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« Consultant Status | Main | Globalization and Nanotechnology »

September 24, 2004


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John B

To bring Todd's questions and preconditions, let me quote him:

"We are of course left with the "what ifs". First of which is the most likely instigators or creators of this technology being hopefully the United States. So I will lay out a possibility.

One United States government produces a molecular pick and place assembler utilizing carbon in the form of diamond lattice, molecular manufacturing capable of self replication.

Question what is to timeframe post assembler before CNN releases this story to the country and the world."

Depends on where and how this is done. If this is done in a 'black project' or the like, it is possible that it would be years or a couple decades before it became public knowledge. (I'm not going to assign a probability to that - it's a religous debate, in my opinion).

However, more likely it is developed in conjunction with a burgeoning swell of technological innovations in the public sector, possibly leading to an initial short-term advantage which either leaks to the press or is 'rediscovered' by other researchers elsewhere.

Thus, I'd suspect (unless there are 'filter' breakthroughs that the government stumbles upon before other researchers) there to be a relatively short duration between the breakthrough and international awareness.

"Question what is the reaction by the rest of the world to discovery."

I'm afraid I'm not highly educated in international affairs, but I would suspect a rather strong disapproval of and lust for such knowledge. If this came from a 'black project', I expect it would be a much stronger reaction than from an incremental public development.

Additionally, the US government's actions regarding this technology will greatly affect public (national and international) opinion. The tighter the restrictions on its release, either to American nationals or to other nations, the greater the unrest/dispute.

"Question what is the reaction of the common man in United States."

Immediately? I suspect little. While almost everyone paying attention to CRNano has internalized the risks, capabilities (alleged and/or proven), and so on regarding nanotechnology, to most people it's all special effects and 'weird science'.

Admittedly, some will hail it as the coming of the nanotopia, in some cases with religious fervor. In other cases, it'll be perceived as a nano-dystopia, again with fringe elements reacting with religious fervor.

Given the US' history as I understand it, there will be STRONG market and social pressures brought to bear to reduce the changes induced by the innovation, often in the name of 'safety' (public, ecologic, fiscal, etc) or the like. While there will be valid, critical safety issues, there will most likely also be organizations with vested interests using inflated or just plain incorrect concerns to protect those selfsame interests.

"Question what is the timeframe on deployment of MM throughout United States."

Depends on method of development. In the case of a public breakthrough, I'd suspect an initial boom of very short duration (perhaps of hours or even minutes duration), followed by a counterveiling large-scale "safety" crackdown as some of the better-organized groups that feel threatened by some one or more potential nanotechnological capabilities manage to get legal action - restraining orders and the like.

Were it the 'black project' version, I would think there probably wouldn't even be that 'boom', as the technlogy itself wouldn't be available initially, merely reports of its existance and capabilities via non-technical media outlets (CNN was the initial example - do you think they'll publicize schematics of the device(s)?)

"Question what products useful or otherwise will be available for production on day one of receiving MM."

Very few, most likely, especially given a narrow-focus governmental breakthrough effort. It depends on what branch of the government was the driving force behind the technology, and what PART of that branch.

The 'black project' version may have one or more products available, but again, these will be most likely very narrowly focussed towards that organization(s) /project's goal(s).

"Question what is the initial impact on United States economy due to production of useful products."

Minimal. Except, perhaps, for lawyers' fees, if you wish to consider that a 'useful product.'

Note that this is my take based on the above scenario. Were the conditions different, I'd strongly suspect other possible results would come into being.

For example, were practical nano-manufacture simulation software developed and released in advance of the release of the nanofacture units, the number of available products would be QUITE a bit higher. Of course, unless great care was taken with software security of the compilers, this could lead to massive problems as well, as 'dangerous' products - surveillance devices not covered under current legislation, or weapons not covered under current regs, etc - could potentially be among the list of produced materials.

Alternately, there could be a backlash before the actual development of the nanofactory as some of the better organized groups that might feel threatened by nanotech capability(s) act preemptively via legislation or other means.

Etc - the potential scenarios are nearly limitless, and I'm out of time. *wry grin*


Tom Craver

Regarding the sort of designs that could be available at introduction of nanotech, it seems like any design that rapid prototyping machines can make would be relatively easy to port over. MEMs designs should port fairly well.

It ought to be possible to create designs that just assume reasonably strong and rigid structures with feature sizes on the order of 20nm to 60nm - e.g. a repeating chain mesh could be made to create a very thin and flexible membrane. Probably any nano-assembler worthy of the name will be able to produce carbon nanotubes, which will be a useful product.

Chris Phoenix, CRN

John, please please contribute to wise-nano.org. If you don't find that the site welcomes contributions, please tell me so and I'll try to improve it.

Tom, you're thinking in the right direction. Now consider what you could do with just a few nanoscale general-purpose components like motors and bearings and logic gates, and the ability to build larger shapes by volume-filling. Seems to me you could design programmable cubic-micron components, and use those to make smart materials, and those to make whatever you want. Perhaps we should take this over to the Nanofactory CAD page on wise-nano.


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