Re: my take on a nanotech-gift economy...

From: Robin Hanson (
Date: Thu Jan 13 2000 - 13:09:22 MST

John Grigg wrote:
>... Open-source designs will be available for just about anything one could
>want. ... but if you want the best, latest and most innovative you will pay
>for it. And you get accompanying "social status" by paying for the designs.
> ... to what extent would A.I. make it easy to develop state of the art
>open-source designs? ... Would the models available to consumers allow them
>to build homes or vehicles?

We may have an easier time predicting the earlier stages of a nanotech
economy than the later stages. If so, we shouldn't assume powerful AI, nor
automatic skyscraper and bridge construction boxes.

At the moment, the "manufacturing" industries are less than 18% of GDP, and
such industries do a lot of non-manufacturing spending (like sales,
transport, storage, ...) Total spending on the design of manufacturables is
probably much less. So even making manufacturing and design free still
leaves people paying for >70% of the things they pay for now.

The fraction of software effort now using the open source route is
miniscule, the gains to specialization in production are now enormous,
and people don't give away raw materials with low enough transport and
processing costs to be useful.

There are thus many reasons to doubt the imagine of an early nano-gift
economy, where trade is distant memory and people get virtually everything
they want from essentially free open source designs running on essentially
free generic factories built from essentially free raw materials.

Robin Hanson
Asst. Prof. Economics, George Mason University
MSN 1D3, Carow Hall, Fairfax VA 22030
703-993-2326 FAX: 703-993-2323

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