Re: No nanotech before AI

Date: Thu Jul 13 2000 - 18:19:15 MDT

On Thu, 13 Jul 2000, Steven K. Graham wrote:
> Has anyone ever tried to build a machine which could take a lego object,
> and build a copy? Or duplicate an object in any similarly constrained
> design/manufacturing environment?

A similar challenge was offered by Nick Szabo in 1995. His posting can
be found at

   I will wager $100 to the first comer... that this challenge will not
   be met within the next ten years. (That's only 8 years before the
   supposed date of the Singularity, for those who are counting).

   The milieu is familiar to many university researchers: Lego robots....

   The "raw materials" can be chosen from the standard separated parts in
   Lego(tm) elctro-mechanical kits sold in volume retail, or any other
   toy assembly kit (e.g. Tinkertoys) that has been sold at Toys R Us
   for at least one year straight, plus up to 100 additional _simpler_
   parts subject to my approval....

   The parts must be separated and set over a large area (I recommend a
   large gymnasium or an aircraft hangar). They can be sorted according
   to type (e.g., long red bricks go in this pile) but may not be sorted
   by assembly order or laid out in a particular orientation. There may
   be no other containers, machines, or other materials on the floor or
   interacting with the floor Lego machines.

   The challenge: starting with less than 100 kg of any number and variety
   of machines pre-assembled from these raw materials, and the piles of
   separated parts, these seed machines will assemble over 10,000 kg of
   nearly identical duplicates of the seed machines, within 60 days.

I've played around with the Lego Mindstorms robotic kit a little bit,
and it is fun to try to come up with ways to approach this. Doing the
whole thing in reality would be too expensive, but it might be possible
to come up with a paper design that would work in theory, although I
don't know if it would meet Nick's size limits.


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