gray goo

gray goo

A science fiction nightmare from "Engines of Creation, The Coming Era of Nanotechnology" by K. Eric Drexler, in which nanomachines were named "assemblers." An assembler is created from organic molecules and is designed to replicate itself. However, if something goes amiss, they could replicate until all that is left on the planet, now void of all organic matter, is "gray goo." See nanofactory.
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In Radical Abundance, he expands on his prior thinking, corrects much of the misconceptions about nanotechnology, and dismisses fears of dystopian futures replete with malevolent nanobots and gray goo.
In the words of a technophilic but precaution-prone acquaintance of mine, a computer programmer who has his wristwatch set to alert him if a tsunami approaches Manhattan: "The gray goo scenario should at least give one pause.
Just as the nano label can be broadly applied to products for branding and attention-grabbing purposes, so too can critics use the label to condemn barely related developments by linking them to the (still hypothetical) problems of nanopollution and gray goo.
Following Eric Drexler's warning that self-replicating nanodevices could someday cover the world in "gray goo," there have been lots of questions about safety and environmental risks many of them more plausible than the gray goo scenario.
The inherent replication ability of assemblers also makes them a potential danger (see the discussion of gray goo below), and more recent MNT theories focus on the use of fabricators as an intrinsically less complex, more efficient, and less dangerous solution.
Though it seems an unlikely endpoint for nanotechnology (or for humanity, for that manner) the gray goo scenario has alarmed some serious thinkers.
An immediate consequence of the Faustian bargain in obtaining the great power of nanotechnology is that we run a grave risk--the risk that we might destroy the biosphere on which all life depends," Joy wrote, adding, "The gray goo threat makes one thing perfectly clear: We cannot afford certain kinds of accidents with replicating assemblers.
The hopes of nanobots repairing damaged brain cells and the fears of gray goo overrunning the planet both stem from extrapolating this new technology to its limit.
Gray goo would be self-replicating nanorobots, growing exponentially until their numbers drown everything in a global cloud.
To address potential dangers such as the uncontrolled self-replication envisioned in his gray goo scenario, Drexler and others founded the Foresight Institute in 1989.