Nightmare Fuel: Reproducing Xenobots & Grey Goo

“The US scientists who created the first living robots say the life forms, known as xenobots, can now reproduce — and in a way not seen in plants and animals.”

-Katie Hunt, “World’s first living robots can now reproduce, scientists say.” CNN. November 29, 2021

What could possibly go wrong? Cf. The grey goo Wikipedia article and Bill Joy’s Why The Future Doesn’t Need Us. On re-reading the second, I was struck by this paragraph:

“On the other hand it is possible that human control over the machines may be retained. In that case the average man may have control over certain private machines of his own, such as his car or his personal computer, but control over large systems of machines will be in the hands of a tiny elite—just as it is today, but with two differences. Due to improved techniques the elite will have greater control over the masses; and because human work will no longer be necessary the masses will be superfluous, a useless burden on the system. If the elite is ruthless they may simply decide to exterminate the mass of humanity. If they are humane they may use propaganda or other psychological or biological techniques to reduce the birth rate until the mass of humanity becomes extinct, leaving the world to the elite. Or, if the elite consists of soft-hearted liberals, they may decide to play the role of good shepherds to the rest of the human race. They will see to it that everyone’s physical needs are satisfied, that all children are raised under psychologically hygienic conditions, that everyone has a wholesome hobby to keep him busy, and that anyone who may become dissatisfied undergoes “treatment” to cure his “problem.” Of course, life will be so purposeless that people will have to be biologically or psychologically engineered either to remove their need for the power process or make them “sublimate” their drive for power into some harmless hobby. These engineered human beings may be happy in such a society, but they will most certainly not be free. They will have been reduced to the status of domestic animals.1

-Bill Joy, “Why the Future Doesn’t Need Us.” Wired. April 1, 2021

Reading this now, it occurs to me that you could argue that this is already the case.

2 thoughts on “Nightmare Fuel: Reproducing Xenobots & Grey Goo

  1. Haven’t reread Bill Joy’s article in quite a while, but I share it with others often. I’m not enough of a technophile or -phobe to pronounce on how fully monsters of our own making are already among us. No guarantees, but other more mundane aspects of how humans function in aggregate threaten to undo us first.

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