RE: Present dangers to transhumanism

O'Regan, Emlyn (
Fri, 27 Aug 1999 19:43:43 +1000

> I have described nanotechnology and the future of it as described in Eric
> Drexler's book "Engines of Creation" and most are scared to death of it!
> One young women I spoke with last week knew that it is just around the
> corner just from my description of a working concept, and stated she
> doesn't
> want to be here when it happens. She knows however it will happen within
> her life time. I'm afraid many people like her and other people I've
> mentioned it to will protest.
> Can anyone give me some ideas on how to counter this fear?
Use nanotech to alter brain function at the neural level?

Maybe give them a copy of this post by Robert Bradbury (a consumers delight):

[Understanding Nanotech]

Nanotech comes down to *3* essential things: mass, energy & designs.

Now, where does the mass for nanotech come from: O/N/C - from air
Si/Al/Ca/Mg/Ca/Fe/Na/K/P - from dirt/rocks Almost everything else - from seawater So, where does the energy come from? The sun obviously. Where do the designs come from? Open source one would hope.

It is worth noting that over the history of civilizations we have put 185 petagrams of carbon into the atmosphere [1]. That works out to about 31,000 kg/person. We probably don't want to remove more carbon than that from the atmosphere.

Now given these basic principles, I ran around the net, uncovered a lot of interesting factoids and ran some numbers. Here is what we get:

First, you spend $2,200 and go buy yourself an acre of land in Arizona. For those textropian readers, you probably have that much already so you don't have to go anywhere :-). For the latecomers, you will simply have to buy more land in a less sunny area (like North Dakota).

Then you get your open-source nanoseed to assemble solar collectors over most of the property. At an insolation of ~1000 W/m^2 and 0.2 conversion efficiencies (pretty conservative), that gives you 400,000 watts of power during the day. Assuming a mass manipulation cost of ~15,900 kJ/mol of sapphire (perhaps the highest cost), that lets you nanoassemble ~10 kg of nanomaterial per hour. For this you will need ~10 kg of nanoassemblers, since they have a mass doubling time of ~1 hr [2]. What is the materials cost? $0 because you are taking it out of the air or the ground (except in the case of some rare materials that you have some friend take out of the seawater and FedEx to you).

It turns out that you probably don't want to assemble more than 10 kg/hour because if everyone on the planet is doing it you start to interfere with the heat carrying capacity of the planet [3].

Now, what can you do with this. First you spend about 13 minutes of each day to replicate ~2kg of food. With the time left over (on the first day) you assemble your 100 kg air car (10 hours). This is so you can fly back and forth from Seattle or San Francisco every weekend to check on the progress. Now, you start on your 2600 square foot house (34,000 kg). That takes 5 months to grow. Then you've made a deal with your friend who lives by the ocean to construct a dock for you, so you go to work on your 150' yacht (~225,000 kg). That takes 2.8 years. [Air freight to deliver the yacht to the ocean is extra unless you want to take the time to build a big helicopter.] By now you've had enough time to get your design completed for your new "I too can live like Bill Gates" 40,000 sq ft. mansion so your crew of hardworking nanoassemblers goes to work on that. For ~420,000 kg, that takes 5.1 years. Then I guess you rest. Maybe rent out your nanoassemblers for someone else to build something interesting. So the total time required to live like Bill Gates and never have to work again (i.e. all of your "survival" needs are met) is ~8.3 years.

Presumably some people get there sooner and they end up donating their time to educating people or doing open source designs that gains them an opportunity to go on the $1,000,000 prize show for their generous efforts. Or if they are the commercial types and we still have a patent system, they sell their design at $0.001 each to 6 billion people. That's all the market will pay given the competition from the open source designs. But that's ok since that still nets them $6 million. But unless there is a huge inflation in movie prices, I'm unsure what you would possibly spend it on.

Now the only problem with this seems to be that you use up your global atmospheric carbon allocation by the time you finish your small house. So the yacht and mansion are probably going to have to be built out of sapphire instead of diamond. That means that while building your mansion, its a requirement to build a very big swimming pool as well (7% of the crust is Al). I suppose if you really want, you build the mansion first because then you can build the yacht in the pool. Since you've got about 4x as much Si as Al in the crust, its likely that buried in your basement is a 1.3 Mkg supercomputer. The architecture is presumably a lot of ROM or suspend-RAM, since you don't have enough power to use it all as a computer and you certainly don't have enough surface area to cool it even if you did. But you can allocate 1/4 of your power grid to a 1 cm^3 nanocomputer (at 10^5 W). That gives you about 10^21 instructions per second to work on the problem of how you upload yourself into it. More than likely the ROM holds partial-upload backups (yours and others, since you want yours distributed around the planet in case a meteor hits your mansion). Also, don't forget, after a long day, you should go outside in soak in that enormous jacuzzi that the computer has been heating up for you all day.

Now, given all of that, can you reasonably expect any government to be able to hold that back once it becomes clear to people? The nice thing about it is that, even in this country, if I don't work (and can grow everything I need), I don't pay taxes (except the real estate taxes). But if I don't like those I can always live on the yacht.

If someone can figure out what a Castle weighs I'd love to add that to the list!

