Re: Islam, theology and politeness

From: Anders Sandberg (
Date: Tue Mar 06 2001 - 18:56:02 MST

Charlie Stross <> writes:

> It seems to me that one of the consequences of a mature molecular
> nanotechnology is that manufacturing technologies spread like
> crazy: physical goods tend towards the state of software, with
> non-informational replication costs directly proportional to mass,
> mineralogical availability, and energy. This in turn suggests that a
> working nanotechnology industrial base with replicators can very rapidly
> raise the availability of material goods throughout the third world to
> at least the level we in the developed world are accustomed to.

Yes. But the timeframe is extremely important here. Three billion
people (!) are right now living in countries making good progress
towards industrialisation and first world living standards. They have
far to go, but things are happening on an enormous scale. The effects
of nanotechnology will be very different if it appears in the early,
middle or late part of this process. It is also interesting for us,
since we might not want to be around the pollution peak that seems to
occur in mid-industrialisation - if a shortcut in production and
development can be provided, it would be great.

Nanotech in early industrialisation: a chance for a great leap
forward, sidestepping traditional industry - but can it be applied, do
people have the right skills to employ it, will it be economically
available? The sheer jump might cause instability as societies move
into not just the somewhat understood industrial era but into the same
unknown as even the most developing world would be struggling with.

Nanotech in mid industrialisation: already made investments will
become irrelevant or incorporate nanotech in new ways; a good chance
to see truly cyberpunkish technological chimeras.

Nanotech in late industrialisation: likely less disruptive, just
helping to speed along an already quickly expanding economy. Expect
the general optimism of the society to explode outwards.

Information technology introduction might give us some hints.

> Now, given that a lot of the political conflicts, famines, and other
> unpleasantnesses we live with today are scarcity-related, doesn't it
> make sense to try to understand how two thirds of the human species
> will respond to technologies that promise to make most of the roots of
> conflict magically go away?

I agree with your view about the need for understanding new
technologies in different cultural contexts, but I would say the the
problems above are not magically solved by even strong
nanotech. Scarcity is not just an issue of lack of resources or
production capacity, it is also an issue of distribution and economic
system. Under a Rob Mugabe even a nanotech society might starve.
> There's a complicating factor, though. Just as legislative infrastructure
> in the west is dominated by Christian ideas of moral behaviour, so are
> legislative systems in the non-Christian world dominated by other belief
> systems. Even if the people living there don't actively believe, the way
> their systems have developed have their roots in a religious culture.
> Consider the strength of Sunday-opening laws for shops in various parts
> of the west, or the way the institution of marriage is handled. Societies
> with a western take on these may not be inhabited by fundamentalists, but
> those laws were put into shape by a predominantly Christian-influenced
> legislature at some time in the past.

A good example is reproductive rights, and reproductive

Anders Sandberg                                      Towards Ascension!                  
GCS/M/S/O d++ -p+ c++++ !l u+ e++ m++ s+/+ n--- h+/* f+ g+ w++ t+ r+ !y

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