Ethics of the Pace of change

Dan Clemmensen (
Sat, 13 Sep 1997 22:07:22 -0400

Holly is concerned that the pace of change will leave some
people behind. She implies that we may need to slow down a
bit to avoid severe societal disruption.

Most of the arguments against slowing down have been
centered on one of two points:
1) I am not my brother's keeper: each person must
adapt as best they can.
2) Change is intvitble, and even it's rate is beyond
our effective control.

I have a much bigger objection to slowing the pace. I feel
that we are currently in a race between the forces of
overpopulation and the advance of technology. If we slow
down, we run a huge risk of losing the race. The best
hope for everybody is to reach the nanotech breakthrough
as soon as possible. This has the potential to make each
human on earth able to live a luxurious life with no need
for work. The longer we delay, the more suffering there
will be and the more resources we will destroy. Worst
case, sodiety collapses and we never reach the breakthrough.

In my opinion, the nanotech era will very rapidly cause
our existing economic concepts to become meaningless.
We will move from the first assembler to the ability
to build anything within a few years at most. With this
ability, nothing material will have economic value, since
anybody can build anything, given only the designs.

Designs are works of art, specifically the art of the
designer. Artists (including engineering designers
and programmers) like to get paid, and also like to
design. Most of them will be prfectly happy to give
their designs away. The only reason they don't give them
away now is that then need to make a living. Given
an unlimited income, these folks will design for the joy
of it, and publish the results because they like to
be recognized as good designers.

You may ask how an impoverished peasant will benefit.
The answer is that somebody will distribute a
self-replicating "starter kit" for free. Who will
distribute the kit? a designer will design the first
one for the fun of it, of course.