SCI and ECON Nanotech

Lyle Burkhead (
Thu, 26 Sep 1996 23:11:03 -0500 (EST)

I wrote

> Any system, nano or macro, capable of creating a pipeline,
> will contain within it many human-level intelligences.

to which John Clark replied:

> A modern microprocessor is very complex, yet we can
> manufacture millions of them in automated factories.

Any system, nano or macro, capable of creating microprocessors,
will contain within it many human level-intelligences.

The "automated" factories that you speak of are only automated
at one point in the manufacturing process. The automated machinery
is designed by engineers who understand its purpose, and who
understand how their own jobs fit into the larger scheme of things.
The microprocessors themselves are designed by engineers who know
what microprocessors are for, and who can talk, in human language,
to the engineers who are designing the machines to be used in the
automated factory.

The factories are part of a system which contains many human-level
intelligences: the managers, the accountants, the lawyers, the
programmers who write the software that the other people use, the
teachers who train the employees, the marketing people who sell the
computers, the stockbrokers who sell stock in the company, and so
forth. All those people are part of the system. They are all there
for a reason. The automated machinery could not exist without them.

If you substitute "agribusiness" for "manufacturing" in this discussion,
the same principle still applies. Instead of engineers you will have
botanists, agronomists, biotechnicians, etc.

John continues:

> Human judgment is not involved whenever one logic gate needs to be
> connected to another, very dumb automatic process do it for us,

I'm not saying human judgment is required at *every* point in the
manufacturing system. I'm saying that human judgment is required at
*many* points.

> If we needed millions of pipelines we would find a way
> to mass produce them too,

Yes, and the same principle would apply to the mass production of
pipelines, or anything else. There are many points where a decision
has to be made by somebody who has an understanding of the project
as a whole, and who understands the purpose of his activity. Such
decisions require human judgment.

Have you ever worked on a construction site? or in a factory, or a
refinery, or any industrial enterprise? I get the feeling that I'm talking
to people who have spent most of their lives writing computer code,
and have no sense of how the physical world works. --But then,
even a software project has to have somebody who understands
what the software is for, and how it fits into the whole scheme of things.
Microsoft employs quite a few entities with human-level intelligence,
and always will.

> We know for sure that it's possible to manufacture
> extremely complex objects, like human beings

No. To "manufacture" something means to make it to a specification.
Human beings are not manufactured to spec. If they were, as in
"Brave New World," a large staff of technicians and other employees
would be required, just as in any other manufacturing system.