Science, Science and Society, Technology

Letter bombing nanotech researchers?!

Straight from the WTF files, the news that nanotech (and related) researchers are being targeted by, well, lunatics.

grey goo lolz

Calling themselves the Individualidades tendiendo a lo salvaje (Individualists with Savage Tendencies, or ITS), said group has been sending letter bombs to nanotechnology labs in Mexico, France, Spain and Chile.

None of the bombs hurt anyone until earlier this month, when they wounded (but thankfully didn’t kill) Armado Herrera Corral, the director of a Mexican technology transfer centre.

But why? Why are these people sending letter-bombs?  People who, terrifyingly, say they are _inspired_ by the Unabomber.

Because they’re scared of ‘grey goo’.

In such a scenario, self-replicating nanobots run amok, destroying the biosphere and life and earth. And, admittedly, it’s one that’s not _completely_ impossible.  Scientists including Eric Drexler - a top molecular engineer - have mooted it as a possible problem, although he’s since said that such fears are obsolete.

I think what bothers me most is the sheer stupidity of the action.  If the gray goo scenario is a valid one, how on earth could injuring or killing a couple of scientists prevent this from happening?   Do they think that it would focus  heretefore nonexistent (apparently) attention on this danger?  One that, if prominent scientists are talking about, has no doubt been considered by the scientific community? Why aren’t they bothering to keep up with the opinions of scientists they reference (like, I dunno, Drexler)?

I’d argue that this sort of behaviour makes their worries more likely to seem lunatic/fringe, and therefore be discounted.

Oh, the group also thinks that technologies such as social media are dehumanising (where, interestingly, research shows exactly the opposite).

Their manifesto* can be found here, and features such gems as

Many of the scientists will say it has been to “help humanity.” But deeper within these simplistic excuses are hidden psychological needs that are called surrogate activities. Surrogate activities (e) refer to all those acts or tasks that aim to reach an artificial end and not a real one.

The scientists say that they create carbon nanotubes, for example, to make life more comfortable for humanity, but the true reason that most of them (f) do this is because they feel a strong emotional commitment to the branch in which they develop; that is, they do not do it so humanity lives “better” as they have always claimed, but rather for a vague personal and psychological realization, so that, with this, we arrive at a swift and irrefutable conclusion, most scientists base their research on their twisted psychological needs, on their surrogate activities.

O_o.  Indeed.


* I generally find that any piece of writing using strange capitalisation is unlikely to be well thought out, cogent, or particularly sane.

The article in which I came across this news can be found here.

  • aimee whitcroft

    Interesting idealog article on nanotech issues here

  • Grant Jacobs

    I agree - actions like this will only create a backlash for those wishing to draw attention to reasonable issues about the new technology.

    Off topic, but It reminds me of the animal rights people in the UK when I was a Ph.D. student - at that time they were busy letter bombing researchers, including a few who didn’t actually work on animals. The idiots fire-bombed a shop in Cambridge that sold fur coats — without first checking if the upstairs unit was a student flat with students in residence… Not exactly impressive.