Re: Near-Term Scenarios -- Nanotech

Dan Clemmensen (
Sun, 17 May 1998 15:37:54 -0400

GBurch1 wrote:
> There's no question that "nanotech when?" is the Big Question.

OK, we appear to be in agreement about the following. Please correct
this if my oversimplification has introduced errors.
1) we will be using nanotech to build simple stuff (i.e., most machine parts and
components for buildings) well before 2015
2) we will not use nanotech to build complicated stuff (potatoes, beefsteak,
"anything box") until we achieve a breakthough in control systems such as AI.

We appear to disagree on the boundary between "simple" and "complex".
I place a desktop-sized supercomputer factory in the "simple" category.
I can't tell for sure, but you seem to disagree? It would be fun to
rank-order a set of parts or devices and see where each of us places
the boundary. We could each place the rank-ordered devices on a timeline,
except we both agree that a breakthrough is needed, more or less implying a
bimodal distribution.

I also believe that there is at least a chance that the availability of
nanotech-built massively parallel supercomputers will enable a path to
AI, which in turn could permit a nanotech control system that can enable
us to build complicated stuff. You appear to think this unlikely?

We also disagree on the rate of adoption of even the "simple stuff"
technology. I feel that the rate will be very rapid, while you think
it will take a decade. In essence, I feel that after the time that the
first macro-scale part (brick, tennis racket handle, whatever) there will
be no new orders for new non-nanotech capital equipment, and within a year
most simple hard-good parts will be diamondoid. In the same time, nanocomputing
will completely supercede microlithographic-based computing.