Re: Lyle's Law

Dan Clemmensen (
Sun, 13 Oct 1996 13:09:14 -0400

Damien Broderick wrote:
> At 07:23 PM 10/9/96 -0400, Dan wrote about my line:
> >> I suspect [Lyle] shares my hunch that orders of magnitude are being
> scamped when someone
> >> easily gestures toward replication via atom-by-atom scanning,
> > I've never seen atom-by-atom scanning mentioned seriously except in
> >science fiction. Do you have a reference?
> Perhaps I misunderstood Drexler, but Engines of Creation says:
> `A nanomachine able to do this [pull stuff apart], while recording what it
> removes layer by layer, is a *disassembler*... [A] nanocomputer system will
> be able to direct the disassembly of an object, record its structure, and
> then direct the assembly of perfect copies.' (pp. 19-20).
> Damien Broderick

You are quite correct. Drexler mentions disassemblers in
this regard as you cite:

My impression, however, in reading this section is that this
disassembly will be a later phase of the nanotech revolution,
as seen by Drexler in the early 80's. I'm willing to concede
the possibility of just about any technology not prohibited
by the laws of physics, if we wait until after the singularity.
In EoC, Drexler uses the "disassembler" to describe the
scanner/analyzer function, and also to describe a simpler
functions of reducing a solid object to feedstock.

So, what I should have said is that my arguments in favor of a
nanotech revolution do not depend on the concept of atom-by-atom
scanning. I believe that it will be fairly straightforward to
produce nano-buildable versions of existing designs for most
goods that exist today. More specifically, I feel that the
goods required for a "fairly lavish lifestyle" comprise a
small subset of all goods produced today, and that these
goods will ba nano-buildable. This includes houses, cars
or equivalents, fuel, generators, and many food items.
Nanotech could also build electronic goods from esisting
designs, but probably will not. Digital electronics, at least,
is generally designed initially at the logic level, and
we can re-implement the logic using nanotech rod-logic or
nanotech electronic logic.

Nearly all macro-designed items (such as a house) can
be improved upon using techniques available only with
nanotech assembly, but such improvements are not necessary
to provide a consumer with today's lavish lifestyle. I
suspect that the improvements would be forthcoming in the
form of designs created by consumers for their own amusement
and distributed for the fun of it in the manner that
recipes and hobby project plans are distributed today.