Re: regarding posts on a nanotech-gift economy and what I see as the big question...

From: Robert Bradbury (
Date: Mon Jan 17 2000 - 20:12:01 MST

John offers some interesting integration of the nanotech threads
worthy of some comment ---

On Sat, 15 Jan 2000, john grigg wrote:

> [Robin's] = His comment that even with manufacturing and design costs
> removed we would have 70% of the cost remaining wzs rather sobering!

Ah, but then you have to hand off to Greg and ask how much of his
business would still exist if we had ubiquitous recording of negotions,
people who really *knew* what they were saying and "trustable" entities
(people or corporations). The question becomes whether the advancement
in materials processing spills over in some way into human interactions.
Hint: watch the development of automated eBusiness closely. If they
make that work there is hope, if it falls on its face we are probably

> The question is will governments allow their people access to such powerful
> A.I. and the nanotech replicators we all want?

To ask that question, you also have to ask the inverse -- can governments
deny access to people who really want to "build" them? I've addressed
that in my recent comments to Damien. To my mind the answer is, "I don't
think so", though there may be a time delay in general access. One would
hope that "common sense" (generally) prevails and people don't want to
use assemblers for unverified designs (just like most people don't yell
"fire" in theatres). For the people who want to, you have to hope
that the desires and safeguards of those on the leading edge provide
adequate defenses and countermeasures. As I've said before -- "grey goo"
is *very* dubious.

> As I said in a previous
> post, I see powerful reasons for governments to wish to restrain access to
> the common people. This could be a huge civil liberties question of the
> next century.

Yep, but if you are watching the encryption technology debates, it looks
like the goverment is going to have to sacrifice security to free speach.
Now, if someone goes back and attacks the old atomic-weapons knowledge
with the same argument and wins, then it is clear that the the people
(and constitution) are driving us forward.

> There would have to be powerful safeguards or a twisted individual or
> group could cause mass carnage before being stopped. I wonder how
> open-ended the software and hardware would be?

No, you assume in your premise that it is *easy* to create "grey goo"
(like it is "easy" to create plagues). No sensible person would create
grey goo or plagues that they cannot control and therein lies the hard
part. I've discussed this before -- show me a plausible situation
for developing a weapon of mass destruction via biotech or nanotech
against which reasonable defenses cannot be rapidly fielded (assuming
relatively equivalent technology capabilites). Nobody has demonstrated
that capacity to me yet.

Yes, sure there are anthrax bombs, but we *know* how to protect
ourselves against them and could ensure some subset of the population
survives. Lord help the person who unleashed the terror.

> Salespeople would sell designs and the reputation of their corporation.

Yep, elegance and reliability will be strong sales tools.

> Advertising would be more important then ever.


> In Robert's post I was impressed to learn that these horribly expensive
> chip-making plants could be used for other then their original goal. I had
> read articles painting a very bleak picture with no bright side to it.

Its lack of imagination on the part of writers and corporate CEO's wanting
to justify huge expenses to shareholders without going out on a limb
of predicting alternate uses or residual values.

> "Bloating" in the nanotech age will definately be accellerated. Just as
> someone can buy software with the promise of getting a free upgrade later
> on; I see companies that design for nanotech doing the same thing.

In fact, probably, programmed upgradability using "patented" approaches
will provide one way for companies to "lock-in" customers.

> As I stated in my last post I am very concerned that federal governments
> will feel that for our own good these technologies (especially as they
> improve and mature) should be utilized directly only be licensed corporate
> and government bodies.
Thats why we discuss things like "enclaves", moving into space, etc.
They not only have to prohibit your using the technologies in your
legal jurisdiction, they have to do it globally and in the entire
solar system. Very very hard. Once you admit you can't control it
the best you can do is attempt "manage" it. Thats what is happening
to encryption technology. (Of course they will hopefully wake up
soon and realize management is futile...)

> We see right now a fight going on for open-source code. We see battles
> going on in the U.S. and elsewhere over civil liberties. Won't nanotech
> (especially as it matures) be the ultimate example of powerful institutions
> wanting to control access to technology to control the people?? I see this
> as a much bigger question then even the development of the technology itself
> which now seems very likely.

Yes, but we will by then have many more examples of how people will creatively
work around restrictions that governments try to impose. I'll put my
money on the creativity and desires of millions of people vs. a few
thousand any day of the week.


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