Continuing our look at CRN's thirty essential studies, we turn to the effect that advanced nanotechnology might have on the economy. This is part of the third segment of studies, on "Policies and Policymaking". Recommended studies in this section assume the existence of a general-purpose molecular manufacturing system. All preliminary answers are based on diamondoid nanofactory technology.
Study #21 is: "What effect will this have on macro- and microeconomics?"
It has been predicted that a sufficiently advanced and general-purpose molecular manufacturing technology could have a significant transformative and potentially disruptive effect. This must be explored.
Subquestion A: How quickly can new products be invented, designed and distributed?
Preliminary answer: As described in other studies, this can be extremely quick due to fast prototyping, point-of-use manufacture, and low risk.
Subquestion B: How will distributed manufacturing affect the supply chain?
Preliminary answer: It will eliminate the supply chain for superseded products and their components.
Subquestion C: How will automated manufacturing affect jobs?
Preliminary answer: It will eliminate manufacturing jobs for superseded products, as well as related transportation, storage, and extraction jobs. It may create design and installation jobs (though a lot of installation can be done robotically). Compare manufacturing jobs with the percentage of population involved in agriculture from 1900 to today: 37.5% to 0.5%, almost a two order of magnitude decrease.
Subquestion D: How will increased material self-sufficiency affect international and local trade?
Preliminary answer: Trade in raw materials and finished products will be reduced. Depending on policy, trade in intellectual property may be either reduced or increased.
Subquestion E: How will simpler material requirements affect extraction?
Preliminary answer: Extraction will probably be unnecessary to support diamondoid manufacturing, though limited quantities of fossil fuels may be useful as a carbon source.
Subquestion F: Will energy production, storage, and/or distribution be impacted?
Preliminary answer: The ability to collect and store solar energy cheaply will greatly reduce the need for fossil fuels and the power grid. Also, products (including houses) can become much more efficient, further reducing energy demand.
Subquestion G: How much incentive will there be to use molecular manufacturing?
Preliminary answer: Its products will be multiple orders of magnitude better on several counts. Also, they'll probably be at least one order of magnitude cheaper to produce, and completely bypass substantial parts of the current production and distribution chain.
It's said that a tenfold improvement (one order of magnitude) is sufficient for a new product or method to displace existing ones. Nanofactory-built products greatly exceed this criterion, so new companies could out-compete existing ones that are not quick to adopt it.
Provisional conclusion: This is likely to have a large and rapid effect on economics of manufactured products. Existing businesses that don't adopt it will be out-competed by new businesses.
Our initial basic findings (preliminary answers and provisional conclusions) for all thirty studies should be verified as rapidly as possible. Because our understanding points to a crisis, a parallel process of conducting these studies is strongly preferred.
We are actively looking for researchers who have an interest in performing or assisting with this work. Please contact CRN Research Director Chris Phoenix if you would like more information or if you have comments on the proposed studies.