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« Precautionary Principle and Nanotechnology | Main | On the Air in Australia »

November 12, 2004

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Matt

Despite what some of IBM´s heads might think about MM, when it comes to actually developing MM without direct government involvment, my bet is on IBM. Just think about what IBM Zurich in particular has achieved in terms of MM: first time atom spelling, development of AFM and STM, more recently the Millipede and probably many other advances I forgot here or don´t know about that might be directly or indirectly leading to MM. I think IBM currently has the most promising incidental MM project, maybe more promising than, for example, Zyvex´s gradual project. At least they seem to produce more results.

Michael Vassar

Chris: How about quantum computing. This is, to a high degree a nanotechnology, but it is not dependent on or fully enabled by MNT, but it is potentially useful enough to be a general purpose technology like nanotechnology, and part of the same synergy as MNT and AI. Neurotechnologies will be "REALLY BIG" but I'm very unconvinced that they will take off prior to MNT or equally abruptly. MNT is a key enabling technology for REALLY powerful and safe neurotech. Same with AI. Biotech might be really big and general purpose pre MNT though.

Good point Matt. IBM is my first bet for MNT too.

Final point. If Donofrio was just talking about "generating real business value or wealth" then he may well be right. The revolutionary general purpose technologies listed above, excepting biotech, may be simply too revolutionary to generate wealth. Even historical revolutionary technologies mostly lost wealth. One has almost always been better off using tech-forcasting to identify established industries with promising current accounting data and no novel near-term competition than using it to identify new winners. As Buffet always points out, the vast majority of companies in every new industry go bankrupt. If you had invested equally in each of the 2000 car companies in 1910 or so you would not have made out particularly well. In aviation there were 300 manufacturers between 1919 and 1939. 129 airlines filed for bankruptcy between 1979 and 1999. As of 1992 time adjusted, the aviation industry had greater losses than gains! I suspect the story may be different with electricity, but the point is, importance != profitability.

Kurt

I think Donofrio is wrong, especially with regards to biomedical technology. The two major developments we will see in the next 30 years will be a cure for aging (a la SENS) and intelligence increase. These are going to have profound impact on society and economic productivity.

A society composed entirely of "youthful" post-mortals is going create a far more dynamic, productive economy than what we have now. It will also be a much more bohemian society as well.

It is amazing to me how few people see these possibilities. They think it will be like "Star Trek" where people have kids, grow old, and live the conventional life cycle like they do now. I think nothing could be further from the truth as far as future society is concerned.

Michael Vassar

But SENS and intelligence increase could both work even if neither is ever a good investment strategy.

John B

The question is who gets the benefits - society as a whole, or some subset. If a subset (and I'd bet it'll be a very small subset, especially for the early adopters), the smaller it is the less the effects it'll have on society.

Personally, I'm just waiting for the US protectionists to wake up and realize what a disadvantage 'normal' people will have against someone who's had a hundred years experience in a field, with none of the health issues. "Oh, we fixed something just like that in '34 - just ..." is a wonderful thing, and something that the corporate knowledge capture efforts that I've seen to date have done very poor jobs at.

Why the US protectionists? If the US bars the basic research needed to get there, someone else will get there first. (Personally, this seems a likely scenario to me.) Given that, the first time someone acknoweldges either improved performance or someone shows up at a international forum with a much younger body, it will probably (still IMO) become obvious how much of an advantage the other nation has in that field. Out come the tarriffs and other fun tools - and don't think that IT folks won't lobby hard for protection, they're already starting to do so with the foreign tech support call centers in action and other tech support functions shifting that way as well...

-John

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