near anything box design

From: Anders Sandberg (
Date: Mon Mar 13 2000 - 04:58:53 MST writes:

> George, ya ever think that your Drexlerian (new meme!) Anything
> Boxes, as depicted in Neil Stephanson's novel Diamon Age, might be a
> long, long, ways off? I am suggesting centuries to work out the
> technical bottlenecks.

A long time, yes, but *centuries*? Given the rate of change many of us
seem to be assuming, that is far in the posthuman era. Of course, we
could be wrong. But how hard is it to make a consumer usable
near-anything box?

What seems to be needed is a massive parallel array of nanoassemblers
that can be used to manufacture subcomponents and attach them to the
growing structure. Drexler describes a 3D system, but even a plate of
assemblers slowly moving upwards depositing the object would likely
work. This seem to require a way of making a large number of
assemblers, making them enough damage-resistant to work in a kitchen
or able to repair/replace neighbouring assemblers when an error occurs
and software able to specify how to build something useful.

This seems to require a fairly mature nanotech, but nothing totally
magical. Centuries doesn't seem a likely timescale unless
nanoassemblers turn out to be really, really hard. Once you have a
general assembler you can at least make a lot of general assemblers,
and the problem instead becomes how to arrange and program them (lots
of nontrivial micromechanics when you try to build a soft beef that
will deform under gravity). Given the commercial potential of near
anything boxes (everybody wants them, and then they will be running
*your* propetary nanorecipe standard ;-) I guess development will be

> If ya buy into this premise, then what about
> an older idea called Laser Deposition Spectroscopy? Thats where
> lasers or particle beams basically sort matter by atomic weight and
> deposit it separately.

Doesn't this have real problem with complex organic molecules? Making
washing machines might be possible, but a beef?

Anders Sandberg                                      Towards Ascension!                  
GCS/M/S/O d++ -p+ c++++ !l u+ e++ m++ s+/+ n--- h+/* f+ g+ w++ t+ r+ !y

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