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« Bush-League Lysenkoism | Main | A Gathering of Minds »

May 20, 2004


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Janessa Ravenwood

I'm trying to learn .NET development now (or will be in June when things quiet down a bit at work). Might be an interesting "starter project." Though I might note that perhaps I'm not your favorite choice for this project. :-)

Mr. Farlops

I could be wrong but I think Chris and Mike are thinking about asking for a volunteer to generate articles and content similar to Vodephone's, not a volunteer web technician to create a look and functionality like Vodephone's site.

Or am I wrong?

jim moore

A major implication of nano-factories is that all of the new infrastructure for living can be shrunk to a portable size and interconnected without wires or roads.

Scene: Early morning: The plains of the Serengeti.

Cresting over a distant hill are what appears to be thousands of horse sized spiders. They are converging from many directions upon a slight valley and forming a series of concentric circles with a dozen avenues radiating from what is now a bare central plaza.

Zooming in on the scene it is apparent that these are not your normal giant "spiders". What really is happening is people are riding around in a MNT off-road mobile homes and they are all part of a new type of community. As the "spiders" line up people are getting out of their vehicles and back away from them as back end of the "spider" unfolds into living structures. Many of the "spiders" formed small groups and unfolded interlocking structures (for families or if you need more room). In less than ten minutes a town has once again reformed itself in a new location.

The sun facing sides of the structures grow dark and start absorbing and storing solar energy.

A platform unfolds to cover and protect the living things that are now under the town's central plaza. As people begin to converge on the plaza, dozens of very large "birds" land and discharge a package then fly of again. The packages are fresh vegetables that were grown on a floating nanotech greenhouse off the eastern cost of Africa. "Birds" transport packages between the green houses and a system of robotic airships. The airships take their packages for most of the trip then the "birds" fly the packages to the destination.

An elderly man leads a mostly Mayan group in giving thanks for beautiful world and the chance to explore it.

Mike Treder, CRN

Very cool! Now we just need someone to instantiate this scenario using CGA and flash. Janessa?

Janessa Ravenwood

I'm a Programmer/DBA. I could (soon) do the programming for the site, but any artwork/videos you or someone else would have to supply (I'm not a graphic artist). I do have a bit of learning ahead of me. I know HTML and I've been a VB / SQL Server / Crystal Reports programmer for 9 years, but .NET and substantial web development are still new to me. That's why I said this might make a nice "starter project."

Janessa Ravenwood

Jim: One point, why would the man be elderly? They should all be young, perfectly healthy posthuman specimens. And why is food being delivered? Why not manufacture it on-site?

Transhumanism and portable nanofacs are not accounted for here. I certainly have no intention of spending eternity being elderly; I'm set for radical genetic and memory alterations as soon as the technology can get here. Being human sucks...

Chris Phoenix, CRN

Jim: One more point--It's probably better to avoid anything insectoid. I'm convinced that part of the reason gray goo has dominated nanotech discussion for the past decade--the reason it's so gripping--is that it activates the "bug" archetype, in the sense of both germs and insects.

Giant spiders are creepy. And if you want to be futuristic, why not have shape-changing devices? Why not something more like slugs that crawl over the sand? Or sea urchin-like things that roll along on zillions of legs?


jim moore

Its funny, I had thought about a very young Buddhist monk, an attractive female priestess and an elderly man. I chose an elderly man because it was traditional for an elderly man to lead a community of faith. ( I wanted to suggest that pre-existing forms of social organization will likely maintained in the future.)
I also wanted to project an early MNT enabled community. (~2020 not ~2040)

As for food,
Getting my food out of a box is pretty high on the ickk scale. I could see myself eating some kind of synthetic drink or "jello" but 35 years form now I will still want to eat fresh pineapple and have real steak and potatoes. I think that MNT can provide this service.

Chris, Chris, Chris, Chris,
When will realize that spiders are really cool?
Think about it, you are in the middle of a giant spider and you are shooting down some ravine at ~35 mph hopping over streams and big rocks then you bound up a 40 degree incline and just stick a landing at the top of a cliff. (how intense would that be?)

I get your point, some people freak about spiders, but the spiders shape is good for moving over a wide variety of terrain.

Maybe if the community was Chinese they could be tooling around in giant crickets.

