Re: Bootstrapping to nanotech

Hagbard Celine (
Thu, 28 Aug 1997 21:28:39 -0400

Hal Finney wrote:
> On the Foresight Exchange on-line game (nee Robin Hanson's Idea Futures),
> I created a claim for people to bet on the date that the Feynman Grand
> Prize will be awarded by the Foresight Institute (no relation to the
> Foresight Exchange).
> This prize requires the design and construction of 32 copies each of
> two nanotech devices: a robot arm capable of .1 nanometer positional
> accuracy which fits within a 100 nm cube, and a computational device,
> an 8-bit binary adder, which fits within a 50 nm cube.

Do you know why Foresight has chosen these criteria (including the
nanoscale computational device) as the realization of Feynman's vision?
Is it that these criteria represent the "final step" so-to-speak?

<snip> (out of my ballpark...)

> Based on this I think that awarding the Feynman Grand Prize will require
> progress beyond proteinoid nanotech, to something similar to diamond.
> The claim on the FX game has not been very heavily played, a dozen
> shares changing hands every couple of months. But for what it's worth,
> the date predicted by the players has hovered around 2025-2030. So if
> we get a simple form of nanotech in the late 2010's, to pick the magic
> "twenty years off" where breakthroughs always seem to hover, this would
> suggest another 10 years or so to produce diamondoid nanotech or
> something similar.

Thanks for your response.

My observation in all this is that given the typically reactionary
nature of law and legal thought (i.e., "lack of vision"), the regulatory
schema as it exists today will not be able to cope with the technology
and its many varied implications (which are, for all practical and
historical purposes, just around the corner). Without assigning a
normative value to the demise of regulation in our society, it is a
topic that I want to explore in some depth.

We have a course entitled Science and the Law here at school. Elsewhere,
there exists theoretical applied science. Why not Theoretical Applied
Science and the Law? IMHO intelligent people need to know about this
technology and its implications. One of the most misdirected group of
intelligent people is the legal community. Call it "tunnel-vision",
"careerism", or whatever, lawyers and law professors, judges and
legislators (with exceptions) have an overblown percpetion of their
importance in the grand scheme of things. There is nothing worse than a
regulation based upon imperfect information. The process of regulation
is a slow evolution rooted in trial-and-error. If the pace of change
antecedent to nanotech will be as fast as many believe, and rightfully
so, the time-frame for this process is drastically reduced and thus,
there exists less time to consider the effects of the regulation.

Which is bad news for everyone.

Nanotech will be regulated, I am certain. My hope is that the
regulations will correctly balance the risk-return equation.