Re: Technology evolves, etc.

Robin Hanson (
Fri, 06 Nov 1998 10:53:18 -0800

Jeff Davis wrote:
>Conventional market economics, and the related cost factors,
>go the way of the buggy whip when automation reaches the
>level of exponential machine self-replication.
> Cost factors always originate in the labor component of
>a product or service, which, in the case of a self-replicating
>machine system, is confined to the design and construction
>of the "seed". The exponential growth of the system
>distributes that initial cost over the entire system. ...
>a macro-sized (in contrast to nano) machine self-replicating
>manufacturing system makes anything that current technology
>can make, in quantities that saturate demand, and at a "cost"
>which, shrinking to insignificance, frankly, challanges the
>definition of the term.
> So single crystal vs. amorphous is a non-issue.

Conventional economic *theory* seems more than adequate to analyse these sort of situations. Thus one should be able to understand what does or does not radically change "market economics" by more carefully applying that theory to the novel assumptions you are interested in. I challenge those who believe in such radical change to do this.

Some comments:
1) It is not clear that demand can ever be "saturated." 2) Your phrase "cost factors always originate in the labor

component of a product or service" sounds bogus. The cost of land, for example, is very real. 3) A self-reproducing solar-array builder need not be at

all close to something that can make anything. 4) The growth *rate* seems crucial. Something that doubled

every twenty years seems pretty uninteresting.

Robin Hanson   
RWJF Health Policy Scholar             FAX: 510-643-8614 
140 Warren Hall, UC Berkeley, CA 94720-7360 510-643-1884