> I feel this is the humane thing to do yet I
> feel it should just be at a level to meet basic needs and not to elevate
> lazy to a grand lifestyle. So for those who want the "good things of
> such as a mansion, education at Stanford, gourmet meals, and exotic
> surgery will have to work for it.

I really really don't think so!

You *have* to get that with mature nanotech there is *definately* no problem with "adequate" housing, food and almost all transporation. [e.g. anything short of relocating your Castle to Mars is cheap]. If the governments and/or non-profits and/or open source designers and prizes work correctly, you will likely have free medical (technology) as well.

> It is simply that the unambitious citizen of 2100 A.D. will have a
> better then that of a solid middle-class citizen of our own time.

I'd say closer to between 2020 and 2030.

> But he
> may want to set some goals and start achieving them when he sees how the
> folks are doing who applied themselves and are on a far better standard of

> living as they can afford the latest bio-engineering fad for their bodies
> and vacation on the moon! Let us be humane and stamp out disease, lack of

> proper education and poverty, yet still award the talented and ambitious.

> We can do both and my vision will occur. We will awaken into this world
> when we who are cryonically suspended are reanimated.

People won't have a "far better standard of living", except in that they can purchase more fancy entertainment or could have more fame and recognition. Fame & recognition will tend to replace material success presumably, in a nanotech world. Fame will probably not be that interesting because I suspect most people like the idea of being "famous" because of the perks that go along (nice houses, cars, etc.). If you can have all of those things why would you want the headaches of the fans & paparazzi? So that leaves only "recognition". Presumably you get recognized for doing *cool* designs and donating them to the public.


As an addendum, depending on the costs of extracting carbon from the air, my energy estimates may be conservative by up to 2 orders of magnitude, so things could go much faster than I indicated (or you could buy a smaller plot of land). We have something like ~2 billion acres of land in the U.S. so there is almost an order of magnitude excess per person over the requirements for a cushy living. Those guys & gals living down under, now they are the really lucky ones, their land/person is 2 orders of magnitude over the requirements. And they have a heck of a lot more coastline along which to park all the yachts.

[1] Science 285:1198-1199 Aug. 20, 1999 from R. DeFries, C. Field paper in press in Global Biogeochemical Cycles.

[2] Nanosystems, pg 1 & 441.

[3] Nanomedicine, I believe in Chapter 6: Power.

> >From: "Waldemar Ingdahl" <>
> >Reply-To:
> >To:,
> >Subject: Present dangers to transhumanism
> >Date: Thu, 26 Aug 1999 18:39:42 CEST
> >
> >OK
> >
> >Time for some gloom and doom!;-)
> >
> >These are some dangers to the transhumanist movement as I see them at
> >present. What do you other guys think? Hope I'm wrong.
> >
> >1) Transhumanism is entering the public sphere! Yes, we are not
> considered
> >as kooky as we once were. Here in Sweden the change has been quite swift.
> >We
> >are not mainstream, but it is becoming increasingly more difficult to
> >ignore
> >us as "just a bunch of lunatics". Controversial, yes, but not in the
> >deepest
> >recesses of the closet. This is going to pose some serious problems. We
> are
> >probably going to experience a shism when the "nanotech
> >Santa"-transhumanists are forced to actually get there ideas scrutinized
> >both other transhumanists and the opposition in a much harsher way. The
> >time
> >for kooking around is over, and transhumanism must confront these
> >tendencies
> >within itself or the public will rightfully expulse it to where it came
> >from. Maybe the ones that don't like this development into full-fledged
> >political ideology will form a sect instead, like Alexander Bard said.
> >
> >2)The transhumanism left (I hate to write this, those 19th century
> >ideologies are dead and buried) has to come up with a critique of the
> >increasingly conservative and reactionary old intellectual left. Sorry,
> but
> >that's your hard task! Because if you do not do it quite soon, you will
> be
> >left without a vocabulary- that is monopolized but the stasist left. If
> it
> >goes that far, you will be forced to choose between leaving the left or
> >leaving transhumanism. I do not think that you want to be left behind in
> a
> >stasist movement following someone else's ideas, so you better get ready
> to
> >rumble soon.
> >
> >3) Centralism in transhumanism. Seems like a contradiction, doesn't it?
> >Well, as the vice-president of the Swedish Tranhumanist Association I
> know
> >that it happens too often. We must become better on delegating tasks.
> >Monopolizing all functions wont work-give others a chance to set out on
> >their own. Transhumanism is what you make of it, you cannot depend on
> "the
> >head office" to take care of things because a head office cannot work in
> a
> >transhumanist setting! Especially when going public it is important to
> have
> >gotten these things straight. Because there is a danger in this. As long
> as
> >transhumanism grows fairly quickly (as it really has done) it is OK to
> get
> >bossed around sometimes. Members see that their resources and freedom
> >increases quicker than HQ gets around to control it. But when it doesn't,
> >the quickest way to increase it is secession (just look at the Masons), a
> >very clear hard secession often depending on purely personal reasons
> (Mr.X
> >doesn't like Mr. Q at HQ). I think that the best way to get around this
> >problem is to avoid it completely by decentralizing early on and making
> >this
> >VERY clear to the members.
> >
> >Sincerely
> >
> >Waldemar Ingdahl
> >
> >
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