Nanotech/Opensource: Opinions Needed.

From: Paul Hughes (
Date: Sun Jul 09 2000 - 13:40:11 MDT

I would really like to get some opinions out there about a few things
which for me
seem interrelated.

It all stems originally for me with the futurist pundits of yesteryear
extolling the virtues of how the PC and later the internet decentralizes
power, flattens hierarchies, empowers the individual. A recent essay on
these virtues is eloquently described by Eric Raymond's 'The Cathedral
and the Bazaar".

1) As you may have heard Microsoft is trying very much to regain control
by putting
all of their software back into their central servers. The only way
you'll be able to use software in the future is by logging in to their
system. Wow, this sounds secure. Just
think, all those things you do on the computer - private memos,
dictation's, dirty
pictures, all of it will be stored and manipulated via programs you
login into at
Microsoft's 'Central' servers. Regardless of anything they may claim,
they will have
full power to control what you see, use and do, and ultimately have all
the tools
necessary to collect complete dossiers on what we all use, how we're
using it, and
where their software is being accessed. The old idea of liberating the
people by
offering them desktop computers, flattening hierarchies, decentralizing
power will
have been undone. We will have returned to the old paradigm of large
info-warehouses with the rest of us left with nothing more than dumb
terminals circa
1970. This whole thing bothers me a great deal, and for all intents and
purposes is a
return to Orwellian thinking with a vengeance. What do you think?

2) In the near future, maybe within this decade, someone is going to
create the first
assembler. The knowledge to create this assembler will most likely stem
rigorous research done by thousands of researchers and scientists around
world. Its even possible that most of the design principles of this
first assembler will have already been available on the internet via an
ongoing open-source nanotech initiative started in the earlier part of
this decade. So here is the golden question - will the creator of this
first assembler, weather it be Zyvex or some other company hold ALL the
patent and intellectual property rights to all future assemblers based
on their design? Since it is likely that hundreds of other companies
will also be able to invent their own assemblers based on previous
research, it is likely that they will be similar enough to Zyvex's
design, that Zyvex could you use the power of law to stop them from
using it. Or would it? Is it just as likely that nanotech will be so
powerful, that the rule of law will be quickly ignored and hundreds of
developers will jump on the revolution anyway? Or is there some loop
hole in the over-sweeping Digital Millennium Copyright Act that would
allow anyone to do it legally? I sure hope so. Why? Just imagine one
and only ONE COMPANY having sole legal power of nanotechnology. Sine
nanotech gives complete control over matter, the very control of matter
itself will the be the unique power of ONE COMPANY. Decentralized
dreams of a nanotech paradise will be hard in coming, since one company
will control who gets it and at what cost. No other non-nanotech
company could possible compete with a nanotech company producing the
same goods. Forget free-markets, this ONE COMPANY could very easily
become THE ECONOMY. Never mind the free-market that extropians wish
for, let alone the quasi-pluralistic society we now enjoy. Everything
will be ONE COMPANY. Because the longer they fight potential
competitors through their patent rights, the longer they get ahead the
nanotech curve, leaving any potential competitor hopelessly behind. Is
this what we want?. Like Microsoft's current strategies, this potential
outcome scares the hell out of me. What do you think?

Looking forward to your responses,

Paul Hughes

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Mon Oct 02 2000 - 17:34:18 MDT