Re: Technology evolves, etc.

Eugene Leitl (
Fri, 6 Nov 1998 19:26:21 +0100

Jeff Davis writes:
> [environmental impact]

Intuitively, global environmental impact of having a goodly fraction of Sahara paved with a low-albedo material should not be so very dramatic (but we oughta model that, right). Locally, terrific upwinds, yes. Even more dramatic temperature delta between day and night, certainly. Some more heating up of large city cores due to exported heat, of course. However, this will be more than compensated by reductions of greenhouse gases, and a possibility to regreen, say, Sahara in the shades below PV panels/desalinators -- global warming? which global warming?

In any case does orbital PV microwaving power down to terrestrial rectenna arrays appear preferable. Better highly localized EM smog (remember Waldo?), than L.A. photosmog, imnsho.

> [global load levelling]

If at all, seasonally only. Notice that many of the areas you mentioned are politically instable -- another big con against a centralization.

> [market economics don't apply to self-replicators]

Uh, wrong. Unless you manage to supersede (uh, well, postpone) market economics by a Grand Extinction Event with Gray Goo nanoscale autoreplicators, macroscopic autoreplicators are bottlenecked by energy, land, and neighbour good will. You can purchase and autoreplicator-tile a major test site in 3rd world country, but don't try this at home (do we have any extropians from 3rd world countries???) . In a pinch, you'd get nuked. (Uh, I forgot: distributed uranium extraction from non-ores like granite and isotope enrichment in situ: grow your own).

You _could_ seed an asteroid/comet kernel, but, unless properly claimed (legislation will catch up very soon once the possibility of space development by autoreplicators has been demonstrated), many would interprete this as space piracy. (You could, probably successfully, try to outrun the expansion of lawniks into space by sending your panspermia nuclei far enough so they constitute a local power the expanding 'civilization' front has to reckon with).

> Joe Jenkins wrote:
> >Although I share much enthusiasm for self replicating machines, I am
> >also skeptical of the benefits of cheap centralized energy. I am

'too cheap too meter', eh? The only pluses of centralized power is ease of administration and fuel efficiency. Of course if you make your energy locally from fossils, you can couple thermals to power, which is not feasible in large centralized power plants due to lossage (try Moscow, Russia for a nice instance of a major energy bagbiter). Administration is not a problem today, since the advent of automation using digital electronics. The only problem is fuel monopoly, which only applies to fossil, not solar. The only reason against going solar in the Southern U.S. is 1) large initial installation cost 2) yearly maintanance cost. Otoh, the resulting power is much cleaner (no spikes, glitches et al., no smog), and you're independant from remote, politically instable countries (let the boys stay home).

> [ubiquitous autoreplicators]

A factory churning out PV panels and copies of itself in the flat desert is one matter, an autoreplicator running amok in Silicon Valley is another entirely. Once you have to adapt to a complex environment, the task complexity and thus also system's jumps way up. The bottleneck in automation today is processing power, as our sensomotorics seems to be more than adequate. Since processing power equates to an advanced silicon foundry, complexity suddenly jumps up.

> [cheap rooftop power kits from autorep]

With a fraction of the development costs to set up an autoreplicator you can jolt the market into large enough numbers so that economy of scale can kick in. Otoh, we certainly need R&D investment into autorep, specifically into space-capable autorep. (I think NASA has really goofed that one up).

> [component size is irrelevant. you will be assimilated]

I think the problem relates more to processivity/autorep grain size. Notice that from a certain speed growth mechanism start do dominate: unless capable of spawning remote nuclei (requiring a yet another feature: efficient transport), the best you get is a circular/spherical growth propagation wave (due to volume/surface ratio material transport thru-cell near surface will peak high enough to bottleneck). In any case, at the high end you'd be hard pressed out outrun your light cone ;)

> Nano ain't here yet. Cryonic reanimation ain't here yet
> (though suspension IS here, and SUCCESSFUL REANIMATION IS A NEAR
> CERTAINTY). Indefinitely perpetuated human lifespan ain't here yet

'NEAR CERTAINTY'? What makes you think that?

> (except by cryonic suspension, THE SUCCESS OF WHICH IS NEAR
> CERTAINTY). Human equivalent AI ain't here yet, nor SI, nor

Oh, sorry. 'NEAR CERTAINTY' appearing the second time in caps, now I am absolutely convinced. What a killer argument. Ash on my head, what a Doubting Thomas have I been.

> enhancements, nor uploading. But self-rep and the economic
> singularity that it will bring, marking the dawn of the transhuman
> era, is waiting to be built today,...this afternoon even.

The $20 Wal-Mart do-it-yourself tranhumanist kit... Now that's a GREAT idea.