Re: The mind-boggling nanotech future...

Robert J. Bradbury (
Sun, 29 Aug 1999 04:35:11 -0700 (PDT)

On Sat, 28 Aug 1999, john grigg wrote:

> I always thought of nanotech as being used simply as an extension of
> our present economic system.

For the most part I did too until I realized that nanotech (really biotech) could assemble food. I didn't realize that taxes could go away until I actually wrote the piece and realized that people don't have to work.

> I still do have some reservations about the future being quite
> as free and materially bountiful as he depicts but time will tell.

It really comes down to programmable self-replicating machines and much more efficient power conversion that plants currently do. If you have those two things (and we do already), you get most of the benefits I described without a requirement for hard nanotechnology. [You can "grow" your house out of bacteria that produce bone, shell, tooth enamal etc.]

> (I admit I do not fully grasp the full social implications of a mature
> nanotech. It will be mind-blowing! It will be nice to live in a world
> where poverty will be gone. I just think "keeping up with the Jones" will
> still be a strong urge in our society and it will be just (at least to old
> 20th century fogies like all of us!) in a different form with people wanting
> the latest and most advanced designs to have the fastest skycar, most
> sophisticated nanobot bio-implants that slow aging even better then the last
> generation or most capable robot servants for the household. Goods may be
> plentiful but services especially in the entertainment world may still be
> relatively expensive. And of course the luxuries we have to pay for we tend
> to relish the most. And Until aging is conquered that will be a key area
> where people will expend major wealth to keep it at bay!)

I'm not sure anyone understands all of the implications of exponential technology growth. Eric and some of the Foresight Senior Associates seem to understand many of them because they have been thinking about them for a long time.

I'm not so sure "keeping up with the Jones" will operate as much. How many people do it now because it is the only thing they can do? When you can design and build just about anything you can imagine I think it will be much more interesting to see how different I can be in comparison to my neighbors.

I will put money on on aging being *well* understood before we get hard nanotechnology. I think it is well understood now, people just don't have the scientific "proof" yet. I don't think entertainment services will be that expensive. There will be many more people with much more time on their hands and fewer barriers to their expressing their creativity. There will be many more entertainment sources competing for people attention. The 100+ channels on my satellite dish don't cost me any more probably (allowing for inflation) than the 20 or so one used to get when cable was first developed, they may even be cheaper. How can amusement parks be expensive when anyone can build one? etc.

> (I do believe that status will be more achieved by recognition for positive
> achievement then by mere financial wealth acquired by any means necessary.

Yep, the move by the RedHat (Linux) folks to grant people who had contributed to the open source movement "rights" to get their stock during the IPO, clearly showed there is a new paradigm in the world -- "give it back to the people who gave".

> I doubted that the wonderful machines Robert Frietas had described
> would ever exist.

They do and there are many of them inside of you... :-)

> Of course they will be fiefdoms to the federal governments of the world.

Governments can't exert too much control if you are free to remove yourself from that control.

Some thoughts about this are in Hal Plotkin's S.F. Gate article:

> Thank you,

My pleasure.