Re: We're stuck with each other

From: Robert J. Bradbury (
Date: Wed Jan 23 2002 - 07:36:35 MST

On Tue, 22 Jan 2002, Louis Newstrom wrote:

> Unlike other people, I don't expect that kind of technology for a few
> centuries. Right now, the state of the art is to get a human sized robot to
> walk on two legs without falling over.

You are talking about entirely different realms here. One is nanoscale,
the other is macroscale. You seem to not be seeing what many people
don't see which is that biotechnology *IS* nanotechnology. My
current business plan is on how to make robust bio-nanotechnology available
to large numbers of molecular biologists within *this* decade. It has
been reviewed by Eric Drexler, Robert Freitas, and several people with
training in genetics and molecular biology. They have not found any
fundamental flaws in it.

I think you might want to either (a) consider accepting the opinions
of the people who have studied this; or (b) educate yourself about it
so you can evaluate the probabilities based on your own knowledge.

> Like I said, I don't expect that era within our life times.

Well, I'm working pretty hard to make it happen because I'm pretty
sure my life depends on it.

> I see your points on the advance of technology. I don't agree that it will
> be provided free for everyone. Look at Microsoft!

Look at Linux! Its effectively free.

> When someone discovers this great technology, they will patent it,
> stop anyone else from getting it, and LICENSE it to the general public
> for a large fee.

Not if there is open source competition. Open source significantly limits
the "large fees" you can charge (see below). Human inventiveness suggests
that there ways around most patents. Did Amazon's stupid one-click patent
stop the web-based sales industry?

> When PC's are as cheap as cell phones, they will still be just as
> unafordable to most of the world.

Granted. But that gives the manufacturers incentives to drive the
costs down even further. I think the standard rule of thumb is
double the number, half the cost. So long as there are billions
in China and India without cell phones and PCs manufacturers
have an incentive to see how low they can drive the prices.

> The same argument was made for "money". People predicted that after the
> world got some billionaires money would be superfluous and they would
> philanthropically pay to end world hunger. This hasn't happened.

That is because the numbers don't add up. Even if all the billions
of all the billionaires in the world adds up to $600 billion, divided
over ~6 billion people, thats $100/person. Not enough to feed them
for very long.

It also assumes that throwing money at the problem will solve it.
It doesn't. The Hunger Project spent years working on this and
the key things required are education, access to financial resources
and changing the status of women in society. Those are not things
where you can wave a magic wand and make the problems go away.

> No matter how fast the "doubling time", only the people rich enough to own
> the first nanobots would control the newer nanobots. All the "doubling
> time" does is to create more nanobots for those who already have them.

You seem to be assuming that the "rich" will be inherently evil
and will act to oppress the masses of people. I'd cite 3
examples, The Gates Foundation, The Ellison Medical Foundation
and Ted Turner where that concept seems to have some problems.

What do you think will happen the first time Zyvex publishes a paper
showing concretely that diamondoid molecular nanoassembly is possible?
Do you think the Science Ministries in Singapore, Taiwan, Korea, Japan,
Russia, Germany, etc. are going to let that go by unnoticed? Do you
think that VC firms with tens of billions of dollars are not going
to create a dozen new Zyvexes?

Can you make a reasonable case that the rich will be able to control
nanobot development?

> Huh? I know my body mass isn't doubling every 20 minutes. What are you
> refering to when you say "biobots" and "doubling time" already existing in
> our bodies?

You have ~40 trillion bacteria in or on your body. Many of them are E. coli.
The doubling time for E. coli is ~20 minutes. If, as I said, you provided
them with access to sufficient energy and raw materials, they would outmass
your body in less than a day. Eukaryotic cells in contrast have a doubling
time of ~24 hours.

> That sounds great. The big point you are missing is where are YOU going to
> get your first biobot? The microscopic, infinitely programmable,
> self-maintaining nanites you are talking about may not even be possible!
> Definitely not free.

Every time you sit on the toilet you are throwing away billions of them.
What hasn't existed previously is the ability to robustly reprogram them.
Right now we only reprogram them to produce insulin, growth hormone,
enzymes for the biotechnology industry, enzymes in your detergent,
enzymes to give your jeans that stonewashed look (without the associated
fiber damage of actually "stone-washing" them), etc. I'm planning on
correcting the situation so robust reprogramming is much easier.

> LOL! You're doing it again! You are protesting that these things are
> "free" and then talk about burning diamonds for fuel and having a whole suit
> made of diamonds! I don't even think Bill Gates can afford this "free"
> technology.

No, but given the points I make above about nanotechnology, can you make
the case that Bill Gates will have an exclusive lock on it? As I pointed
out in a post recently on, after you adjust for salaries,
the Chinese (mainland) funding for Nanotechnology development is equivalent
to the U.S. funding. Spend a little time perusing the nanodot archives.
You need to make the case that the technology "wave" this is something
that the rich can "contain" or "suppress" (unless I'm missing something
in what you are saying).

> And how does this give me free energy?

Solar ponds. It looks like the energy yield per acre based on biobots
converting solar energy into methane or hydrogen is > $2000/acre at
current prices. This is much higher than agricultural yields which
are << $500/acre. (And in Texas most of the land is only capable of
being rangeland, not agricultural land, so there is going to be a high
incentive to dedicate it to energy production.)

> Of course. If I can design your miraculous nanomachines, I would be rich.
> Of course, once I had such wondrous machines, I would be god-like and not
> care about money. (Although I still would be out of luck when I publish my
> "open source" and no-one GIVES me one of the nanobots.)

If I can design one first, I'll be happy to give you one on the condition
that you give one to anyone who asks for one. Oh, and you and anyone
you give them to will have to pay me a small royalty for any income
you derive from them. Uses dedicated to "personal" survival needs
are exempted from the royalty. Of course that probably provides an
incentive for someone else to develop a similar miraculous nanomachine that
does what mine does and charge you a lower royalty. And then the real
open source advocates will design something that does what my miraculous
nanomachine does and give it away completely for free and I'll be out
of business. So you see, if anyone developing miraculous nanomachines
"breaks ranks" and allows them to be used for "personal survival" needs
for little or nothing, that allows "matter programmers" who are interested
in doing so to live for "free" and you immediately have a rapid trend
towards everything becoming very inexpensive.


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