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« Action Steps | Main | Turning the Corner »

August 19, 2004


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Chris Phoenix, CRN

Actually, a bill was proposed, just not passed; a technical and social study of molecular manufacturing was written into the Nano Act, and then written back out again at the last minute by a special-interest group.


Janessa Ravenwood

It'll just make the eventual victory of developing MNT all the sweeter. After screaming, yelling, and pounding on the table to loudly decry MNT as impossible and then trying every dirty trick they could to try to stop it, their humiliation will be that much more total and awful for them when MNT does in fact arrive.

And I for one won't be inclined to mercy AT ALL when that opportunity comes around at last. I'll gleefully shove it in their faces as viciously and as often as I can when it does get here. So don't worry - when we do get revenge, it will be sweet indeed. I’m already planning on finding out Smalley’s address so that I can send a gorgeously framed photo of himself with selected anti-MNT quotes of his printed on it and titled “FOOL OF THE CENTURY.” Then I’ll start going down the rest of the list...

Tom Craver


Sorry, but I'm going to call "foul!" - I think you're being extremely dismissive of the non-regulatory position. By using the term "nano-anarchy", you've taken advantage of decades of government school propaganda that treats the terms 'anarchy' and 'chaos' as synonyms, and then uses anarchy as the strawman alternative to giving government whatever power it "needs".

I would suggest the more neutral term "nano-laissez faire". CRN could and should do a better job of considering the laissez-faire position, if you are serious about your mission of arranging for a safe transition into the nanotech age. Of course you can point to potential disasters that might result if anyone can get ahold of un-restricted MNT. But how can you set aside the fact that the greatest killers have always been governments? Is it so impossible to conceive of preventing government from abusing nanotech, that we must simply hope for the best and not even try?

Yes, evil individuals might - *will* - try to use nanotech to cause mass deaths - but keeping MNT out of the hands of all the other individuals just leaves them less empowered to protect themselves effectively. Meanwhile the evil ones will STILL find ways to get unrestricted MNT - and of course any evil people in positions of government poewr will have it from the start.

You really need to address the "If unrestricted MNT is a crime, only criminals will have MNT" issue, rather than assuming that somehow passing the right set of laws will make everything better, if not perfect.

You appear to be falling for the "If I were king" self-deception: "If I were king, I'd set everything right, because I know how things should be, and I'd put laws into effect that are good for everyone. Therefore, it makes sense to give the king the powers needed to do those things." But even if you truly know what is best for everyone, and could write the laws just the right way -


The king will be someone who is extremely motivated to get and hang onto power, and will use whatever power you give him (or them) to achieve that goal before any others - and once they have secured that first goal, no goals other than fulfilling their whims are necessary. And even if you did become king - or if the king lets you compose the laws -


- and those most likely to abuse MNT will be the same ones who will simply disregard your laws.

Am I saying we should have have no laws that apply to the use of MNT? No - if someone uses MNT to kill someone, it'll still be murder, and government should deal with it as such. If people plot to kill thousands or millions, government should act to catch them before they can do it, and put them away for life. That is NOT anarchy - done rationally, it's rule of law.

Regulation, on the other hand, is rule by bureaucracy. With enough regulations, everyone is guilty of something - and of course, ignorance of the (literally) tons of regulations is no excuse. Jerry Pournelle refers to this as "anarcho-tyranny" - using massive quantities of regulations to effectively eliminate the rule of law, by leaving everyone fearful that they'll do something to bring the government down upon them. When everyone is already a criminal, government can do as it wishes, and find some basis to act against any of the criminals (i.e citizens) who are dumb enough ruin their lives by resisting. We're not completely there yet, but not for lack of trying.


Okay today we are considering some of the interesting possibilities when one looks at molecular manufacturing. As this comment is off topic I will apologize to everyone.

I have been reviewing the world's largest buildings and it would appear that the bowling 747 assembly building in Washington at 13,300,000 cubic meters is the largest single structure currently available with designs specs. Using this design as a framework I will speculate on the volume of material that could be produced utilizing the space and molecular assemblers. I have not located a photo of the building unfortunately but based on other large warhouse structures I will assume it is roughly rectangular in style and extending upward some number of feet.

