Re: the economics of transition to nanotech

From: Dan Fabulich (
Date: Fri Jan 07 2000 - 08:34:40 MST

Hmmm. The normal argument, which I'm sure you've heard a dozen times, is
as follows. If somebody ever builds a Drexler-esque nano-assembler, the
job's done: the assemblers make anything we've written the code to make,
including more assemblers, very cheaply. Open source software genies take
over, and eventually we've got an Anything box.

The first assembler, in turn, will be built because somebody somewhere
finds the project interesting, and because these days a good sum of money
is still being thrown at Pure Research. The Applied Whatever department
at some university somewhere will build the first nano-assembler just to
see if it can be done, or else some other large scale organization (it
would be fitting if it were IBM) with a large R&D department. Last on the
list is probably organizations like Zyvex, for the very reasons you
mentioned: who's going to invest in a company that may eventually make
investment irrelevant?

Nano-assemblers will get built eventually as our economy continues to
flourish and as long as someone is still interested in Pure Research.
Arguments to the contrary flounder in the face of large scale expensive
physics projects; gigantic supercolliders and the like aren't profitable
to anyone, aren't expected to be profitable to anyone, and yet governments
around the world still throw billions of dollars at these projects. Even
if nanotech never gets that kind of funding, we just need the first
assembler to get the rest.


      -unless you love someone-
    -nothing else makes any sense-
           e.e. cummings

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