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« Assessing Capabilities | Main | Nanoscale Toolbox »

June 03, 2004


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jim moore

This report is capable of triggering the arms race that we fear. It was done in 6 months by a small group of people (extremely talented people). Imagine what can be done in five years with billions of dollars and thousands of people?

My color coded nano threat level has gone from blue to yellow.

Janessa Ravenwood

To quote Mr. Burns: "Excellent...it's all going according to my plan..." :-)


Relax, its still 10 years before something like this will be physically implemented (vs. computer design).

Two points are relevant. One, exponential manufacturing does not require "dry" nanotech, al though such nanotech would be a much better version of it.

Two, you're correct that exponential manufacturing doesn't require bio-memetic techniques, although a biomemetic nanotech would be more useful for medical applications.

This is interesting stuff. But its a very preliminary conceptual design on a computer.

Does this mean that I get my artificial island in the Pacific soon (like the one I keep wanting for christmas)?

Chris Phoenix, CRN

Jim, Nanosystems (1992) was also capable of triggering the arms race that we both fear. This doesn't mean we should relax! It means that the arms race may already be going on covertly. Or at least that various players may already be preparing to jump into it.

CRN's assumption has always been that at least a few well-placed people in a variety of countries have read and understood Nanosystems.

I agree that this report will focus more attention on the feasibility of molecular manufacturing. I'm not sure if that's good or bad overall. It's another major blow to the denialists, which is good. It should raise public awareness of the possibilities, which is good.

Will it get governments more interested, to the point of launching new and aggressive projects, which could be bad? I don't know; if I were a government I'd already have been interested. Nothing in the report should surprise people who've actually investigated autoproductive systems. It's valuable because it makes the theory more concrete and more accessible, converting theory and intutition to engineering.

I do completely agree with your point that it's a lot of results from a rather small effort, and indicates that things can happen faster and easier than we think. I've been saying this for a while. I would put my Nanofactory paper (one person, six months part-time, significant architectural advances) in the same category. Also, Freitas and Merkle's investigation of mechanosynthesis reactions. All of these are solid advances involving lots of creativity. But I don't think any of them needed world-class people--just smart people who expected molecular manufacturing to be possible, and approached it with a can-do engineering attitude rather than a bureaucratic/scientific skeptical attitude.

There are perhaps 100 comparable problems to be solved (20% theoretical and 80% practical), and each problem requires perhaps $1 million and 1 year (within half an order of magnitude), and most of them can be done in parallel. Does this imply that it could be done in 5 years for under $1 billion? I think it does. Does it imply that it's vastly easier than casual opinion suggests? I think it does.

Could someone reading Nanosystems or even Engines have realized this a long time ago? I think they could. I did. That's why I'm so worried about imminent surprises. A country without Smalley, Whitesides, and Ratner would find it easy to make these advances--in fact, could have made them years ago--and will continue to find it easier to research and develop MNT than it is in the U.S.

So I hope the report makes everyone's threat level go from blue to yellow; they should have been there already. And, maybe the yellow level will convince people to pay attention to the astonishing flood of enabling technologies in the last few years. Perhaps those should increment the threat by an additional color. Personally, when I think we're three years away, I'll go to orange. I'm not quite there yet, but close.



These studies and reports are just that, theoretical speculation. I will be more impressed when some of these people make some actual systems.

In the 80's, I was a member of L5. Recently, I visited a friend and found some of my old L5 stuff (books, proceeding, etc.) and looked through some of them. I re-read Gerard O'neill's "The High Frontier" where he discusses building space colonies and SPSs by 2000. There were lots and lots of theoretical studies on the best ways to do these things. I have friends who did good work on this.

Needless to say, none of this ever happened. If we had gone the L5/SPS route, we would be energy self-sufficent and would be in a position to tell both the Israelis and Arabs (the whole middle east) to go f**k-off. Unfortunately, we are not in this position.

As long as "molecular manufacturing" and "self-replication" manufacturing are the domain of theoretical studies, I remain skeptical of their development. I will be much more impressed when I start to see some "metal bending". So far, I don't see any.

Brett Bellmore

Kurt, you were in L-5? I was co-founder of the Michigan Tech chapter.

The fundamental problem with O'Neil's vision of giant space colonies, and solar power satalites, was that while it all made a certain amount of sense as a working system, (Though I think the colonies themselves would have come much later in the developement of the solar system than he thought.) the minimal investment to reach some kind of payback was insane. Nobody was ever going to pour that kind of money, year after year, into an investment that would take a couple of decades to show it's first return.

The reason we've been advancing towards nanotech so fast, is that each incremental step has itself shown fairly short-term profit potential, and been small enough (Sorry!) to be easily affordable. A huge Manhattan Project style effort might get us there a few years earlier, but it's not necessary to get us there.

It might be that a government, hopefully our's, has a well funded black project to develop Drexlerian nanotech. But barring that, there's not going to be much investment directly towards that goal until we've reached the point where it could be achieved in a very few years.

