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« Molecular Manufacturing and Manhattan | Main | Nano Building Nano, Already »

January 08, 2005


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Michael Vassar

Mike, I really think you should try to engage Omidyar, or alternatively I could try to do so. Despite founding E-bay he doesn't seem to be an extreme technophile, so he may need a lot of background, but he seems to be one of the world's only people who has enough money to genuinely change the world, the strong desire to do so for the better, and the determination to remain accessible to inputs from outside of his small circle.

Mike Treder, CRN

Good suggestion, Michael. I'll try to make a connection, but if you think you can make it for us, please do.

Tom Craver

It seems to me that to rise above poverty, the poor must become more productive and diversified/specialized, to better compete locally with mass manufactured products. The west built up its productivity on concentrated energy - whale oil, coal, oil, natural gas. Those sources are now scarce or monopolized.

Something I've been thinking about off and on - it should be relatively easy and inexpensive for people in some of the most poverty stricken areas to create crude but effective solar concentrating mirrors. Use widely known basket weaving skills and local materials to create reasonably rigid basket shapes in a rough parabolic shape (the catenary curved shape of a string hung loose horizontally by it's ends is close enough for these purposes I think, and would be easy to teach). Line the "basket" with tin foil, or maybe cheap reflective aluminized plastic similar to that used on some candybars. Such a mirror might cost a dollar a square meter to make.

But that leaves the question - given concentrated energy, how do they best make use of it?

Thinking in terms of demand, to improve their standard of living, they would want to localize production of some of the following:
- fresh, pure water (distilleries)
- food - somehow increase productivity, perhaps making fertilizer, perhaps drip irrigation?
- alcohol - for fuel and consumption
- electricity (how best to do this?)
- cheap and strong construction materials: eliminating use of wood as a fuel might free up more for construction, woven bags and sandbag construction might be another alternative; kilned tile is an obvious possibility
- cooling - shading, fans, swamp coolers, evaporative pot refrigeration
- winter heating in some areas
- glass and glass recycling
- metal - or at least smithing and recycling
- cheap cloth - steam powered looms? synthetic materials?
- paper

Are there common chemical processes that could be solar powered? Beyond the alcohol still, one could use a kiln to produce charcoal, and reduce bones to bone ash for use in ceramics and maybe for fertilizer. What else?

Yeah, I know this seems a bit off topic in a nanotech forum - but given that we're proposing that nanotech might eliminate poverty, I think it's worth examining how far that goal could be approached without MM.

Marc Geddes

How many times does it have to be said? How many times do these silly Marxist ideas have to be recycled and rebutted over and over again?

The world is not a soup-kitchen. The *primary* reason poor countries are poor is because of bad governance. If the governments of poor countries keep on doing what they've always done, the people of those countries will keep on getting what they've always gotten. No longer how large aid is, it will make only minor in-roads into global poverty if we continue to tolerate thugs and dictators screwing everything up.

The *only* long-term solution is the enforcement of *universal* human rights: the right to control one's own mind and body, strong property rights, free trade, democratic checks and balances and government supply of public goods such as basic health-care, infrastructure etc. The only way to ensure these things is to kick the thugs and dictators OUT!

You're not going to be able to do that by sucking up to the U.N (many of the people on there were not democratically elected in the first place after all) or talking about 'international co-operation'.

I'm all for international co-operation between *democratic* nations, but I'm not for co-operation with countries run by thugs and dictators.

Tom Craver


I won't disagree that bad governments keep things bad in poor nations. But I'd point out that western nations rose out from under monarchies, which were as bad as any dictatorship about oppressing the poor, and far better entrenched - heck they even had the backing of God (divine right of kings). Also, look at South America, where a number of countries have slowly developed out of authoritarian states into something more democratic, sometimes inspite of outside interference.

I guess I'm just saying that if you're leading up to saying that outsiders should interfere to toss dictators out, I'm not convinced that's the smartest approach. If the people do it themselves, it's far more likely to stick. Which is another problem I have with what we claim we're trying to do in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I agree that just giving such nations a bunch of money or even goods, mainly feeds the dictatorship. I'm still ambivalent whether that means outsiders should not provide aid to the most desperate. Probably a decent compromise would be to refuse to bribe the dictator for access, and to only distribute aid directly rather than let the dictator do it. If the dictator refuses access, or steals the aid from the poor, his people will have that much more incentive to toss him out.

Samantha Atkins

I would like to see the real calculations used in the above article. Simply writing down some purported yearly or one-time price with nothing to justify it is not at all convincing. Of course price per person varies quite a bit depending on the part of the world you are talking about. But these numbers seem very low.

Throwing in health care makes the numbers even more slippery. What level of health care precisely?

I believe that a world of sufficient abundance as to guarantee all of these things and more to every human being is both possible and desirable. But I don't believe we are at the point of being able to do so yet without seeing the math in some detail.

Chris Phoenix, CRN

I'd like some feedback on a comment I made in another thread about clan vs. class societies as a possible explanation for failure to modernize.


2010: Poverty Elimination

"Is it possible to end poverty? Could we do it today?" Yes!

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