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« Will Nanotech Find Happiness? | Main | Nano-word Taxonomy »

October 06, 2005


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I'm glad to see KSRM referenced here. With its emphasis on the traditional self-replicating assembler concept, KSRM is decidedly old-school in its approach to nanotech. Apparently these boys haven't gotten with the program of politically-correct nanotech, where microscopic self-replicating assemblers are either impossible or so unnecessary that no sane person would ever even think of pursuing them.

Freitas and Merkle unashamedly present their concept for a molecular assembler in http://www.molecularassembler.com/KSRM/ Able to self-replicate and less than 2 cubic microns in size, it is far removed from the desktop nanofactory which CRN and Foresight are pushing. Attempts by these organizations to rewrite history and pretend that assemblers were just an embarrassing and minor side road on the highway to mature nanotech are directly contradicted by the importance that Freitas and Merkle place on the concept.

The authors directly address the "too dangerous" argument in http://www.molecularassembler.com/KSRM/6.3.1.htm. Their design is based on a broadcast architecture and requires a custom environment, preventing any kind of gray goo scenario. Perhaps their strongest argument for going forward with assembler development, despite the dangers, is that other groups are likely to pursue it irrespective of the dangers.

I have been annoyed and frustrated by the attempts of the MM "establishment" to sweep the assembler concept under the rug for political reasons. I welcome F&M's work which will hopefully restore this important design to the central role it deserves. Drexler's assemblers were not a mistake and not a sideline. If they can be built, they will be. They are too useful and have too many capabilities to ignore.

Tom Craver

F&M's free-floating, broadcast-instruction , "brick extrusion" architecture seems best at producing large quantities of identical tiny objects. That isn't sufficient for constructing macroscale objects. For that, there must be a second stage - a molefactory, or perhaps "foglets" that arrange themselves into objects.

Also, if one's objective is security, self-replicating molebots might be limited to ultra-high security plants, with the rest of the world's economy using fixed function atomically precise assemblers, and assemblers limited to moleblock precision. I'm not advocating this as a long term solution - it leaves a bit too much control in centralized hands for my taste - but it might be a good compromise approach to limiting the problems created by the rapid onset of moletechnology.

Chris Phoenix, CRN


The only problem is the use of the word "assembler" to mean two different things. Drexler's original meaning (1986/Engines) was a system with an onboard computer and navigation system. And when thinking about gray goo, he was thinking of designs derivative from biology.

The "assembler" described in KSRM has no onboard computer, no navigation capability, and is utterly non-biological.

In other words, the Merkle/Freitas design is not a Drexler assembler by any stretch of the imagination.

We have had this conversation before. You already know the information I'm providing here. So are you just trolling?


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