Re: Nanodevelopment [was Re: Calculating a personal long term good]

From: Eliezer S. Yudkowsky (
Date: Mon Apr 10 2000 - 08:39:33 MDT

Robert Bradbury wrote:
> No, but once you have real "almost anything" boxes, you do get to the
> "infinite supply" position for most human needs relatively quickly.
> It is only a matter of days to give everyone alive an AA box. This
> is obvious if you think about the doubling times. The mass doubling
> times for AA boxes are of the order of hours. The mass doubling times
> for humans are of the order of months to years. Its only when humans
> can be copied with the ease of computer files that the balance of the
> equation shifts back to the side where consumption may exceed production.

Drexler's "Anything Box", as I recall, requires a 100 kW cooling system
(no energy inputs required, he says, because converting [almost
anything] into diamondoid is an exoergic process), and a feedstock of
acetylene. A genuine "infinite supply" would require an Anything Box
capable of eating dirt, powering itself via transformations or solar
energy, and cooling itself in the local river or using air. It's the
"eating dirt" part that's worrisome, of course.

It seems like the default projection to assume that there will first be
large, bulky, non-reproducing systems, perhaps even requiring human
control for some stages. Getting from there to a self-reproducing box
will take considerable time, and then it will take a bit more time
before the external environment required is reduced to dirt, water, and sunlight.

During the first stage diamondoid objects will be very dear, thousands
or millions of dollars per kilo, limited mostly to nanocomputers and
military apps. During the second stage, diamondoid will begin becoming
usable for consumer products, with a one-kilo nano-object costing from
ten to a thousand dollars, and software starting to be the primary cost.
 During the third stage we would all be extremely rich, but this is
irrelevant; during the second stage, either (1) Saddam Hussein will have
reduced the earth to grey goo or (2) I'll have run a Sysop on my cheapo
nanocomputer and we'll all be infinitely rich, or dead.

The other interesting question is how fast we'll run through those stages.

--      Eliezer S. Yudkowsky

                 Member, Extropy Institute
           Senior Associate, Foresight Institute

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