Nanotech seems to be smaller risk than AI or biotech, but it advanced form has many ways of omnicide. Nanotech will be probably created after strong biotech, but short before strong AI (or by AI), so the period of vulnerability is rather short. Anyway nanotech has different stages it its future development, mostly dependent on its level of miniaturisation and ability to replicate. To control it in the future will be build some kind of protection shield which may have its own failure modes.

The main reading about the risk is Freitas's article "Some limits to global ecophagy by biovorous nanoreplicators" and "Nanoshield". 

Some integration between bio and nanotech has already started in the form of DNA-origami. So may be first nanobots will be bionanobots, like upgraded version of E.coli.

Pdf is here:



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It seems nano-toxicity is also about the ability to cross the blood/brain barrier. If some particles trigger the same toxicity dampening effects that the Alzheimers plaques try to implement, inflammation will continue to damage the brain and it's electrochem interactions. Brain as grey-goo

it also seems like you haven't included prions in your graph. A prion in the wild is a possible template for self replication of another protein, that may have horrid outcomes. It is also pretty simple to see distribution in the food network, perhaps as a food color, as an easy, and accidental distribution method

edit Seems like you haven't read Ringworld, or you would have some worse considerations of a specific carbon cutting organism released to the atmosphere. For instance, what if something was developed that only cut the O-O bond , in particular, that CO2 would get a lot deadlier....

I think that all kinds of nanoparticles are appearing naturally in the form of smoke and dust. It is known to be unhealthy, but nothing like existential risk. Smoking cigarets is known to damage brain, but it is not a grey goo.

I included prions in another my map biological risks, here:

It looks like a hypothetical nano-particles toxicity issue was raised to distract attention from more re- mote and serious risks of nanotech.

Based on what?

100 mkm size

100 um?

You also put gray goo at around 2040. That seems... odd.

  1. In the beginning of 21 century some concerns were raised about saefty of strong nanotech - Bill Joy, Freitas. In the same time US and Russia addopted national nanotechnology iniciatives in which original meaning of the word "nano" were replaced from nanorobotics to colloid solutions and fullerens. But a question of safety existed and in Russia was created a commission for estimation of safety of nanoprticles in 2011 - I think that it is reflection of earlier concerns about nanosafety adapted to new meaning of the word "nano". The actual risk of nanoparticles seems small and easy preventable, but its elimination make help to create false feeling of safety. I also think that some strong commercial interests play role in replacing of original meaning of the word "nano", and could go in details about it if we start to discuss the fate of russian nanotechological initiative (Rosnano). In US the situation may be similar, but its history may need more research.
  2. Yes, um, will update the map.
  3. 2040 is medium of my probability distribution of strong nanotech creation, which could happen earlier or much later. The basis for this prediction is my view that nanotech may be rather simple if we combine DNA-origami and control over E.coli. Thus we can get living cell with ability to construct mechanical parts and self replicate. I am more sceptical about diamond mechanosynthesis by the way.

1) I think that the reason there were early fears about strong nanotech was a lack of appreciation at the time of how hard it is to work at that scale. Things stick to each other, either move extremely slowly or extremely quickly, and you can't see what you're doing. Feynman, say, had this completely off-the-wall suggestion for making stuff on the nano-scale based on scaling machinery down further and further. By the time I was reading it, it was laughable. Maybe it was laughable at the time, but it was certainly possible to think that.

3) DNA origami on nanoparticles, even combined with modified bacteria, doesn't seem like the kind of thing that's fundamentally capable of gray-goo-ing. Certainly not the kind of gray-goo-ing that we can't do anything about.

1) I think that bionano field of combining living cells and DNA-origami would solve all this problems.

3) Grey goo is mostly obsolete risk, but nanoweapons still real. Something that gets from bio the ability to replicate in environment and from nano the ability to execute right program in right pace.