Okay if one was to use a standard size 10 buy 10 foot replicator and was to place these replicators side-by-side in rows allowing for a track/railroad track design accounting for an additional 10 foot give or take one inch in front of and on the same level of the assembler. One could envision a row of hundreds of assemblers all producing products or pieces of a larger product at the same time. The assembler would then roll the piece on to either rollers or the track itself. This piece would be moved off and out of the structure to either a assembly point nearby or to some other means of transportation to a distant point.

Now things start to get interesting how many assemblers can we fit inside of a 13.3 million cubic meter building. We could begin to speculate on the dimensions of the track. The speed of which material could move on the track. Whether elevators are going to be used or if track will be laid on a sloping angle to allow upper rows of assembler is to offload smoothly. These issues and others I will leave open for consideration for now and because the numbers are so great in scale and size we will simplify this equation.

13.3 million cubic meters = 472 million cubic feet each assembler will occupy 1000 cubic feet of space and 1000 cubic feet of track for purposes of this paper. It should be noted that the parts produced by the assembler will likely be compressed and the necessary space for movement of pieces and track space will be less than 1000 cubic feet. Dividing the 472 million cubic feet in half getting us to 236 million feet for replicators dividing this by 1000 equals 236,000 individual replicators. Now considering a two-hour turnaround time for production this gives us a daily total of 2,832,000 parts that can be produced each day.

Given a reasonable unfolding of said products it does not seem unreasonable that a single military tank could be produced in one part by one assembler a similar product such as one of the smaller fighter aircraft or a military transportation truck also seems reasonable given the size of the replicator. Also a civilian in automobile or smaller aircraft or even a conservative boat would also fall into this category of reasonable.

My current calculations are roughly 19 generations from possessing the first 10 buy 10 replicator to having the 236,000 individual replicators. This is a period of 38 hours or less than two day's time.

Well it's just a thought :)

Mike Deering

Todd, the MM production facility you are thinking about is a bit larger than any I had thought about, but of course there is no reason one couldn't be built of any size. I have given a lot of thought to the social implications of desktop printer sized nanofactories and railroad car sized industrial nanofactories, but your 13.3 million cubic meter machine is on a completely different scale. What possible reason could you have to want that amount of production capacity in one location on the surface of a planet? If you did have one of these monster nanofactories there would be a big problem supplying it with power and removing the waste heat. The numbers with regard to this issue are going to be impractical. I'm not going to hazard a guess as to what the numbers are specifically, but I know they are going to be huge.

Also, your use of terminology is confusing. You use "assembler" and "replicator" interchangeably. You talk about a 10 foot cube assembler, and I have always thought an assembler was a single atomic scale machine for positioning a single atom or molecule. Try this terminology on for size:

Nanotech machinery terminology:

Feedstock machine - a machine that sorts, breaks down, and digests, all kinds of stuff to produce small molecule feedstocks for nano-assembly.

Nanoblock machine - a machine that uses feedstock chemicals to assemble a variety of nanoblock types.

Express Nanofactory - a machine that assembles nanoblocks into products.

Nanofactory - a machine that uses feedstock chemicals to assemble a variety of nanoblock types and assembles the nanoblocks into products.

Mike Treder, CRN

Tom, thanks for your challenging commentary. Let me make a few points in response.

First, lumping all policy options into three broad categories, as I did for this short article, is obviously simplistic. The real world is far more complicated than that, so you can regard this general categorization as rhetoric for the sake of thought-provocation and discussion, rather than as serious policy analysis.

Second, I do not regard government as something separate from the citizenry, from us, from myself. We are it and it is us. Government is not the enemy: at worst, it’s the too officious, paternalistic, controlling side of our natures; at best, it’s the embodiment of our ennobling desires to do more as a group than we can as individuals; mostly, it’s somewhere in between.

Third, CRN’s call for regulation of molecular manufacturing should not automatically be heard as a wish to put more power into the hands of government bureaucracies. That may be an effective way of managing this technology’s unprecedented power — but it also may be that there are better ways. We’re actively looking into new models for decision making and shared responsibility. Consider, for example, Jim Garrison’s idea of "network democracy."

Finally, when you say "any evil people in positions of government power will have it [unrestricted MNT] from the start", that is an incorrect statement of CRN's positions. We are in favor of cooperative international agreements that will place internal technical restrictions on virtually all molecular manufacturing systems, not just those distributed to the public.

