Re: Understanding Nanotech

Jeff Davis (
Mon, 30 Aug 1999 01:36:12 -0700

To my fellow explorers in the mists of Maya,

Mark Thu, 26 Aug 1999 02:34:44 -0700 (PDT) as a breakthrough moment in the history of the list. That was when Robert Bradbury, brandishing his trusty nanotech two by four, started whacking some of the slower folk upside the old brain pan, helping them to see the stars we are all reaching for. (Or at least some stars suggestive of those we are all reaching for.)

He said:

>I realized that the statement (and many of the previous statements on lots
and lots of
>threads) imply that many people

Thank you, thank you, thank you, Robert.

>lots and lots of threads


Thank you for your energy. Thank you for your mad scientist's intelligence. Thank you for your thoroughness in responding across the board, and the thoroughness of analysis with which you fill out your responses. And thank you for the force of your personality; no humble, shy, deferential kind of guy you.

I don't have the energy, dedication, time, or prolific writing ability to do what you do. Which is why I am delighted to see you taking charge, clearing out the deadwood, and pointing the way.

Many's the time in the last two years I have seen a post expand into a thread, and thought to myself, "How can I participate in this discussion, when it is dominated by old assumptions? When it projects onto the future the characteristics of the present, despite the fact that the very essence of what we discuss suggests that the future will be strikingly different from the present?"

Technology plus the innate character of the human organism forge society. As new technology is created it drags culture, government, and economics (kicking and screaming, thanks Eliezer) along with it.

People pursue freedom from material want. They employ technology to ever more effectively achieve that goal. The year by year incremental result we call "increased productivity", but the ultimate limit is a situation where machines do everything, and no one "has to" work at all. To some this is too radical to be credible, too much at odds with all of history, or simply morally repugnant (unless, of course, you were born rich, win the lottery, or become an instant "gold IPO" zillionaire). Nevertheless, get past these prejudices and you will see that people want freedom from the slavery of necessity. People will, at least for a while yet, still need and want and choose to "work", but they will ultimately secure the freedom to do what they do because they choose to, not because they have to.

People want freedom from tyranny. Governments are basically groups of armed men who provide protection for the persons, circumstances, and PROPERTY of their employers--the wealthy elites. But the relative conditions of wealth and poverty are the consequence of limited resources, which themselves derive from the current limits of productivity. When productivity grows exponentially, poverty (at the very least) disappears; capitalism insofar as it is based on scarcity, is replaced by something (I can't say just what) based on abundance; and with the disappearance of poverty, the rationale for governments--control of the have-nots for the benefit of the haves--disappears along with the have-nots. Thus will the technology of exponentially-increasing productivity, almost accidentally, but not unhappily, make predatory government obsolete.

Now if the picture I paint is short on details, it's because the future is hard to see. Things are coming fast. There is way too much new stuff to have a comprehensive view. Different fields progress at different rates. Unexpected synergies emerge unexpectedly. And then, of course, there are the surprises. For a simple, but puny, example consider that capitalism, as we know it today, encourages a certain degree of pre-patent secrecy. So my crystal ball suffers from the usual performance limits. If yours, however, should happen to show the future to be much like the present, it's shot, and you need to start shopping for a new one.

Now Robert went on to present a lengthy and joyful analysis of a small part of the nanotech future, wielding his two by four in a fashion that brought to mind a certain ass's jawbone and pre-recorded Philistines:

>you assemble your 100 kg air car (10 hours)
***Boink*** (pleasant little gouge to the eye)

>you start on your 2600 square foot house
***Ka whackata whackata whackata whack*** (a bit of friendly rasping percussive foreplay to the shins, kneecaps, and up and down both sides of ye olde rib cage)

>you go to work on your 150' yacht
***Ka blaammmo mo mo mo mo*** (Serious Mark McGuire action, separating you libido from your hubris and scattering your race memory so far into your unconscious that even your unconscious is unconscious).

>now ,... for your new,... 40,000 sq ft. mansion
***whooosh BBBOOOOOOOOOOMMMMMMMMMM*** (Throws away two by four, redirects small iron-nickel asteroid which impacts right between your eyes at 0.1 c, vaporizing your belief structure in this, and all other possible multiverses)

> don't forget, after a long day, you should go outside and soak in that
enormous jacuzzi that the >computer has been heating up for you ****pwwattcchh**** (Gives you a little peck on the cheek just to show that you're still friends.)

Welcome to the nanotech future. Do you get it now! See the pretty stars.

Now I love nanotech as much as the next extropian (All hail Drexler the Magnificent!), but I wonder if amidst the thrall and rapture, if, ... well, ... maybe, ... well is it possible you're missing something?

Is nano so super because it's small, and as close to "perfect" as anything can be, or is it super because it makes like huge gigantic gobs of stuff for next to nothing?

Anyway, I've given some thought to this, and I've come to the conclusion that nonotech has some competition. Check out my website for the details.


Best, Jeff Davis

	   "Everything's hard till you know how to do it."
					Ray Charles