Then there will be a big rush, and probably several companies will cross the finish line close enough together that the difference won't really matter.


Well then...

Any reason why we can't use some of that self-replicating molecular manufacturing to build those giant space colonies on the cheap?

I mean, they're talking about building the beanstock. The fullerines that are used to build the beanstock could certainly be used to build large habitats. It seems to me that "molecular manufacturing" (if its possible) could certainly drop the development costs of the O'neill scenario by several orders of magnitude. If we are all afraid of the "gray goo", arms races, and what not; that we should be hell-bent on spreading ourselves through out the solar system as the most useful way to deal with these threats.

Also, the other appeal of the space colony thing is that you can have a zillion different habitats for a zillion different factions, sub-cultures, religions, or whatever other groupings that people may choose to form.

It seems to me that the cause of conflict and war is that we have all of these disparate groups of people all thrown together on this one planet. If we can all go our different directions, this should eliminate the cause of war and conflict.

I'm suprised CRN isn't promoting this as much as they could.

If molecular nanotech is possible (and I'll believe it when I see it), the best thing we can do with it is to get humanity out into space and get all of the different factions to go their own ways. This, much more than any kind of centralized institutions (which I veheminently oppose on general priciple), would eliminate the threat of conflict and mass extinction.

Brett Bellmore

Yes, nanotubes would help a bit in colony construction, wouldn't they? And self-replicating technology would help more.

I suspect the reason CRN didn't have much to say about space colonization, is that their whole approach to nanotech involved centralized control to prevent a nanoclysm, instead of dispersing and hardening mankind to survive one. And their proposed system of secure replicator distribution breaks down when you start talking great enough distances that speed of light delays become major. As you're orbiting Pluto, you REALLY don't want your replicator clearing everything you try to make with a server on Earth. Or melting down when communications are interupted for some reason.


I do not believe in any concept of monopoly-authoritarianism. I have had enough experience with various forms of social organization to understand that all hierarchial social organizations based on centralized control are corrupt and rotten to the core.

I believe in decentralization and open-source development of technology. The vary notion of top-down social organization, in my opinion, is obsolete, and should be allowed to die as quickly as possible. It is high time to get rid of these dinosaurs once and for all.

I don't like any centralized social organization and I especially despise the people who are attracted to them

I am promoting radical decentralization and open source technology whereever I go.

Chris Phoenix, CRN

The idea that entire groups of contentious people would leave earth and never look back doesn't seem very likely to me. (Leave their enemies in charge of the holy sites? No way!)

The idea that people would use near-earth space as a weapons platform seems pretty likely.

So, personally I really like the idea of widespread unmonitored access to spaceflight. But I'm not sure how to do it without greatly increasing the risk to the mass of people left behind. So, I stay quiet on the subject. I'm not going to recommend whether to have space access be minimal, extensive but monitored, or widespread. Not until I have something sensible and well-thought-out to say.


Charles Michael Collins (scientist at large)

Dear Sirs,

Nanoethics starts with the basics. The Tihamer Toth-Fejel project (advised by Robert Freitas and Matt Moses who attacked my patent (# 5,764,518) in Freitas' book "Kinematic Replicators") infringes on the "trolley car" method claimed in my patent of the technology that was submitted to the patent office in 1997-98 in a working and very independent form prior to and for patenting which was the first ever devised which met with typical jealousy and hostile indifference in the nanotechnology and microtechnology communities including Drexler who was well informed that it existed.

Further Neumann never made a replicator nor ever published any form of actuator that could replicate in the least as Freitas and Merkle falsely claimed in their book nor any semblance of a trolley car method applied to replication. If he had one he would have patented one as he did with several other technology inventions. Matt Moses was referenced in the book saying it did not appear to enable any replicator (better check the file wrapper boys).

This is all part of Freitas and Merkle's unseemly scheme to attack and smear their nearest patented competitor at length, bolstering their own patents, covering for their infringements and advising and inviting the entire world to do the same down to deliberately (to harass me) color coding the tiles and blocks when transmitted over a software medium as set forth in my patent and supplanting my patent terminology with Neumann's. Further they call me greedy? (I won't even dignify that childish comment). Maybe they want to "open source" patents along with recent globalist governments and the GNU (and smoke dope with Stallman and the Bilderburger group). This all looks very conspiratorial with the recent "Patent Reform Act" and U.S. Supreme Court's slashing of patent rights to enrich big business who pay their graft instead of patent royalties. I guess patents have become "untrade-like" along with other artist works.

Note that big elitist Cornell NY has followed their lead and infringed on the trolley car method along with others of what I like to call false replicator "robot stackers" technology and "limited replicators" and the like that make nice video tapes for distribution on the net unlike any real world replicator far more complicated and do it down to even doing it all in the support "box" as set forth (but not claimed) in my patent. I guess when one monkey starts screaming all the rest have to as well.

Scientific misconduct is a terrible thing.

Charles Michael Collins

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