Brett Bellmore

"Second, I do not regard government as something separate from the citizenry, from us, from myself. We are it and it is us. Government is not the enemy: at worst, it’s the too officious, paternalistic, controlling side of our natures; at best, it’s the embodiment of our ennobling desires to do more as a group than we can as individuals; mostly, it’s somewhere in between."

Ok, we've got a serious problem here. I'm not at all clear how anyone who wasn't raised in a cave could think that government is, at worst, "too officious, paternalistic, controlling". Sorry, I didn't sleep through history class; As worst, government is a genocidal monster that murders, tortures, and enslaves. As one or two hundred million people could testify, if they hadn't been systematically slaughtered during the last century. And it's going on today, too, in more than one country.

At BEST, government is paternalistic and controlling. There isn't a government on the face of the Earth that doesn't routinely do things that we regard as catagorically EVIL if done by people in the private sector. The best you can say of government is that it's a necessary evil, and the most accurate thing you can say about it is that it's usually a hell of a lot more evil than necessary.

Unless you retract the above quite, I'm going to have to stop taking you seriously.

Mike Treder, CRN

Brett, perhaps I should clarify. When I referred to government above, I meant modern democratic republics, not monarchies or dictatorships. And yes, I will grant you that even the best governments (and I include the U.S. in this category) can and do enter into activities that we may consider abhorrent. But by and large, government has done more to improve civilization than to degrade it. If you can't accept this last statement as true, then we may simply have a fundamental disagreement.

Brett Bellmore

Well, you retracted enough to escape from la-la land, though I'd say you're still dangerously trusting of government. Even if democracies don't have much of a track record of genocide recently, (Emphisis on "recently".) democratically elected governments aren't guaranteed to remain such, (Germany was democratic prior to Hitler.) and they don't magically shed any powers you trusted them with when democratic, when they make that transition.

Yes, on a whole, the better governments do more good than bad. Most of the good they do being keeping worse governments from moving in, of course... That's what makes them "necessary" evils, rather than the unnecessary sort.

But what makes these governments better than the dictatorships? Accountability, I think. The fact that mechanisms are in place that allow worse than usual leaders to be jetisoned, so the leadership have to, for their own self-preservation, keep their darker impulses restrained.

What I fear is that nanotechnology has the potential to short circuit those mechanisms. To allow democratically elected governments to more easilly and safely (To themselves, not the citizenry.) make that transition from democratic to authoritarian. It provides them with a resource base other than taxation, (The negative correlation between extractive resource economies and political freedom isn't an accident.) and potentially arms them with rapidly deployable means of controlling the populace.

By doing so, it may lower the "barrier" between democracy and tyranny, allowing democratic governments to "tunnel" through to the, frankly, more stable state. And thus erase that distinction you're relying upon.


You are of course right Mike I have been using assembler and replicator interchangeably I recall rereading it last night and thought I had worked out the instances where the word was incorrect but upon looking a second time I will have to be more careful in the future.

One of the additional points I did not mention. The replicators will produce 6000 lb. pieces per generation given a single robot weighing 100 pounds that translates to 60 robots per replicator per generation multiply that my the number of replicators and we have 14,160,000 robots per two-hour generation. Times twelve generations per day gives us 169,920,000 robots per day. wow.

To address the heat issue within the structure I would one modify the assemblers/replicators so to allow for internal cooling by external means some sort of pressurized cooling pipe running through the replicators. One could also a hollow the track/rollers system and run coolant through it as the track's run throughout the entire system with a proximity of no more than a few feet from the replicator they should provide ample cooling even under extreme conditions. I recall a situation where the Hoover Dam was cooled by a extremely large cooling units located near the dams production something to do with as cemented cured he was built up inside Dam and needed to be extracted.

Looking to the power needs for the assemblers I looked up the total usage not production of power in United States 3.602 trillion kWh (2001) I would assume that total possible production is considerably higher than this number. Yesterday I calculated a full-size 10 buy 10 assembler would require 600,000 kwhWatts to run but Chris commented that he felt a 2 order of magnitude power increased could be accomplished I took this to mean a mere 6000 kwhWatts would be required to run the assembler. Given we have 236,000 individual assemblers this worked out to 1.416 trillion Watts needed. Around 40 percent of the total U.S. power usage and likely 20 percent of the total capacity of the U.S. overall production of electricity.

