RE: Major Technologies

Billy Brown (
Wed, 6 Jan 1999 12:16:39 -0600

Anders Sandberg wrote:
> "Billy Brown" <> writes:
> > If we solve the automated engineering problem well in advance of the
> > creation of the first assembler, then whoever first turns
> nanotech to
> > military use instantly becomes the world's dominant
> military power. They
> > will probably have a few weeks of lead time, and that's
> long enough to
> > achieve such overwhelming dominance that the second
> nanotech power would be
> > hopelessly outmatched..
> Will they? On what assumptions do you base these predictions?

First, let me state that I don't think this is the most likely scenario. Automated engineering is not progressing very quickly, so it is quite likely that we will get the first assembler before we can really do much with it. However, the situation could easily reverse in the next few years.

If it does, then we will have a substantial library of nanotech-related designs before the first assembler can be build. We will probably also be able to build conventional hardware using nanotech-based fabricators without a lot of expensive re-work. Finally, I would expect battlefield robotics to be significantly easier to program than general-purpose assemblers, so the supply of human military personnel is not a hard constraint.

Given those assumptions, the first general-purpose assembler would have a sudden, dramatic impact. Spend your first few days building fabrication systems, then start diverting resources to producing supercomputers and conventional military hardware. The computers can run engineering AIs to accelerate your tech advance, while the military hardware guards your borders.

Given Drexler's estimates of nanotech construction rates, you can build enough hardware to eclipse pre-existing conventional resources in a matter of a few weeks. At that point anyone else who builds an assembler is on the same curve, but well behind you. Unless they have some overwhelming advantage in design ability (i.e. better AI), they will be unable to catch up.

Billy Brown, MCSE+I