Louis A. Del Monte
I was about seven or eight years old and I watched a documentary on atomic weapons. I remember my mum explaining that the USSR had its finger poised above the red button, day and night and yes, even on Christmas Day.

I remember a wave of hopelessness and despair wash over me. What was the point of trying to have a normal life? Why bother when we would all end up as radioactive slag scattered to the four winds at 1000mph?

I felt the same way reading Nanoweapons by Louis Del Monte. New technology is often usurped by the government, as there is always a military application for the latest hardware, software or in this case- wetware.

Nanoweapons are highly classified, with very little information available in the public domain. Del Monte seeks to extrapolate what is known about the civil applications of nanotech and generates viable theories for the usage of such technology in the military field.

His conclusions are tough to debate, since his logic is unarguable. Mankind has always sought methods of more efficient extermination of his fellow man. With nanoparticles which can act, essentially, as a synthetic plague, a nation can be destroyed cheaply and efficiently by terrorists, a rogue state or a foreign power. It may be weeks or even months before the cause of the plague is known and even then, how do you attribute that to any one person or nation?

Nanoweapons in the hands of an unscrupulous nation would bring the kind of efficient ethnic cleansing that Hitler could only dream about. It would be relatively easy to “key” the virus so that it only attacked people with a certain genetic makeup. It could make genocide so much neater.

As with biological or chemical weapons, there is a possibility that human error could render mankind extinct. This is not as farfetched as one might think, particularly if the Singularity occurs and AI becomes sentient. With nanotech available, computers could easily wipe out the human race as a method of self-preservation.

If you think that scenario is science-fiction, you’d be wrong. Del Monte touches upon the Lausanne Experiment which had rudimentary AI robots learning deceitful behaviour. Top minds including Stephen Hawking predict that AI will be on a par with humans by 2029 and the Singularity occurs around 2045.

This one-two punch of conscious Artificial Intelligence and nanoweaponry paints a very dark picture of the road ahead. That’s if mankind doesn’t wipe us all out with nanotech first.

It’s clear that a tightrope is being walked and only time will tell if mankind precariously clings to it, or whether it falls once and for all into the abyss.

Del Monte presents these scenarios in a clear and chilling way. I barely scraped through my GCSE science, yet it is a measure of how well “Nanoweapons” has been written that I could understand it all, without having to look up terms or re-read passages to clarify my understanding.

It’s been a long time since I’ve read a book that has been so thought-provoking. The findings are logical and presented in a clear and concise way. Del Monte illustrates possible paths to the end of the human race and again, it’s difficult to disagree with his findings. Greed, incompetence and military intervention are all constants in the human race.

It reminds me very much of the Jeff Goldblum line from “Jurassic Park:”

“Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether they could, they didn’t stop to think whether they should.”

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A thought-provoking and chilling introduction to the world of nanotechnology and the weapons that could destroy us.

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