It would appear also that the United States, China, Japan, Russia, and was some effort Germany, Canada, and India could throw power into the terawatts range. From a military standpoint one possible scenario could be. The utilization of a large oil tanker converting this ship or a large cargo ship into a power production facility utilizing atomic power reviewing some examples show is a potential for power plant of 60 billion Watts given the U.S. aircraft care enterprise has six power plants on board and still plenty of room for aircraft. We could speculate on a number of say 20 atomic power plants to be constructed on the ship. Giving us 1.2 terawatts of power. Again from a military standpoint this ship could be deployed to most locations around the world in one scenario one could include all of the replicators on the ship but this would mean they extremely large vessel that I will not discussed here given 19 generations capabilitie for construction of the replicators the ship could simply be deployed to a location and the replicators could be constructed along with the framework for the warehouse and cooling systems.

So we see how truly powerful this molecular manufacturing technology is. A country with Nuclear capabilities could deployed forward to most locations around the world and within a few days set out and construct 150 million+ robots for use in armed combat. So from a military standpoint I will now predict the end of the usefulness of aircraft carriers has beening the most important ship in the fleet being replaced by the power production ship.

Brett Bellmore

I would think a more likely scenario would involve building the robots in advance, along with a LOT of cruise missles, or even sub-orbital rockets, to deliver them on short notice. That power generation ship of your's is one heck of an attractive military target, and with the amount of waste heat it would be throwing out, there'd be no question at all about what it was up to. And it would take some time to reach it's destination. In a wartime situation it would be on the recieving end of multiple nuclear warheads before it got anywhere near the war zone.

jim moore

I am going to have to side with Tom Carver and Brett on the dangers of MNT enabled governments. I think that "bad" governments are the biggest danger in a MNT enabled world. The technical restrictions talked about by CRN can be very useful in limiting Bill Joys fear of "radically empowered individuals" or small groups, but the restrictions will only a small impediment to many governments.

Insuring just governance for all is a profoundly difficult question and goes the heart of what CRN wants to do. Two novel suggestion that might help are: Insure that all people have the right immigrate and insure that people have the right to form new nations (on the oceans or in space).

Mike Treder, CRN

Brett wrote: ...mechanisms are in place that allow worse than usual leaders to be jetisoned, so the leadership have to, for their own self-preservation, keep their darker impulses restrained.

What I fear is that nanotechnology has the potential to short circuit those mechanisms. To allow democratically elected governments to more easilly and safely (To themselves, not the citizenry.) make that transition from democratic to authoritarian.

It seems we can agree, then, that nanotechnology has the potential to unbalance the status quo and enable dangerous concentrations of unprecedented power and control. But I believe this results from a natural extension of tribal protectiveness, something deeply ingrained within our species. Unfortunately this impulse is now growing increasingly hazardous. How will we deal with it?


Well in my previous two posts I've attempted to layout some of a possibilities for large-scale production utilizing molecular manufacturing. And have given some idea of the potential military force post molecular assembler. I believe that attempting to stand against a country such as one listed above would be futile if that country held MNT. Although one could always go nuclear I would argue that this would simply cause more devastation then a alternative.

Now we're left with a hard decision, what to do about the current governments of the world and to deal with the unprecedented power they will obtain when they possess molecular manufacturing. I believe their only two choices in this discussion one to remove all governments from governmental power of any kind. Or the other to create a single government governing the entire world. A world government is not without precedents one could argue that the country of Roam ruled pretty much the entire world although now looking back it did not control vast stretches of the earth but still there is precedents. One thing they could be done and would seem reasonable is a country develops MNT and prosperous a second country wishes to obtain the technology in the first country grants the technology to the second country with the condition that the new country joined the first country informing a single unified country. Perhaps it would not require a single country adding but a group of countries could all agree and join sharing the technology and benefits. Once this was established one could envision many smaller countries wishing to join to gain the benefits of MNT.

At this point I would look to similarities between cultures and peoples to decide how to implement a world government. This would not be that difficult if all of the nuclear power countries would agree on a general outline of stability and security. As many of the elements currently disputed in the world will be removed through the use of MNT for instance the production of food and other resources to produce unparalleled quantities of products for the common man throughout all countries of the world. Then they should ease the need for trade and the conception that one country or people is doing better than another. I would hope this will bring considerable stability to all countries when they recognize thay are all equal and the same. There is precedents for this as well as the United States is made up of a group of individual states and although hardly equal they still get along "mostly" hehe.

