Lifeboat News #40


Lifeboat News

This issue published on 03/15/06. Copyright 2006 Lifeboat Foundation. All Rights Reserved.

2006 Guardian Award Winners Develop Defenses Against Harmful Nanotechnology and Biotechnology

The Lifeboat Foundation Guardian Award is annually bestowed upon revered scientists or public figures who have heralded the coming of a future fraught with danger and encouraged provision against its perils. This year’s recipients are Robert A. Freitas Jr. and Bill Joy, who have both been proposing solutions to the dangers of advanced technology since 2000, two years before the formation of the Lifeboat Foundation.

Robert A. Freitas Jr.

Robert A. Freitas Jr. is a Lifeboat Foundation Scientific Advisory Board member and a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for Molecular Manufacturing. He is author of the Nanomedicine book series, the first book-length technical treatment of the medical implications of molecular nanotechnology. “Volume I: Basic Capabilities”, was published by Landes Bioscience in October 1999; “Volume IIA: Biocompatibility”, was published by Landes Bioscience in October 2003.
Rob has published four theoretical nanorobot scaling studies, including the respirocytes (artificial red cells), microbivores (artificial white cells), clottocytes (artificial platelets), and the vasculoid (an artificial vascular system). In a recent major collaborative effort, artist Gina Miller has finished work on a 3-minute long animation at that nicely illustrates the workings of his proposed programmable dermal display (essentially, a video-touchscreen nano-tattoo that reports real-time medical information to the user, as reported back by numerous nanorobots stationed in various locations inside the body).
He was also the peer expert reader in the fields of nanotechnology and cosmology for the 2005 Ray Kurzweil book “The Singularity Is Near : When Humans Transcend Biology”.
In 2000, Rob wrote “Some Limits to Global Ecophagy by Biovorous Nanoreplicators, with Public Policy Recommendations” which showed that in the worst case scenario one uncoordinated gray goo attack at just one location could eliminate all life on the planet within three hours.
In 2004, he coauthored “Kinematic Self-Replicating Machines” with Ralph C. Merkle. While others were debating whether self-replicating nanotechnology was possible, Rob took action and described the 137-dimensional map of the replicator design space which suggests a large number of ways that replicators can be preemptively disabled or rendered incrementally safer. This map for defense is the first list of its type that has ever been compiled, and it is very extensive. Recommendations for desired/undesired replicator characteristics (relative to safety) drawn from this list could be used in a very specific regulatory regime for machine replicators. View the multidimensional Freitas-Merkle kinematic replicator design space at
His upcoming “Molecular Manufacturing: Too Dangerous to Allow?” which will be published in the journal Nanotechnology Perceptions in March 2006 and his upcoming “What Price Freedom?” in the journal Nanotechnology Perceptions in May 2006 discuss the implications of a future with advanced nanotechnology.

Bill Joy

Bill Joy joined the venture capital firm Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers (KPCB) as Partner in January 2005. One of Silicon Valley’s best-known VC firms, KPCB was an early investor in, America Online, Compaq, Electronic Arts, Genentech, Google, Lotus Development, and Sun Microsystems.
Bill was Co-founder and Chief Scientist of Sun Microsystems. He led Sun’s technical strategy from the founding of the company in 1982 until September, 2003. While at Sun, he was a key designer of Sun technologies, including Solaris, SPARC, chip architectures and pipelines, and Java. In 1995 he installed the first city-wide WiFi network. He has more than 40 patents issued or in progress.
Before co-founding Sun, Bill designed and wrote Berkeley UNIX, the first open source operating system with built-in TCP/IP, making it the backbone of the Internet. His many contributions were recognized in a Fortune cover story which called him the “Edison of the Internet”.
In 2000, he wrote “Why the future doesn’t need us: Our most powerful 21st-century technologies — robotics, genetic engineering, and nanotech — are threatening to make humans an endangered species” in Wired magazine. This well publicized article included quotes such as “I think it is no exaggeration to say we are on the cusp of the further perfection of extreme evil, an evil whose possibility spreads well beyond that which weapons of mass destruction bequeathed to the nation-states, on to a surprising and terrible empowerment of extreme individuals.”, “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.” and “…if our own extinction is a likely, or even possible, outcome of our technological development, shouldn’t we proceed with great caution?”
In 2003 he wrote “Hope Is a Lousy Defense” in Wired magazine. In 2005, he and Guardian 2005 Award winner Ray Kurzweil wrote the editorial “Recipe for Destruction” in the New York Times in which they argued against publishing the recipe for the 1918 influenza virus.
In 2006, while others were debating whether a bird flu pandemic or other biological disaster was likely, Bill took action and helped launch a $200 million fund directed at developing defenses against biological viruses. The goal of the KPCB Pandemic and Bio Defense Fund is to accelerate innovations for worldwide pandemic preparedness and global health over the next three years, with a focus on surveillance and detection, diagnostics, vaccines and drugs. He also advised on Lifeboat Foundation’s web design in 2006.

Improved Web Site

We have improved our web site over the past couple months thanks to help from a long list of people including Scientific Advisory Board member David Brin who suggested changes in our content and graphics plus he rewrote the text of our Timeline section, Michael Dickey, developer of our Ark I graphics, who provided the Earth graphic for the top of all our pages, Calvin Tennant who suggested the new table format for our main page, and helped move us away from having an extra splash graphic that you had to click on before reaching our site and helped move us away from Ark I graphics at the top of our pages to Earth graphics instead, and finally we would like to thank 2006 Guardian Award winner Bill Joy for his graphic design suggestions.

