Re: No nanotech before AI

From: Robin Hanson (
Date: Wed Jul 12 2000 - 08:00:43 MDT

Dan Fabulich wrote:
>Until we can automate the construction of a building using conventional
>robotics, we should not expect to be able to automate the construction of
>any interesting large structure by nano-assembly. ... it'll be a huge and
>extremely difficult problem to solve. ... the solutions will move at the
>pace of robotics today: unstoppably, but gradually.

Yes. To repeat myself from yesterday, nanotech is physical capital for
manufacturing. Manufacturing is about 17% of the US economy. All forms of
non-human capital together get ~30% of income, so physical capital gets
maybe ~20% of income. So physical capital for manufacturing gets ~ 3.5%
of income. So suddenly making that free, as nanotech might, is an
improvement equivalent to one year's economic growth. Now if you could
make the labor and human capital of manufacturing cheaper, that would be
a bigger deal. And making labor and human capital of all industries
cheaper, as from AI or uploading, that is a huge deal.

>it makes uploading as an alternative to AI development look silly, because
>nanotech is almost certainly an enabling technology for uploading, (since we
>can't reasonably expect to upload until we get reasonable disassemblers to
>work on our brains,) and AI is required for nanotech.

I disagree that you need advanced nanotech to upload. It all depends on
just how detailed information you need on neurons and synapses. And it
could well be worth spending billions of dollars to scan just one brain,
given how much money could be made from copies of that one brain. We didn't
need advanced nanotech to read the human genome -- because it was worth
enough to read just one genome.

Robin Hanson
Asst. Prof. Economics, George Mason University
MSN 1D3, Carow Hall, Fairfax VA 22030
703-993-2326 FAX: 703-993-2323

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