I know this is a groundbreaking and unparalleled in the history of man for their to be a single world government controlling everything everywhere. But again looking at the current state of affairs I find the United States is involved in many smaller disputes around the world. Post molecular assembler these disputes would not be small and would require great resources although could be noted that these resources would be offset by the availability of production of molecular assemblers. One of the more troubling aspects of this technology is the ability of a government of which there are 100 plus around the world to impact every moment of time and influence or restrict every individual in its country. This is of course very troubling from a freedom standpoint. One could argue that if you were in a situation where your government was a pressing you you could simply move to another location where freedom rained. And although there is still some hope when one sees what can be built by molecular assemblers it seems less and less likely that any individual in any country being depressed will be able to do anything let alone leave the country in question.

Another question which hasn't come up yet but is of similar character is what to do about individuals being oppressed by their guardians or family members. In United States there are many avenues for individuals to find help when they are being abused. Also in general most Americans I believe would get involved in the situation where a child were being abused and report the abuse. Looking ahead post molecular assembler I seen this being a larger problem because once again the parents of a family being the governing body of the family and possessing great power over the family can easily be corrupted by their power. And if individuals are living apart and are not monitored in any way there will be little or no chance of an outside influence impacting their lives.

Another example of what to do post molecular assembler are the existence of a few religious groups which have already relinquished all or most all technology and go about their lives without regard to the status quo. This has always been troubling to meet personally but in some cases I've been told once an individual reaches reasonable age they are asked whether or not to continue living this lifestyle and given the option of leave. This seems excessive to me but if freedom exists in this society and continues I would look the other way and allow this form of life. But if in this scenario where again individuals are not allowed to leave and are forced and restricted to this lifestyle then something should be done.

So whether it be a government a parent or a religious group all possess the potential for abusing the power they will obtain through this new technology. I would vote in favor of monitoring and providing for communication to everyone everywhere if only in the case of individuals to provide a alternative and means of freedom. This freedom will likely be reflected in what has occurred in the past where individuals move to another location where freedom exists. This new location in the future is likely space. I deal however think it is very unfortunate that the only way for one to the of the be free is to leave ones home. But perhaps it is always been that way.

Tom Craver

Mike: I think CRN has done a good job of showing that relinquishment is not an option. I don't think you've done nearly as good a job of showing that some variant of nano-laissez-faire is not an option. Pointing to potential problems is not enough - else we'd have eliminated the regulatory approach by now as well.

The greatest potential and greatest danger of nanotech lies in the independent power it allows individuals. Self-sufficiency alone is not a danger - even 150 years ago a family could be self-sufficient given a few manufactured goods, some good land and a lot of hard work. The industrial era amplified human power with machine power, but specialization of human labor tied us all together in an interdependent system. Nanotech appears to be able to take us back to being mostly independent - but with all the power (and more) that machines have granted us. The big question is whether individuals can be trusted with such power, or must all be treated as the flawed components most likely to fail in an otherwise perfect and powerful system of machines.

Obviously the big concern is "security" - governments are set up to provide for mutual defense, but end up providing for mutual offense against other groups. Would all problems vanish if there were no governments? No - rational people might still have misunderstandings or conflicts of interest that need to be resolved; some people would attack others for short-sighted gains (robbery, rape); an insane few might try to wipe out masses of people; and masses of people with irrational ideologies or philosophies might seek to impose their views on others.

For me, it is evident that we want a system in which individuals are self-supporting, not continuously dependent upon the largess of others. We want a system in which rational people live most of their lives without dire conflict with other rational people. We want a system that allows rational people to deal with irrational people quickly, fairly, and firmly - BEFORE they can do massive harm.

Our current massive national governments fail on most of these points, and merely layering nanotech regulations on top of them is creates the conditions for catastrophic failure under the new conditions nanotech will enable. The most that can be said for it, is that it is an easy path to go down - all the existing mechanisms of power are set up to lead us in that direction. But if an easy path leads over a cliff, should we follow it?

Mike Deering

It may soon be time for an overhaul of the democratic systems we have, to make them more democratic. Many of the structural limitations of current systems were instituted because of shortcomings in the citizenry that will very likely disappear in the near future.

Tom Craver

Mike Deering: I guess by short-comings you mean handicaps and aging, that will be overcome. But there will always be rationalizations for giving control to the nanny state.

