Re: Present Dangers -- the list thus far

Robert J. Bradbury (
Sun, 29 Aug 1999 03:33:12 -0700 (PDT)

On Sat, 28 Aug 1999, Kathryn Aegis wrote:

> Not to be a 'list mom', but this thread is becoming increasingly fragmented
> and has some unrelated discussion.

Agreed. The summary was grest!
> 1. Transhumanism is entering the puhlic sphere, and Waldemar proposes that
> the 'nanotech santas' will have to start backing up their claims with real
> facts and science.
The science has always been there, people just couldn't see it. The "throw weight" of Nanosystems & soon Nanomedicine make it clear that this is serious stuff and provide the basis for what can and cannot be done. A look at the Foresight conference this fall shows that academically, this work has "arrived". The increased funding by the U.S. Government shows they are aware of it. The European efforts are also starting to get off the ground.

As I pointed out at Extro4, we now have *dozens* of complete genetic programs for self-replicating machines that have mass doubling times as low as 20 minutes (i.e. bacteria). Each of us has trillions of those machines in our body.

You still have a big problem of how do you "counter" the major objection that people will have, the "incredulity factor". That is the fact that people (outside of perhaps microbiology or medicine) have no experience of things that grow as fast as nanotechies say they can grow. I think the only way you can do this is to start with what people know and take them step by step along a realization path they find acceptable.

Something like --

Can we assemble and disassmble complex pieces of equipment (i.e. engines, cars, etc.)?
Can we assemble and disassmble complex computer programs? Can we disassmble the programs of self-replicating machines (i.e. bacteria)?
If we can disassmble them, shouldn't we be able to assemble programs for such self-replicating machines? If we can assemble self-replicating machines shouldn't we be able to eventually build such machines out of stronger materials (stone lead to concrete leads to reinforced concrete leads to bucky-tube reinforced concrete leads to diamond)?

The real question people want the answer to is "when" will it arrive, and the answer is when enough R&D has been done for it to arrive. Necessity is the mother of invention. Since, the semiconductor industry runs into the 5-atom gate thickness limit around 2013, I'm betting that we will see billions of industry dollars in research funding going into nanoassembly shortly before 2010.

However, nanotech may well remain the realm of "santas" until the man on the street (or at least many of them) understands exactly what they get out of it (i.e. things like "work" enslavement and mansions) and tell their representatives that *this* is the most important thing you could be spending my tax dollars on. Even if the public never gets it however, there is a strong probability that the semiconductor, biotech disk drive or some other industry will at some point make a breaktrough that makes the whole process obvious.