In case you haven't seen it, I want to point out this interesting and challenging article from Dale Carrico's Amor Mundi blog. He's talking about the fallacy of expecting molecular manufacturing (along with other potentially transformative technologies) to automatically overcome and leap beyond social, governmental, and economic hurdles and achieve a desired beneficial -- or even Utopian -- outcome:
One cannot point out too many times, for example, that neither "nanotechnology" nor "automation" will one day magically cut or circumvent the basic impasse that inaugurates politics: namely, that we share a finite world with an ineradicable diversity of peers with different stakes, different aspirations, different capacities on whom we depend for our flourishing, from whom we can count on betrayal, misunderstanding, and endless frustration, and with whom we want to be reconciled.
The simple truth is that abundance is already here, already within our grasp (just like war is over... if you want it), and so, it is the defense of injustice in the name of championing parochial prosperity that is the threat to the arrival of the available abundance worth having.
If new cheap robust sustainable materials modified at the nanoscale or new cheap robust sustainable products manufactured via nanoscale replication in whatever construal actually were to arrive on the scene, these would contribute to general welfare and prosperity only if that is the value that defines the societies in which these technodevelopmental outcomes made their appearance. Otherwise, they absolutely would not.
The crux of Dale's argument, I think, is that such simplistic approaches, if applied as policy, could open us up to significant risks. Namely, that an emphasis on technological development as a solution, rather than as a tool to be implemented in the context of broad societal goals, could backfire, not only missing the intended positive outcome but in fact enabling unwanted negative results.
If one wants to arrive at something like the Superlative outcome of "Nanosantalogical" superabundance, what one should be fighting for is to protect and extend democracy, to implement steeply progressive taxation, to broaden welfare as widely as possible, and to make software instructions available for free (else they certainly won't be and then Nanosanta will be sure to open his bag only for the rich). If one wants to arrive at something like the Old School Superlative outcome universally automation and Robo-Abundance, what one should be fighting for is to implement a basic income guarantee, otherwise automation (including much that gets called "outsourcing" and "crowdsourcing" in contemporary parlance) will simply function as further wealth concentration for incumbents.
Needless to say, I worry that no small amount of the post-political handwaving of the Nanosantalogical mode of Superlativity derives from a prior commitment to neoliberal assumptions, and functions as a proxy (to return to this post's initial topic) precisely for a worldview that would not in fact be displeased at all with the prospect of such wealth concentration for incumbents or with a stingy Nanosanta with a bag full of toys only for already rich girls and boys. These are the discursive derangements that attract my primary interest when talk of MNT [molecular nanotechnology] goes Superlative.
We would generally agree with this perspective. It is why CRN keeps insisting that a parallel track of investment and effort toward understanding the ethical, legal, and social implications (ELSI) of molecular manufacturing and exploring plans for responsible governance must go alongside and keep pace with technical research and development.