Re: We're stuck with each other

From: Robert J. Bradbury (
Date: Tue Jan 22 2002 - 18:07:49 MST

On Tue, 22 Jan 2002, Louis Newstrom wrote:

> I don't recognize the term "MNT" so I may be missing your point.

Sorry. MNT is Molecular Nanotechnology. When I speak of "robust"
MNT, I'm usually refering to the kind that is capable of programmed
replication (one can avoid the self-replication nightmares) and
self-repair (internal recycling) as biological systems currently do.

> Most people would also want an internet conneciton, and that would cost money.

It doesn't have to. There are already situations in which groups
are putting together everything from line-of-sight high bandwidth
laser communications to distributed 3G wireless. You are still
locked into paying the fiber providers for long haul, until one
can launch personal satellites into geosynchronous orbit or
a group bands together to install their own Iridium network.

Remember is the *designs* that cost the money, not the materials
in the MNT era.

> There is also the problem with maintenance. You don't really expect any
> computer left in an unoccupied building to remain running (or even present)
> after a few years? You would need security and maintenance people.

Security perhaps. But in an MNT era, when you don't have to get paid
to survive, would you be willing to provide the security simply for the
prestige? (See some comments below before objecting please...)
You build the maintenance into the design. One doesn't have to maintain
ones body "much". Once we can apply genome patches the maintenance will
be built into the program. The same will be true for robust MNT designs.

> Look at how expensive VCR's and CD's were. Look at how many decades it took
> to be available to the public at all, let alone at a reasonable price. Why
> do you expect uploading to be any different?

Open source, people who don't have to "work" for a living who can devote
their full time to the project, philanthropists who are older for whom biomedical
technology may not be advancing may not be advancing fast enough, accumulating
wealth and cheaper technology, faster computers, etc. By the time we
figure out how to do uploading, I don't expect there to be significant
material barriers to making it available to anyone who wants it.

> Why? More than half the people in the US and over 90% of the world can't
> even afford a PC-style computer. Why do you think they will be able to
> afford 3 Drexlerian nanocomputers?

Half? According to this (
40.7% of households owned personal computers and that was in 1997!
When PCs become as cheap as cell phones, I think you will see many
more people using them. The intermediate market of web-access-devices
(pads, phones, game consoles, etc. in the $100-$600 range) is already
bluring the "PC" concept and market penetration analysis.

Everyone will be able to afford 3 DNC because the doubling time for MNT
is an hour (and thats conservative). Society as a whole gets richer
based on the technology-base-growth-rate / population-growth-rate.
Say technology sophistication is growing at a rate of 10%/yr (or becoming
10% cheaper per year) while population is growing at 5%/yr. Obviously
society as a whole is getting richer. In fact as Kurzweil and others
document, the growth rates for many technologies is *much* faster than
10%/yr. And that is still based on non-self-replicating systems or
rapid-assembly-line matter compilers.

Here is the thing to think long and hard about. We know nanotechnology
exists. Every single person reading this has ~40 trillion nanoscale
"biobots" with "foreign" genomes operating on or within their body.
The doubling time for many of those biobots is ~20 minutes. That
means that *if* you can supply them with sufficient matter and
energy, a single biobot can grow to the mass of the Earth in ~2 days.
Once such entitites become "programmable" then the economic base of
the planet shifts significantly -- precisely because the doubling
time for "material wealth" is much much less than the doubling time
for the human population. If that doesn't make any sense to you,
then ask yourself this: "Why can't I buy an inexpensive plot
of land and 'grow' my house?". The answer of course is that
you can't currently go down to your hardware store and buy
a "house-seed".

The key thing to understand is that materials for biobots, C/H/O/N
are free for the taking from the atmosphere (a little P/S & trace
metals may be required but the costs are minimal). The other
essential element is energy. That is free too if one has access
to sufficient sunlight.

> It costs millions to put something into Earth orbit.

Not if you have the designs. Someone commented at Extro4 I think
that Eric Drexler had once designed a rocket-suit that consumed
diamond & oxygen as a fuel and you ended up in orbit in a skin
tight diamondoid space suit. As has been discussed on the list
many times, the energy cost for putting a person into orbit isn't
significantly greater than flying from coast to coast. Whether
you can fly into orbit every day depends entirely on how much
land you own to produce the energy to extract the CO2 from the
atmosphere and turn it into diamond fuel.

[Side note to Spike or Doug -- which do you think is going to be
cheaper -- diamond fuel which you can keep at room temp or LH2 which
is lighter, but you either have to have heavier tanks to pressurize it
or have the extra expense of liquifying it?]

> I don't even know if a private citizen CAN put something in
> orbit around the sun.

It simply costs more to get sufficient delta-V. I believe it
isn't much of an increment over getting into orbit. Spike or
Doug would know for sure.

> How can you object to "It will cost money" and then reply
> "send yourself into orbit around the sun". That's even more
> money than maintenance on earth would cost.

There isn't any maintenance cost if its built into the designs
(other than the energy cost of taking your machines apart and
rebuilding them) -- but needn't be expensive. Protiens in
bodies are constantly being recycled. They may have half-lives
that range from < 2 to > 200 hours. The reason to take yourself into
orbit is that you can position yourself much closer to the sun
and therefore gather much more energy with much less material.

> I'd like to know where you get this "free" energy. I could use it now, even
> before I upload.

I think land in Texas can be had for $200-$300/acre -- though you might
have to buy it in large pieces. Its very underutilized since a
majority of Texas is unprofitable from an agricultural perspective.
The best they can do with it is use it for grazing cattle.

> If I could afford to put myself off of the earth, then yes, I wouldn't have
> to worry about what earth laws say. Unfortunately, I am not that wealthy
> (yet).

Ah but you will be -- *if* you can convince a bunch of your friends
to live on a diet of yogurt produced in a solar pond on the back 40
(probably the earliest application of food production using biobots)
and you slave away day and night at producing the open source designs
for the nanomachines that can produce your rocket-suit. Perhaps you
can convince Doug or Spike to come help you work on it.

> I agree. However, that definitely will be one of the first hurdles.

Yep. And its certainly going to have more than a few people scratching
their heads wondering what a "human" is...


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