Submolecular nanotech [WAS: Goals]

Eliezer S. Yudkowsky (
Mon, 17 May 1999 17:24:22 -0500

David Lubkin wrote:
> [jon wrote:]
> >Just give this machine any type of matter, such as water, and it
> >can rearrange the atoms to make anything else, such as an apple, or gold.
> Unless you're relying on the trivial traces of carbon, gold, etc. that may be present in
> tap water, you will not get apples or gold from rearranging atoms. There are far-out
> speculations about sub-nano technology that works on quarks, but it's still bad
> science fiction for now.

I don't know about that. Certainly I challenge the phrase "bad" science fiction, because it's been done well a couple of times... but that's not the point.

I know of at least two instances of sub-molecular technology. (1) artificial atoms; (2) sculpted quantum states. (Unfortunately my links appear to be broken - sorry, guys! (1) is changing the shape of a single atom's wavefunction, and (2) is doing some kind of custom stuff on probability distributions, I think. Anyone have a valid link?)

Not hydrogen-into-gold (does jon have any idea how much energy that would release? it'd be orders of magnitude more than an equivalent thermonuclear hydrogen-to-helium), not even close, but it strikes me as a good reason to believe that nucleus-manipulating "atomic picotechnology" would be an active frontier once atom-manipulating "molecular nanotechnology" matured.

What the heck does he - does *any* race with that kind of technology - want with gold, anyway?

--          Eliezer S. Yudkowsky

Disclaimer:  Unless otherwise specified, I'm not telling you
everything I think I know.