Scientific Advisory Board News

Ian Crawford, coinvestigator on the D-CIXS instrument currently in orbit around the Moon on ESA’s SMART1 spacecraft, and Vlatko Vedral, discoverer of high temperature quantum mechanical entanglement which could allow room-temperature quantum computers to be built, are some of the recent people to join our Scientific Advisory Board.

Dr. Ian A. Crawford

Ian A. Crawford, Ph.D., FRAS is an astronomer turned planetary scientist who is Director of the UCL/Birkbeck Centre for Planetary Science and Astrobiology, with a significant interest in the future of space exploration.
Ian is developing a planetary science research programme based on the remote sensing of planetary surfaces, and especially that of the Moon using multispectral imaging data obtained by the Clementine spacecraft. He is a co-investigator on the D-CIXS instrument (Demonstration of a Compact Imaging X-ray Spectrometer) currently in orbit around the Moon on ESA’s SMART1 spacecraft. D-CIXS provides compositional information about the lunar surface, and in particular the abundances of magnesium, aluminium, and silicon, which will be used to constrain models of lunar evolution.
In 2003, Ian was with the Human Spaceflight Vision Group (HSVG), established by the European Space Agency (ESA) to advise on future human space projects. The HSVG reported in December 2003 and recommended that ESA participate in sending astronauts back to the Moon, for a range of scientific, cultural, political and economic reasons. He was primarily responsible for collating the scientific case, which has been published in Space Policy as “The scientific case for renewed human activities on the Moon”.
He is a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society, and a member of the International Astronomical Union, the Association for Astronomy Education, and of the Planetary Society. He is a member of the Education Committee of the Royal Astronomical Society, Vice President of the Society for Popular Astronomy, and an occasional lecturer at Space School UK.
Ian authored “To Still Boldly Go” in Prospect, “Searching for Extraterrestrials: Where are They?” in Scientific American, “Some Thoughts on the Implications of Faster-Than-Light Interstellar Space Travel and Interstellar Travel: a Review for Astronomers” in Quarterly Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society, “Space, World Government, and ‘The End of History’” in Journal of the British Interplanetary Society.
His earlier astronomical research had mostly concerned the physics, chemistry, and dynamics of interstellar and circumstellar environments, as probed by high-resolution optical spectroscopy. This was largely based on the unique capabilities of the Ultra-High-Resolution Facility (UHRF) at the Anglo-Australian Telescope (AAT). With a resolving power of one million, the UHRF is the world’s highest resolution astronomical spectrograph, and permitted significant advances in our understanding of the interstellar medium through its ability to resolve the intrinsic profiles of interstellar absorption lines. In the circumstellar field, his interests mainly concerned the study of circumstellar (presumably protoplanetary) disks and their central stars. Between 1998 and 2003 he held a PPARC Advanced Fellowship for research in these areas. He authored or coauthored over fifty related papers and his website at has a complete list of these publications.
Ian received a B.Sc. in Astronomy at University College London in 1982, a M.Sc. in Geophysics and Planetary Physics at University of Newcastle in 1983, and a Ph.D. in Astrophysics at University College London in 1988. He also has developing interests in the new science of astrobiology the study of the astronomical and planetary context of the origin and evolution of life, and what this tells us about the likely prevalence of life elsewhere in the universe.

Professor Vlatko Vedral

The article “Entanglement heats up” said “‘Entanglement’ could occur at any temperature and not just in systems cooled to near zero according to new calculations by a team of physicists in the UK, Austria and Portugal. Vlatko Vedral of the University of Leeds and colleagues at the universities of Porto and Vienna have found that the photons in ordinary laser light can be quantum mechanically entangled with the vibrations of a macroscopic mirror, no matter how hot the mirror is. The result is unexpected because hot objects are usually thought of being classical. The finding suggests that macroscopic entanglement is not as difficult to create as previously believed and could have implications for making room-temperature quantum computers in the future.”
Professor Vlatko Vedral, BSc, DIC, MA, Ph.D. is Professor of Quantum Information Science at University of Leeds, United Kingdom. He was recently a visiting professor at the University of Vienna and at the National University of Singapore and received the Abdus Salam Award from Imperial College in 1997. His area of research is in quantum mechanics and information theory, with applications to: Quantum Information Theory and Computation, Topological Phases in Quantum Physics, Foundations of Quantum Mechanics, Quantum Optics, Generalized Entropies and Statistical Mechanics, and Solid State Physics.
Vlatko is an Advisory Panel Board Member for Journal of Physics A: Mathematical and General and a referee for the journals Nature, Physical Review Letters, Proceedings of the Royal Society of London and Journal of Modern Optics.
He authored “Modern Foundations Of Quantum Optics”, and the paper “Landauer’s erasure, error correction and entanglement” contained in the book “Maxwell’s Demon 2: Entropy, Classical and Quantum Information, Computing”. He coauthored “Quantifying Entanglement” and “Vacuum Induced Spin 1/2 Berry Phase” in Physical Review Letters, and “Geometric Quantum Computation using Nuclear Magnetic Resonance” in Nature. He has published over 90 papers and delivered over 100 invited lectures. Read his full publications list at
Vlatko received a BSc in physics in 1995 and a PhD in physics in 1998 — both from the Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine, United Kingdom.