Saturday, December 02, 2006

Grey goo concerns become reality ... virtually

Second Life TM
-- online playground for those who don't have a first one -- was brought to its knees late last month when Linden Lab's servers were attacked by what experts described as a self-replicating worm attack named 'Grey Goo'. The interesting and somewhat humorous aspect of this story is that this incident may have done more to create awareness of this nanotech-related concern than any other medium.
"The massive attack marked the third time since September that the world created by San Francisco-based Linden Lab got overrun by quickly reproducing digital objects. The term "grey goo" comes from a hypothetical threat of nanotechnology: A self-replicating nanobot could consume the Earth's resources, transforming the world into a giant blob of grey goo. Some biotechnologists have warned about tailored viruses that could have a similar, but limited, effect. The virtual world of World of Warcraft as well has had at least one instance of a digital disease that struck down players' avatars." (for the full SecurityFocus story, click here.)

Douglas Soo, studio director for Linden Lab, pushed the nano angle even further in an email interview reported in the SecurityFocus piece:

"In the same way that it is theorized that out-of-control nanotech could consume all of the physical resources of the world and turn it into grey nanotech goo, Second Life grey goo can theoretically consume all of the available server resources of the Second Life world and fill it with grey goo objects".


To combat grey goo attacks, the company has implemented a ceiling on how fast objects can replicate and also limited the replication from crossing region boundaries in Second Life. Called a grey-goo fence, the defensive measure failed to stop the most recent attack because the rings propagated at a much slower rate, under the fence's throttling threshold.

Prince Charles of Wales was one of the first
politicians to publicly warn about the
of grey goo.