Technohazardous tools
Posted by aogThursday, 04 November 2004 at 09:15 TrackBack Ping URL

I’ve been continuing to think about the issues of a technohazardous lab. While there are strong analogies to biohzardous labs, I ran in to one big difference the other day on the subject of sterilization. For biohazards, the tools uses to manipulate the materials are made of fundamentally different things than the materials. This makes sterilization easier, since one needs to find a procedure that’s destructive to the biohazards but not to the tools (such as intense heat).

For technohazards, though, the tools and the technohazards are in effect made of the same stuff. There’s no significant difference between a text editor and a virus in terms of their constituent parts. It’s as if all of the tools in a biohazard lab were themselve active biologicals, saying living plants. Put them through an autoclave would sterilize and destroy them at the same time.

In one sense this isn’t so bad, since it’s extremely cheap to duplicate the tools, but what of trying to move accumulated data out of the lab?

I can’t think of any procedure that’s guaranteed to destroy technohazards that won’t also destroy data. This comes up as an issue when one wants to move data out of the lab. What process can be guaranteed to destroy any potential technohazards without destroying the data? All current virus scanners, for instance, rely on prior knowledge of the target virii. If one is dealing with a new strain, then the scanners will not be sufficiently thorough. Live connections are obviously out — it’d be like having running water flowing out of a biohazard lab (just think of the hazards of any sort of wireless connections). Hand copying may be required until better procedures can be created.