Re: the economics of transition to nanotech

From: Damien Broderick (
Date: Sat Jan 08 2000 - 20:42:40 MST

At 04:32 PM 7/01/00 -0800, Forrest wrote:

>> Brutally: who pays, and why?
>Most of the rich stay rich, most of the poor stay relatively poor, same as
it ever was.

I don't understand what you're saying. My question was: who will invest
heavily in developing a magic mill that makes copies of itself for free?

>It takes time to ship things through space.

In the long run, feed stocks might be obtained in situ and gadgetry made so
small or ubiquitous (Ufog, etc) that not much bulk needs to be shipped. But
that's the longer term, and I need a path to widespread nano equal to the
path from early spreadsheets to Office that can be stolen and burned or
copied to multigig drive in seconds. I guess you're saying that in the
meantime ancillary industries will still thrive - transport, etc - but
those are not the ones who'd be needed to *invest* in making nano happen.
(In an update, I've sketched Zyvex's and Ntech's plans, which seem
plausible: build a clunky thing, then a better small thing, then a wicked
cool smaller thing, etc, and sell them sequentially for the benefits they
bring to existing productivity. And have enough money in yr swag at startup
that you can afford some mistakes and missed targets.)

>> Once you have a working matter compiler, you can share out the job of
>> writing the programs to a hundred million nano hackers on the Internet.

>But there are nowhere near 10^8 people doing this, or even capable ofdoing
it. More like 10^3
>or 10^4 worldwide (a guess).

True, but I'm supposing that advanced nano code-bootstrapping might happen
at a time when a billion or so people are on the net. Even so, maybe I
should change that to `a hundred thousand' or `a million'. Realistically, I
guess it should be `a thousand'. :(

>> machinery (MEMs). He notes, as we saw above, that shrinking the scale of
>> superconductors,
>I think you mean "semiconductors".

Yep, my clumsy bad. I'm pumping this draft out fast, will tidy later.

>> In the immediate future, Whitesides expects
>> impacts from inexpensive microtechnology rather than nano. For example, he
>> predicts that instead of a newspaper `you might buy a sheet of paper; the
>> back side of it would be a battery, the front side of it would be a
>> display. You read it, scroll to find reference works on it, see animated
>> illustrations, and when you're done, you throw it away.'
>This already exists (it's not a prediction), but it's too expensive to
throw away.

That is, it *doesn't* exist yet (in the form he envisages).

Thanks for comments, folks.


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