Re: The Singularity and Nanotechnology

Dr. Rich Artym (
Sun, 22 Sep 1996 12:11:23 +0100

In message <>, Lyle Burkhead writes:

> Molecular manufacturing will emerge within the same capitalist
> economy that we live in now. Factories will still be factories.
> They will require elaborate buildings and millions of dollars' worth of
> specialized equipment. They will employ biotechnologists with rare and
> expensive skills. Factories will still be owned by investors who want to
> get their investment back. They will produce products for the market,
> and buy inputs from the market. The managers will still understand the
> concept of planned obsolescence.

Sorry, but none of this is likely to apply. The bottom-level processes
of MNT may well emerge from the capitalist economy because of the great
capital investment required, but turning that capability into a usable
manufacturing system may well emerge from other places, like the ever-
growing non-commercial sector. We may not have an FNF yet, but we will,
as the seeds are already in place.

Secondly, regardless of from where usable MNT systems will emerge, at
some point in time they *will* become public domain, and at that point
all bets are off. Your paragraph shows quite well how today's economy
and industry in general is wholly dependent on manufacturing capability
not being freely available. Well, that's the whole point about nanotech,
that it not only brings the cost of manufacturing down to the near-zero
limit, but much, much more importantly, it brings the cost of means of
production down to that same limit.

When that happens, all those factories which you find so essential to
mankind will lose the key reason for their existence, namely that today
people cannot avoid using them because manufacturing modern material
things requires immense resources, even if the cost of the raw materials
is peanuts. With that basic equation being about to change, I do not
see how one can support the idea that the intertwined economic/market/
manufacturing institutions of today will remain essentially the same.


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