The nano terrorism trial in Switzerland concludes (my July 25, 2011 posting) while Mexico seemingly has an outbreak of nano terrorism. According to one account, there were two incidents this week, one at Mexico’s National Polytechnical Institute on Tuesday, August 9, 2011 (another account notes that there were previous incidents in April and May 2011 targeting the same professor but does not mention an August 9 attempt) and a more serious one (two professors were injured) at the Monterrey Technological Institute (the campus on the outskirts of Mexico City) on Monday, August 8, 2011.
The group identified as likely culprits (a partially identified note was found at the scene of the August 8 incident) is called, in English, ‘Individuals Tending to Savagery (ITS)’. They have attacked academics before and are known for opposing nanotechnology experiments.
One of the injured professors works in the field of robotics and the intended target of the August 9 (?), April and May 2011 incidents, Oscar Camacho, works in the field of micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS).
There is a letter in Nature where the brother of one of these scientists writes about his response to the event:
My elder brother, Armando Herrera Corral, was this month sent a tube of dynamite by terrorists who oppose his scientific research. The home-made bomb, which was in a shoe-box-sized package labelled as an award for his personal attention, exploded when he pulled at the adhesive tape wrapped around it. My brother, director of the technology park at the Monterrey Institute of Technology in Mexico, was standing at the time, and suffered burns to his legs and a perforated eardrum. More severely injured by the blast was his friend and colleague Alejandro Aceves López, whom my brother had gone to see in his office to share a cup of coffee and open the award. Aceves López was sitting down when my brother opened the package; he took the brunt of the explosion in his chest, and shrapnel pierced one of his lungs.
An extremist anarchist group known as Individuals Tending to Savagery (ITS) has claimed responsibility for the attack on my brother. This is confirmed by a partially burned note found by the authorities at the bomb site, signed by the ITS and with a message along the lines of: "If this does not get to the newspapers we will produce more explosions. Wounding or killing teachers and students does not matter to us."
In statements posted on the Internet, the ITS expresses particular hostility towards nanotechnology and computer scientists. It claims that nanotechnology will lead to the downfall of mankind, and predicts that the world will become dominated by self-aware artificial-intelligence technology. Scientists who work to advance such technology, it says, are seeking to advance control over people by 'the system'. The group praises Theodore Kaczynski, the Unabomber, whose anti-technology crusade in the United States in 1978–95 killed three people and injured many others.
It's a few weeks old, as news goes, and I'd not heard anything about. I guess that's not really surprising, though I appear to becoming increasingly aware of the kind of threats made against science, and the closure of scientific institutes, and the line I can draw between the two.
It has been thinking, though, about the responsibility of science fiction in response to this. The genre and its writers don't have anything to do with the acts of groups like ITS, of course, and I would never make the connection to it, even if the group fears a world that sounds a lot like Terminator (but that's because they're morons). But there is also, I think, an opportunity here for science fiction to be a little on the proactive side, if it wishes, and to help consciously work against the organisations like ITS that exist. Through fiction, there is a very valid way to help undermine the platforms that they speak from; or at least to work against the fears of technologically advanced future. I think I remember Geoff Ryman talking about a similar thing at the time his novel Air was released, I believe.