We need a permanent solution that allows individuals to be responsible for themselves, yet accounts for the fact that in the future some will be vastly more capable than others.

Just some thinking - we've already declared that space is the common heritage of all mankind. Make that literal - anyone claiming any previously unclaimed mass gets a free or very cheap long term lease on it - maybe 50 years. After that time, it reverts to universal ownership, up for bids by all interested parties, with the income to be distributed equally to all. Existing property would be respected so long as one continues to hold it - but could only be sold under "lease" terms. A fee equal to that paid to get unclaimed land would be deducted from the income of the sale, and henceforth the property/mass is considered leased from humanity.

This starts to run into some problems when the concept of "an individual" gets fuzzy (copies? avatars? etc) - who gets a share of the income? But perhaps that just means we'll have good reason to keep a clearer definition of what it means to be human.

Brett Bellmore

Two obvious questions:

First, who is going to get this lease money, and why are they so privileged?

Second, just how far do I have to get away from Earth to escape this nightmarish scenario? Surely your leasing authority doesn't somehow own the entirety of the universe.

Mike Treder


In this article, I wrote about our concerns with the laissez-faire approach. Self-sufficiency, whether on an individual or a national scale, does not automatically lead to peace and freedom. At least for the transitional period, following the introduction of exponential general-purpose molecular manufacturing and until some new model for peaceful and productive sovereign interaction can be developed and adopted, we will need to be working with existing governmental structures. This may not be a permanent or stable situation, but our focus at CRN is on surviving this period of passage.

Chris Phoenix, CRN

I agree with Mike's concerns about the transitional period. How quickly will various social structures (nations, religions, corporations, etc) react to abrupt development of potential abundance? Will they all react favorably? If not, will they use the new capabilities destructively?

I'm also concerned about technology-enabled abuses. I'm concerned that a decentralized approach won't be able to solve at least some of them. For example, gray goo is pointless and difficult to engineer; but how would you deal with a hobbyist goo-building culture, if one should threaten to appear? Would laissez-faire be able to keep spybots out of people's homes?

You wrote, "You really need to address the "If unrestricted MNT is a crime, only criminals will have MNT" issue.
But it's more accurate to say, "If unrestricted MNT is a crime, only criminals and governments will have unrestricted MNT." Will governments be more effective against criminals than individual empowered citizens? I think that depends on the type of crime. Governments fail against drugs. Both seem to fail against computer crime.

One argument that's gaining strength with me is: a large number of problems can be traced back to scarcity, and getting rid of governments will reduce sources of artificial scarcity. But I have to turn your argument back on you: You won't be king either, and governments will not release control of nanotech easily. And if they did, groups that feed off human misery, from mafia to international arms dealers, would have an opportunity to try to grab it and pervert it. So it goes back to the question I asked at the start of this post: How will groups react during the transitional period?

And one more question: If people improve in situations of non-scarcity, why wouldn't governments?


Brett Bellmore

"If people improve in situations of non-scarcity, why wouldn't governments?"

Governments wouldn't improve as a result of non-scarcity. Look at the nations with extraction resource intensive economies, where the governments don't need to raise money by taxation: Any real democracies among them? Maybe Norway, but that's about it. Most of them are the worst sort of authoritarian kleptocracies.

That's because governments, inherently, end up run by people who enjoy lording it over other people. (Standard public choice theory.) In scarcity situations, where they need the support of those same people to remain in power, they have to limit their deprevations. Give them unlimited resources, and they're free to indulge, largely without concern for what the people they're oppressing think about it.

Government and the mafia are more alike than most people want to acknowlege.

Tom Craver

Mike Treder:
In the "Nano Anarchy" section of the article you reference, a few paragraphs describe what I consider to be the "anarchy" strawman - the idea that allowing people to have unrestricted nanotech means government is effectively prevented from maintaining the rule of law.

At most 2 of 10 paragraphs point with alarm to possible dangers arising from individuals with unrestricted nanotech - but do nothing to show that there is a vast danger there that is impractical for individuals, organizations (and yes even government) to counter, thereby making nano-laissez faire (my preferred term for this concept) impossible.

One paragraph points to the possibility of non-governmental groups using nanotech to create chaos - but again takes the strawman "anarchy" position that somehow government would be prevented from continuing to use its monopoly on force to suppress such groups.

