonged exposure to solid DHMO causes severe tissue damage. Even worse, the same substance can be reused, again and again, so that a bucketful of the stuff could kill an entire town. Imagine what terrorists and psychopaths could do if they could get their hands on this substance!

Privacy must go the way of the dodo

Since the energy available to individual humans increases exponentially and the energy required to kill individual humans increases linearly, if at all (call it neomalthusian survivalism), then it clearly follows we must monitor everyone's thoughts, all the time. Unfortunately, we don't have the manpower to do so. Fortunately, we have the technology to build artificial minds, who are sure to be friendly. We should put the massive surveillance apparatus and the throngs of vicious insect-sized killer drones in its safe reliable appendages.

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  • $\begingroup$ @Anixx To put it more succintly: how is your proposed cure any better than the disease? $\endgroup$ – Serban Tanasa Apr 9 '15 at 0:36
  • $\begingroup$ "the energy required to kill individual humans increases linearly" - I doubt it increases at all. $\endgroup$ – Anixx Apr 9 '15 at 1:01
  • $\begingroup$ @Anixx, Good sir, took the words right out of your post and smeared them on your screen. $\endgroup$ – Serban Tanasa Apr 9 '15 at 1:04
  • $\begingroup$ -1: "H2O is evil and proves we're already in a dangerous world!" is most emphatically NOT proof that we can already make dangerous tech cheaply. Your example is mostly used as an example of how easy it is to spin news and statistics to saw anything you want, not as an actual argument for increased caution. $\endgroup$ – Kevin Apr 9 '15 at 21:00
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If it's cheap enough that anyone can create a device capable of killing millions of people, then it doesn't really matter what laws the government puts in place, or the fact that the vast majority of people wouldn't build such a device. All it takes is one person, one psychopath, to kill everyone.

Given this, the only things you can do to prevent someone from building a WMD are, I believe, limited to:

Implant a computer inside every single person on the planet and monitor them 24/7 (cameras pointing out of their skin), and kill them if they step out of line (or if the connection from the cameras to the government's servers ever fails). This wouldn't stop a wayward government official from making one though, assuming the people doing the monitoring wouldn't themselves be monitored.

Destroy the technology- all of it. EMP pulses covering the face of the whole world, and a return to the industrial revolution. Followed by a quick raid into every household to take and destroy any materials which could be used to remake the technology.

Or the government could just kill everyone themselves.

None of those sound very appealing, and yet we still talk about an infinite energy source (fusion) as if it'd be a good thing...

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  • $\begingroup$ Bah, -1, -more if I only could. 1. there is no such thing as infinite energy. 2. What a fallacy to draw a conclusion from a purely hypothetical scenario to our situation now... Fission can be dangerous too (Say hello to Little Body for instance). Do you see anybody running around with a nuclear bomb? 3. Fusion, as of now, and at least decades/centuries to come, is only happening in a lab or a high-tech-environment. $\endgroup$ – openend Apr 10 '15 at 8:20
  • $\begingroup$ OP mentions antimatter bombs. I don't think we're talking present day. Also, I was speaking generally. There's no there's no such thing as infinite energy, but a huge amount of energy, near-limitless, would be required for a world where the ability and tools to make antimatter bombs were universally prevalent. The only real candidate for that ridiculous amount of energy is fusion, which I have assumed has been figured out by this point. The entire point of his question is that it's now easy for anyone to make a deadly bomb. $\endgroup$ – HammerN'Songs Apr 10 '15 at 16:21
  • $\begingroup$ You don't see anyone running around with a nuke now because they are ridiculously hard and expensive to create. Which OP says would not be true in this world. $\endgroup$ – HammerN'Songs Apr 10 '15 at 16:22
  • $\begingroup$ My last point was simply that if a near-infinite energy source (fusion) was available to everyone, then it would make it much easier for an individual to harm a large chunk of the world if they had the inclination and know-how. $\endgroup$ – HammerN'Songs Apr 10 '15 at 16:26
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I think Mark Zuckerberg has a point here, privacy is dead and outdated. The idea that you have a right to keep certain things secret from everyone else only works in a society where individuals aren't capable of making a lot of damage.

We can already see that the response to terrorism (which is much easier today due to technology) is restrictions on privacy, that is only the beginning. When any individual is capable of murdering millions through technology, and when people live for hundreds of years if not forever, the stakes are too high for people to be allowed to have their own thoughts. This has implications for how we see ourselves as well, individualism will change or die. We already act like nodes in a network, just look at twitter.

There are two major reasons why we are against restrictions on privacy, but since the restrictions are inevitable, the reasons must change:

  1. Awkwardness. Imagine the whole internet connected to your sex life, your parents or children being able to know all that stuff. That will change, all the natural stuff we do where we act like it's strange, will be considered normal. Remember that we've already changed a lot from the victorian era.

  2. Governmental oppression. A government that knows everything can abused the information. We will have to develop systems for where the information about people are allowed to go, it won't be perfect, there will be leaks.

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