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« Print-your-own Shoes | Main | Out of Sight, Out of Mind »

February 12, 2006


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Nato Welch

Thanks for the reply!

I wasn't meaning to imply that working at the molecular scale had little to no value; obviously there's a lot. I was just trying to describe the social shock factor that such machines would bring with them. More than any other factor, I would still have to say that the recursive nature of these devices is the most profound. The exponential growth curve one can plot with the first fabs is the most novel, and it's driven by self-replication ability. Once people get over the shock of exponentially-propagating machines (not to be confused with grey goo), people will begin to "get it", and start thinking more accurately about what they can expect next from these fabs. That's when I think groups like foresight and CRN will really start finding themselves listened to by policymakers.

Still, you do bring up a good point in the analogy to computers. Computing machines made a great many changes to the averge person's life before the computers themselves even broached their consciousness. In the same way , we might expect only geeks like me to really care about the first generations of the RepRap.

One important difference is that, unlike Computers, what would keep RepRap out of people's homes wouldn't be expense, but interest. Fabs are cheap right off the blocks, whereas PC's needed to wait for Moore's Law to bring the prices down before the real impact could be felt. With recursive fabs, people will be able to have one as soon as they discover it does something they want. Obviously, this diffusion into common life is going to be a LOT faster than for computers.

I have no doubt that molecular scale fabs will have vastly superior capabilities over microscale fabs. But will fabs really produce any phenomena so startling revolutionary as their own exponential growth?

Tom Craver

The problem I see with most current fabbers is that they rely on exotic materials - special plastics and metal powders and such - as feedstock.

Much more useful would be a low cost fabber that converts trash to something useful - e.g. plastic bottles and cardboard into sheets suitable for roofing and walls.

Janessa Ravenwood

Tom: Oh, yeah. That one would make friends fast. Not to mention, recycling = good in and of itself.

Chris Phoenix, CRN

I've answered your comment in a new post here. Thanks for the interesting discussion.



Hey, I had a look at your nanofactory idea and was thinking... wouldn't it be better if it was round instead of square? Pressure vessels are usually cylinders or spheres to avoid stress concentrations.

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