Robin on nanotech-gift economy

From: Damien Broderick (
Date: Thu Jan 13 2000 - 18:31:48 MST

At 03:09 PM 13/01/00 -0500, Robin wrote:

>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.

Yes, but suppose half a `primitive' population (such as California) were
paid to pray to the gods and perform fertility sorcery, and then a cultural
shockwave abolished this faith. What follows? They weren't making or doing
anything truly useful (except keeping themselves occupied and perhaps
raising morale), now nothing has changed except the readiness of the other
50 percent to pay for them. (Is that a useful analogy? Maybe not.)

Many of the services ancillary to today's production and distribution would
evaporate if anything like anything boxes were plentiful, however
circumscribed by protective regulation. What, then, are the sales staff
selling? What goods are being carefully stored and moved long distances?
Who fill the skyscrapers doing what? What vast trucks rumble over the big
bridges? Feedstocks? Maybe, but modestly smart nano systems might well cope
with what suddenly becomes a provision of services on the order of piping
in water and power and piping out sewage. (And even those will surely be
handled nearer to home, ideally by nearly-closed recycling).

>The fraction of software effort now using the open source route is
>miniscule, the gains to specialization in production are now enormous,

That was now, this is then.

>and people don't give away raw materials with low enough transport and
>processing costs to be useful.

I assume this is the bottleneck - we really can't expect to make
*everything* we need out of dirt-cheap diamond. So some feed stocks will
have to be gathered, moved to convenient storehouses, shipped to the home
user (or to module-makers, for local shipping).

But of course this assumes bizarrely that *only* replicative nanotech
happens in the future. Moore's Law hasn't shut down, the computers are
getting better all the time, and nano is feeding into that curve with
smaller and faster computers built at molecular scales and then *copyable*
by nano-mints, and iterating onward in a blurry spiral. With AI agents
taking over most of the scut-work of filing and organizing and perhaps even
entertaining, and praying to the gods for us, many service industries will
go the way of that 30 percent of manufacturing etc.


Damien Broderick

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