Re: Open Source (was: Re: the economics of transition to nanotech)

From: Eliezer S. Yudkowsky (
Date: Thu Jan 13 2000 - 11:54:45 MST

Billy Brown wrote:
> I'm with Robert on this one. Open Source is better than the code-and-fix
> swamp that most software companies have mired themselves in, but it is
> fundamentally incompatible with any disciplined practice of software
> engineering. Since the benifits of a modern software engineering system are
> much larger than those of open source (there are ducumented instances of
> productivity gains as large as 600-to-1, and sustained improvements of 20% -
> 50% per year are commonplace), it is pretty obvious which approach should
> win out.

The interesting question is whether the benefits come from "disciplined
practices" that are incompatible with open source (why can't
open-sourcers be "disciplined"?), or the engineering CASE tools that go
along with being the sort of company that engages in disciplined practices.

The original question was the power of open-sourced nanotech. While
matter may be software, nanoengineering will not be like software
engineering. For true drextech engineering you'd probably have to *be*
Drexler in order to know what you were trying to do, much less do it.
For macroscopic objects built with nanotech, hopefully the very first
manufacturing stage and the stage that spacewagons will fall into, you'd
have to understand the non-nanotech versions of what you were trying to
do, and the basic properties of the materials you were working with, but
beyond that your productivity would probably be determined by the tools
you had.

So for drextech, by which I mean anything that involves engineering
complex objects on the molecular level, you'd probably need a dozen
incredibly smart people working in the same room. For macronanotech,
open-source would probably work better than closed source, even under
Bradbury's set of assumptions. Why? Because, although this is just a
wild guess, I think the absolute "interactive" complexity (or the amount
of complexity that can screw up other complexity) for a spacewagon would
be less than the interactive complexity of Linux, meaning that many
independent developers could work on individual components.

           Eliezer S. Yudkowsky
Typing in Dvorak         Programming with Patterns  Writing in Gender-neutral
Voting for Libertarians  Heading for Singularity    There Is A Better Way

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