Janessa Ravenwood

Yes, but that fresh food could be manufactured on-site, it need not be flown in. WHY must it be manufactured off-site? That doesn't make sense. And forget pre-existing social forms - technology changes society. The more revolutionary the technology, the greater the social change. And this technology is about as revolutionary as it gets.

jim moore

I have all ways thought that fresh food was grown not manufactured. Growing food takes a lot of space and time, if I am out on a global journey with my community and we want to eat organically grown non GMO foods of our choice, it will be tough to take big enough gardens with us. (Although it could make for an interesting image: in the herd of distant giant spiders dozens of much larger "slugs" with dwarf fruit trees grown on its back are moving over the terrain with startling speed) My major point was that even in a nano-tech future stuff can still get delivered to you.

As for pre-existing social forms my previous statement was too general. Things like family, religion, ethnicity, philosophical outlook , the pre-existing non economic sources of personal identity social organization will likely be strengthened in a nano-enabled society.

Mike Deering

A couple of speculations about the future:

Nanotechnology is not like other technologies that have come before. You can't use the past as a guide to the future. Statements like, "It's always been this way, so it will still be this way after the Singularity." don't apply.

Money and the economy will disappear because most people will not participate in it after they don't have to.

Communities are mostly based on needs. As most needs will be met without assistance from others, communities will become much more fluid, less stable, less formal, and more egalitarian. Hierarchies are based on inequities in power. With a very few exceptions at the very top of society, inequities in power will be greatly reduced.

When everyone has complete control of their appearance there will no longer be a premium on meaningless beauty. The premium will be on originality, variety, creativity, and meaning. There will still be old men.

There will be a lot less "stuff." Why have a huge house when you can reconfigure one room to be whatever you want at the moment? Matter and data are interchangeable. Why store a bunch of stuff when you can store the data and reconstitute it whenever you want?

Growing food vs. assembling food:
Growing is a process where energy and raw materials are input and through a complicated series of chemical reactions a product is produced. There is an aspect of stochastic pseudo randomness that makes each result somewhat unique.
Assembling is a process where energy and raw materials are input and through a complicated series of chemical or mechanochemical reactions a product is produced. If it is so desired, an aspect of stochastic pseudo randomness may be included that makes the result somewhat unique.

But if you still insist on having your food grown off site, then, we will grow it off site, scan it, send you the data, and you can assemble it at your table. Or better yet, there is no reason why the growing process needs to progress at the current slow pace. You sit down at the dinner table, pop a seed into your water glass and watch the leaf lettuce grow up in a few seconds. When it stops growing, you pull it out, plop it onto your plate, throw some "thousand island" on it and bon appetit. Of course, there will be no need for you to actually eat when you can power all of your bodily processes using more convenient sources of energy, such as electrical, solar, nuclear, or high energy chemical. Eating will be purely recreational.

Have you noticed how everyone you know kind of looks the same? Two arms, two legs, a head on top, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. Advanced technological societies aren't like that. Most of the time you can't even tell if the thing you are talking to is a person or not.

Chris Phoenix, CRN


1) Distinguish between self-sufficiency and power. There will be huge imbalances in power.

2) Distinguish between luxury and necessity. People will surely need less, but will probably continue to want more. People are buying SUVs in China, where I'm told gas costs $10 per gallon.

3) The fastest bacteria replicate in 15 minutes or so. That's probably close to a limit for biology. So you won't be growing plants from seeds in a few minutes.


Karl Gallagher

Money will not go away in the future. We'll just be spending most of it on music, other entertainment, recipies, and designs to feed into our fabricator. It'll be easier to unplug and go be a hermit, but few people will want to. The fraction of the economy formed by IP has been steadily increasing and this will go asymptotic.

Hierarchies will not go away in the future. Humans are hierarchical animals and they'll find some way to differentiate themselves even if everyone's as wealthy as they can stand. One of the challenges of building a post-MNT society will be coming up with new hierarchies without falling into the highschool looks/athleticism/popularity trap.

Mike Deering


I know where from you come.   It is challenging to make detailed speculations about the future.   We are all doing complex calculations of interacting forces far beyond the range of current or past experience.   It is natural that our conclusions vary widely.   I'm not being dogmatic about my speculations, and I'm not saying you are wrong.   I'm just telling you the way things look to me.

