Re: One NanoDream, Deconstructed

Dan Clemmensen (
Sun, 29 Sep 1996 20:13:21 -0400

Robin Hanson wrote:
Thanks for the summary, Robin. It's close, but not perfect, at least
for me.
> It seems that Dan Clemmensen, Rich Artym, and John Clark, are making
> the same argument here. Let me summarize their "NanoDream", as I
> understand it:
> At some point there will be a device which
> [A]can disassemble generic stuff in the environment into feedstock,
> [B]scan any (house-or-smaller-sized) object for its atomic-level design,
> [C]sythesize a plan for constructing such an object from feedstock,
> [D]retool itself and construct the object with a low error rate, and
> [E]repair itself, or break slowly enough to replace itself anew often.
[B] and [C} aren't necessary. I'll accept public-comain de novo MNT

> If such a device were smaller than a house, and could replace itself
> in less than a year using stuff available from an acre of land, and if
> copyright on the design were not strictly enforced, but if property
> rights to such acres of land were strictly and cheaply enforced, then
> it would seem that within a hundred self-copy times, most everyone who
> owned an acre of land should have such a device, obtained at the cost
> of a small fraction of their acre. And it seems they could then, if
> they chose, soon have an acre full of devices for which the design
> copyright was not strictly enforced. And they might so choose if
> public designs were not much worse than private designs, and if local
> production were near as efficient as distant specialized production.
> Given all this, some folks seem to want to infer that at some point
> most living humans will fit the scenario of living off their own small
> plot of land, using basically free designs.
Actually, given all this, anyone who wishes to do so may drop out
of the economy. I don't know what percentage will do so.

> If I've understood this right, I can challenge the conclusion by
> pointing to all the assumptions that may not hold. I do no have much
> doubt that eventually such a device will be possible to construct.
> However, by that time many other changes may happen as well. The sun
> may dim due to intervening solar collectors, or the O2 and CO2 may be
> stripped from the atmosphere. An upload or other population explosion
> may mean that the ratio of population to acres is far less than one.
> Or wealth may be very unequally distributed, so few can afford an
> acre.
> Copyright on these many devices may in fact be strictly enforced, by a
> combination of self-destruction upon scan attempts and draconian
> punishments for violators. Public domain designs of most sorts may be
> quite inferior to private designs, or generic one-size-fits-all
> devices may be rather inferior in efficiency to specialized devices,
> even given shipping costs. Property rights to acres of land may not
> be cheaply enforced, but require payment of substantial taxes or PPL
> fees. To pay such fees, one may have to devote a substantial fraction
> of ones resources to production at an advanced level - public domain
> defense system designs may be nowhere near up to the task. Finally,
> most people may prefer more to live be closer to other people, in
> dense cities, than to have their own isolated plot of gadgets.
> Now folks may have plausible arguments for each of these issues.
> And I'd like to hear them. But what are the chances that *all* of
> these issues go the way of this NanoDream?

You are correct: these assumptions, and more, must be met for us to
achieve the "NanoDream." I think that it's unlikely, since I believe the
SI-precipitated SIngularity will occur first.

However, I feel that the idea that the present economy will evolve
revolutionary changes into a MNT economy also rests on many assumptions,
and that these are at least as tenuous. I apologize in advance for
not stating them in this post. I'll take a stab at it later.