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Grey Goo Attacks Second Life

I know this isn’t 100% on topic, but I really get a kick out of viral issues in social networks. In this case there is a new virus that hit Second Life that auto-replicates a particular item all over the world. Second Life is an interactive game where users can create their own land and items etc for actual money. Sounds like trouble to me. Mixing personal interest with untested designs is often cause for exploitation.

In this case the virus called Grey Goo (named after the theory that a molecular self replicating machine could destroy the earth and turn it, essentially into grey goo) ended up taking the game down for just a little while as they fixed the issue. A minor annoyance, some bad press and a few lost customers at worst. But think about how bad self replicating code really is. There is no actual distinction between that and any genetic self replicating organism.

The only major difference is that we are personally immune the effects of the viruses (at least for the most part). It’s annoying, but we have out of band mechanisms for dealing with code. But think about a future where everything has an IP address. Something as simple as a flicker can cause epilepsy. A bug could drive your car off the road. A glitch could cause all the dams in the country to open up and flood the surrounding areas. Thankfully this grey goo scenario could be stopped by out of band mechanisms, but the more we automate systems in the physical world the less and less easy it will become to be completely in control of the machines we build.

It’s awfully nice to have the big red panic button. Let’s just make sure we don’t automate that too.

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