  • (1)    You assume there will be huge imbalances in power.   This is an extrapolation of current power structures, rapid yet gradual evolutionary change of society, and the continued existence of historically human ways of thought.   My intuition is a little different.   I expect what is called a "hard take off" involving radical change, a complete break from current power structures, and inhuman intellectual forces in charge.   There will be one, or a very few individuals with absolute power, and the rest of us, all the rest of us, will have the limited powers granted to us by it, or them.   The masses of the population, from the current captains of industry to the Bangladeshi share cropper will have exactly equal identical powers and wealth.

  • (2)    There will be no distinction between luxury and necessity.   Necessities will cost nothing.   Luxuries will cost nothing.   Creativity, innovation, and art will be completely taken over by super-human artificial general intelligences who will produce vastly superior products, designs, and entertainments than any human could.   The age of human supremacy will be over, and human creative output will be worthless.

  • (3)    "The fastest bacteria replicate in 15 minutes or so.  That's probably close to a limit for biology."   True, very true.   I should have said, grown with a nanomachine assist.   DNA, RNA, ribosomes, all too slooow.   Replace all biological control mechanisms with efficient, fast, reliable nanomachinery.

  • Janessa Ravenwood

    Mike the only way #1 will come about is a war of conquest - I think you've seen "The Terminator" series a few too many times. Now despite the fact that Arnie's in charge here in CA (All Hail The Governator! :-) ), I really don't see "Skynet" taking over and enslaving us all (your scenario as described designates humans as slaves to AI's).

    Mike Deering

    Slaves? No, slaves perform valuable work. More like pets actually. Humans, the next breed of dog. Not very smart but you can train them to do tricks. You can genetically engineer lots of different breeds. And you can keep them in a small space, such as a planet, and they will take care of themselves. Although, you do have to clean up the environment periodically. They are so messy.

    Brett Bellmore

    Huge imbalances of power is a reasonable expectation. We currently have huge imbalances of power, and how would nanotech erase them?

    Exponential growth in the absence of constraints leaves late starters permanently disadvantaged, and in the presence of constraints they're even worse off, because the early adopters will saturate the constraints before the late adopters ever really get started.

    And that assumes that everybody has the same growth rate.

    Of course, you're assuming an AI takes everything over, and actively equalizes everything. A literal deus ex machina. A bit too dystopian for my tastes, that's a scenario to plan to avoid, not to plan for.

    Mike Deering

    Brett writes: "Of course, you're assuming an AI takes everything over, and actively equalizes everything.   A literal deus ex machina.   A bit too dystopian for my tastes, that's a scenario to plan to avoid, not to plan for."

    If you are going to plan to avoid it, you better start soon, because there are several groups already well on their way to accomplishing exactly that.   Check out the folks at SingInst.org   They believe the only hope for the continued survival of mankind is just such an A.I. take over.   And their stated deadline is the development of mature nanotech.   They are designing and building an A.I. to take over the world before anyone else has the molecular assembler.   If you like the idea, you can donate to the SIAI on their website, 501(c)3 approved.   They have some really good talent on their team and given enough time they will succeed.   But they're not the only ones.   Lots of other groups, governments, corporations, universities, are putting serious resources into A.I.   You can't stop them all.   If super-human artificial general intelligence is possible, a good bet, I don't think an A.I. world take over can be avoided.

    Janessa Ravenwood

    Mike: let me get this straight - you are ADVOCATING the global subjugation of the human race as GOOD thing?!

    Janessa Ravenwood

    Mike: I also detect a great deal of misanthropy in your posts. If you hate humans so much perhaps you could do the transhumanist movement a favor and not be associated with it. As a transhumanist myself I find that attitude is NOT helpful.

    And if I think any of these groups actually have a prayer of succeeding I'll report them myself to the Dept. of Homeland Security. Attempting to overthrow the United States government is terrorism and treason. Are you aware of that? I personally will not sit still while some misanthropic nutjobs plot to overthrow my country's government and turn me into a "pet."

    That you WILL says a lot about you.

    Brett Bellmore

    I don't think it's illegal to attempt to design a superhuman artificial intelligence, even if building one might likely have the result of obsoleting the human race. I certainly would prefer that we concentrate on enhancing human intelligence, though, rather than on creating independent non-human intelligences.

    That would still obsolete the human race, but at least we'd get to be our own sucessors.

    Janessa Ravenwood

    That doesn't appear to be what he's advocating. If humans CHOOSE to change their governmental structures, that's one thing. If someone/something else TAKES OVER, that's a hostile action - government without consent of the governed. I will not surrender my rights and privileges as a voting citizen of a democracy without a fight.

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