I suspect that will see many different levels of nanotech design tools,
similar to what we have now with software and IC design.
In general, each level consists of building-block approaches where
you put the pieces together to get what you want. The differences
between the levels have to do with the granularity and flexibility of
the building blocks.
Making something simple like a wooden chair or table would be a matter
of specifying the physical arrangement of the pieces, choosing what the
legs, back, etc. would look like, picking a grain for the surface, some
control over the density, stiffness, etc. This is the kind of thing
an average person would have control over in customizing his house,
and would be the highest (crudest) level of design.
At a slightly lower level a craftsman could take some time to create
his own shapes, colors, patterns, etc. The raw materials would be from
a standard palette, but he could use his artistic talents to create
new and unique designs. Most of what we consider "art", paintings,
sculpture, etc., as well as industrial design, would fall into this
category. Probably many people would have this kind of talent, and
these items might well become gifts. People would donate their designs
to the public for the rewards of recognition and approval.
Active devices could also be used in modular designs, but this would take
more care, time and talent to exploit. Making a chair that would adjust
to the user's weight and body shape would require understanding of motors,
sensors, and the properties of the materials used. Similarly with making
shape-changing devices that reconfigure themselves, like an all-purpose
kitchen tool. You have to make sure that the device can move from one
configuration to another without getting in its own way, that it can't
pinch or hurt someone while changing shape, and so on. The number
of designers with the time and talent to create such devices would be
smaller, but still there would probably be many people who could do it.
At the lower levels you have people who are designing the modules which
will be used at the higher levels - arrangements of motors and sensors
which do some standard job (like holding position with controllable
stiffness and compliance), video-capable display surfaces, materials with
active textures, and who knows what else.
And then at the very lowest levels are people who are pushing the
frontiers of the fundamental technology itself, with new designs for
computers, gears, foods (possibly), new elements which can be incorporated
into nanotech structures, etc.
I would suspect that as we move down this hierarchy that the difficulty
will increase, and that the lower levels will be more likely to be
commercially sold than the higher levels. There may still be very
talented people working at the high levels who can sell their designs
(assuming some form of IP protection exists). And there may be people
working at the low levels who give their designs away, like our Open
Source programmers today.
But I think the high levels will be where we will see the closest to a
gift economy, like the people today who design virtual worlds for popular
games, "skin" interfaces for music players, MUD dungeons, and so on.
Once the design tools are easy enough for the average non-technical
person to use them, many people enjoy sharing their designs.
This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Thu Jul 27 2000 - 14:02:19 MDT