Re: SCI and ECON Nanotech

Dan Clemmensen (
Mon, 23 Sep 1996 19:22:31 -0400

Lyle Burkhead wrote:
> Dr. Rich Artym writes,
> > Have a ponder about the Guy Fawkes scenario or about
> > total honeycombing of the Earth's crust with
> > communication, water and raw-material pipelines,
> > and then try to deliver your message of "no major change".
> Wait a minute. This is equivocation. No major change in what?
> Our economic situation? Of course honeycombing the earth
> would change our situation, just like the Erie Canal did, just like the
> construction of railroads did.
> But honeycombing the earth would not change the economic system
> itself. Any such project would take place *within* the economy.
> Nor would it have any effect on the laws of economics.
> Honeycombing the earth wouldn't change the laws of economics
> any more than it would change the laws of physics.

Robin Hanson and I are discussing roughly this same idea in another
thread. the essence of my argument is that, while the "laws of
economics" don't change, their applicability may. In particular,
economics depends on the concept of a transaction. the parties to the
transaction must decide to make a trade. The desision to trade depends
on the relative diverence in utility of the goods (or whatever) being
exchanged to the parties. If neither party hase somethoing the other
wants, then there is no trade and no economic activity. (Sorry for the
kindergarten-level explanation. I'm not an economist, so I need to
explain my assumptions since they may be wrong.)

With MNT, it will be a lot easier for an individual to produce an
item than it is now. This means that an individual is less likely to
trade for the item. An individual will be able to produce essentially
everything needed for a lavish lifestyle, with none of the costs
associated with trade. This will reduce the amount of trade drastically.
Essentially, when the cost of individual manufacture
drops below the costs (hassle, time, and transportation) associated
with trade, trade will cease.

It's quite possible that a new econoimy will develop based on a new
set of scacity, of matter, energy, or design. However, MNT has
the potential to develop very rapidly, destroyingthe existing
economy before the new one develops.
> If you assert that Genies will exist, then that would imply a change
> in the economic system. Genies amount to the same thing as slaves,
> and a slave-based economy does differ from a capitalist economy.
> But even postulating Genies does not change the laws of economics.
> A slave-based economy follows the same economic laws that apply
> in any other economy.
> Lyle