Nanotech control systems (was Re: Transhuman Beach Party)

Jeff Davis (
Wed, 08 Sep 1999 12:44:06 -0700

In his reply to den Otter,

Robert J. Bradbury ( Tue, 7 Sep 1999 20:27:13 -0700 (PDT) writes:

>I'm not sure that this is the "consensus". If we got the exponential
growth of nanoassembly
>tomorrow, we would have *neither* (a) the designs to build stuff, nor (b)
AI to populate the

This seems to suggest that you need ai to populate the nano computers, and I'm not sure that this is the case. If you have a hierarchical architecture to control the nanobots, and if that control system is modular at each point and level in the hierarchy, you might have a much simpler control system than is suggested by the sometime perception of ai. Shall we be overawed by what, in our present state of ignorance, we see as the "complexity" of intelligence only to discover later that it is arises from not-so-awsomely-complex substructures in a multi-level hierarchy whose activities are coordinated by an elegant (in an appreciative sense "simple") somewhat-modifiable feedback system?

I am far from original in repeating that the challenge of artificial intelligence, still a work in progess (due to insufficient hardware capability?), may not be so daunting when broken into smaller, dumber pieces. After all, the apparent intelligence [... ;-) ... ] of humans emerges from the cellular level through just such a hierarchy. And the function of the entire body does the same. From the "dumb", deterministic behaviors of the cellular substructures with their finite, modular instruction set, arise tissues, organs, and the magnificent feedback-mediated coordination of the body as a whole.

How "i" does the control system *really* have to be?

Anyway this is my only quibble with Robert's point here. The control system question is something I puzzle over. Where will it surprise us by being simple? Where will it surprise us by being complex? I hope others will help out with this. Robert of course has an unfair advantage in that he gets to sneak a peek at Nanomedicine ahead of the rest of us. Luckily, he's on our team.

By the way, speaking of nanocomputers and nonobot control systems: I spoke, briefly, to Eric Drexler and he mentioned that the speed of nanocomputers is slow relative to the speed of nanobots. That is compared for example to the speed of macro computers to the macro machines that they control. I asked him at Extro4 if this was "a problem" and he said it has

to be dealt with, but that it can be.        
			Best, Jeff Davis

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