Six whole paragraphs focus on dangers arising from government - but how are government actions to be considered anarchy? True, there's no over-arching authority over all the national governments, so in that sense I suppose it is "anarchy", though not in the usual sense of the term. Is the CRN position that we need effectively a limited world government, with the power to force nations to behave?

And I just want to point out again that I'm not arguing *against* regulation, just arguing that you haven't made the case *for* regulation by showing that unrestricted nanotech must be kept out of individual hands or risk disaster. Merely pointing to "dangers" is not sufficient.

Perhaps part of the difficulty is in the term "unrestricted". By that I do not mean "no laws" - I mean "un-crippled nanotech". To use an analogy, we have many traffic laws - but we don't try to build cars that can't be used to break them. And we don't try to monitor every move made with every car, or even try to catch every tiny infraction of the traffic laws. The laws are there to provide orderly traffic and a means of establishing fault when an car accident occurs.

Tom Craver


I understand your reluctance to give up the idea of permanent private property. My comments are intended as "thinking out loud", not a policy prescription. But really, while we are mortal, no property is permanent. Sure, you get to say who gets it after you die - but that's a rather cold consolation. I'd gladly trade off that privilege in return for living much longer with only property leasing, if offered the choice.

Without something similar to "Jubilee" ( http://members.tripod.com/~TheHOPE/altyovel.htm ) eventually those who are most competent at accumulating capital (and in the future those may be non-human) will own so much that most of humanity will be little more than serfs - worse than serfs, since most won't be able to create much of value to the property owners once we get nanotech.

If the owners are kind, they might provide something like the Matrix, or perhaps support some small "human culture preserves" - zoos in effect. If they are not so kind, they may provide minimal "human warehousing" facilities, where natural humans can live out their natural lives and eventually die off. That is where private property takes us when we lose the rough equality that our biological nature has given us - is that not a nightmare scenario?

If you haven't already, I'd encourage you to read through Marshall Brain's "manna" scenario. ( http://marshallbrain.com/manna1.htm ) It shows a chillingly believable path to human obsolescence for the majority of the population. And his vision is too conservatively optimistic, since he apparently assumes human property owners manage to stay in control of the AI he posits.

I'm trying to see if there could be an alternative - something akin to a trust fund holding all of Earth's assets, which were free for the taking (by force, if someone else held them, until we overlaid the concept of property to protect those using some of those assets). The trust would be owned in equal shares by all humans, non-transferrable, and those who can compete economically could lease the use of it. All income from leasing would be split evenly among all humans - no one getting extra shares.

Mike Treder, CRN

Are automobiles today "crippled" by having anti-pollution technical restrictions built in? By being required to carry fenders and steel frames and passive restraints? Are they crippled by not including machine guns mounted in the grill?

Regulation/restriction/law is everywhere; it's a continuum along which we try as a society to find the best place by constantly debating. But it's there.

CRN is arguing for research and discussion into the optimum spot on the nanotechnology regulation continuum, both for individual users and for governments.

Brett Bellmore

Tom, you're not, although you may think you are, advocating anything other than permanant property rights. There's no collective, no hive mind, to exercise that "collective" ownership. It will be exercised by some subset of humanity, or some mechanism humanity creates, and [i]that subset[/i] will be the real owner. Of everything. In perpetuity. Not a pleasant scenario.

Imagine the first settlers at Tau Ceti. They've expended vast resources to get there, taken enormous risks. And every fifty years they're supposed to buy back from some clowns in Sol system all they've gotten in the new system, sending tribute ships back though interstellar space? I think not. Getting away from that kind of nonsese was probably why they left in the first place.

Back in the real world, although people do vary in their skill and luck at aquisition, we see that property does NOT tend to end up all owned by one person. On the contrary, what we see, absent government intervention, is that this generation's wealthy are comparatively lousy at passing on their skills at aquistion, and the man who founds a great fortune, has great grandchildren fritter it away.

Now, perhaps immortality would change this. The original founder of the fortune would continue without declining capabilities. But if you combine some degree of self-sufficiency with enforcement of property rights, people can't be forced to sell their property! The aquisitive genius finds himself hemmed in by all those stubborn, self sufficient owners.

Here's an alternative proposal to mull over: We already have community property laws to deal with divorce... Extend them to children, too. You want to reproduce, fine, but on their majority, they get a share of your wealth. THAT would confront people with the choice of either never having children, or seeing their horded weath dispersed.

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