Re: SCI and ECON Nanotech

Dan Clemmensen (
Sun, 29 Sep 1996 18:52:35 -0400

Lyle Burkhead wrote:
> Dan Clemmensen says,
> > An individual will be able to produce essentially everything needed
> > for a lavish lifestyle, with none of the costs associated with trade.
[SNIP of a worthwhile intro by Lyle]]
> The Gradient Theorem.
> I think it is a theorem in economics that if the genie machines are finite,
> then the MNT scenario is not stable. Any approximation to it is unstable.
> In fact, there is a gradient away from self-sufficiency, in the direction of
> more trade.
> By "finite" I mean:
> 1. The genie machines use energy (they are not perpetual motion
> machines).
> 2. The genie machines perform their tasks at some measurable rate
> (not instantaneously), and different tasks take different times.
> 3. The cost of retooling or reprogramming a machine is nonzero,
> and the cost varies depending on what kind of retooling is done.
> 4. The genie machines have an interface that requires some
> expertise and effort on the part of the user -- genie machines have to be
> programmed, rather than merely commanded. (Or if they can be
> commanded, the commands have to be so detailed that it is a lot of
> trouble to give them properly, so "commanding" amounts to the same
> thing as "programming.") Different tasks requite different degrees of
> expertise and effort.
[SNIP of a reasonably convincing argument from the premises, ending
> If it requires *any* more effort than that -- in other words, if there is
> any significant difference between the effort required to produce
> different items -- then the situation is unstable. The inequality of effort
> will create a gradient leading away from self-sufficiency, toward an
> economy with trade and ever-increasing specialization.
> Lyle

Your argument is intended to cover both goods and information, I think.
respect to goods, your argument make the assumption that the cost of
is negligable, or at least that the cost is less than the difference in
between the buyer's manufacturing cost and the seller's manufacturing
cost of the
good the seller is attempting to sell.

As your argument relates to information, you are correct. But I don't
much information to live lavishly, so you're not talking about the
between life and death, as "making a living" means to most of the
population. You are only talking about relatively marginal changes, in
sense. I believe that your economy reduces to only a trade in design and
other knowledge. Many designer will in fact make their designbs freely
available. This happens today, and is more likely to happen when the
designer doesn't have to worry about making a living.