Design-ahead (was: Re: the economics of transition to nanotech)

From: Joseph Sterlynne (
Date: Tue Jan 11 2000 - 13:51:16 MST

> Robert Bradbury

>Finally, I would strongly disagree with the perspective that once we
>have a nanoassembler, the nanosantas descend on our door steps. I've
>said it before and I'll say it again -- the limiting factors are the

And the designs that evolve alongside the actual assemblers and such may
result in unpredictable effects (i.e., in singularity). Someone may, for
pointed example, develop a design for (or a design for a design for) uploading
or AI that can follow from basic assembler technology. Discussions about the
economics of transition to nanotech are helpful to an extent; but we might not
see such transitions. Whatever the case we must remember that while there
might not be one single breakthrough nothing, in whatever corporate or
economic or academic environment the work is done, will happen without strong

So we must ask now:

- How do we begin serious design-ahead now?
- How do we encourage development (on an open-source basis)?
- How do we guide and organize the design-ahead results? (Ad-hoc
  organization, Web site, institute?)

And a little later:

- How do we get the chance to apply these designs (first)?

We must focus and focus now. We have the means of communication and
transmission of data and access to results of fundamental research. Much
scientific work still needs to be done. And the hackers are ready to begin.

Some inspirational material from [Engines of Creation] (end of Chapter 3):

    Consider the force of this situation: under development will be the
    greatest production tool in history, a truly general fabrication
    system able to make anything that can be designed---and a design
    system will already be in hand. Will everyone wait until assemblers
    appear before planning how to use them? Or will companies and
    countries respond to the pressures of opportunity and competition by
    designing nanosystems in advance, to speed the exploitation of
    assemblers when they first arrive?

    This design-ahead process seems sure to occur; the only question is
    when it will start and how far it will go. Years of quiet design
    progress may well erupt into hardware with unprecedented suddenness
    in the wake of the assembler breakthrough. How well we design
    ahead---and what we design---may determine whether we survive and
    thrive, or whether we obliterate ourselves.

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