RE: Geniebusters

Lyle Burkhead (
Sat, 10 Apr 1999 11:50:59 -0700

Billy Brown writes,

> A general-purpose nanotech fabricator, capable of
> making most kinds of physical goods in a sealed environment,
> is similar in complexity to an automated factory.
> It still requires human supervision, but you don't need
> a whole ecology of different factories to make different kinds of goods.

Where does the sealed environment come from? It's made in another factory, right? What about all the machines (including computers) in the factory that makes sealed environments? Where do those machines come from?

Where does the building come from? -- i.e. the building that houses the sealed environment. It's built by a contractor, right? The same contractor that builds all the other buildings in Silicon Valley. And what about all the machines that the contractor uses? And so forth. You can't get away from the whole ecology of factories.

> While many proposed nanotech goods are wildly complex,
> the production of mundane goods using nanotech fabricators
> need not impose much additional design cost.
> It seems reasonable to expect that automated software,
> similar in nature to a compiler, could convert a
> high-level design calling for a given part into the
> low-level instructions needed to fill a given volume of space
> with a regular pattern of atoms. Thus, the design problem
> is not inherently harder for nanotech manufacturing.

Neither harder nor easier. The difficulty of a design problem depends on the complexity of the task, not on the size of the parts.

The matter-compiler could be simulated. Instead of filling a volume of space with a regular pattern of atoms, suppose you have a program that fills a simulated space with simulated atoms, and puts the result on the screen. At the lowest level, you have simulated atomic positioners putting simulated atoms into a pattern, and then there are higher levels where larger systems coordinate the activities of the atomic positioners. Then you have the compiler that takes a high-level design and converts it into low-level instructions. Apparently you're a programmer, so you tell me -- how complex would this simulation be? What would it be comparable to?