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« Risks and Rewards | Main | Unanswered Questions, Part 2 »

November 23, 2004


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Mike Deering

If your readers don't want to wait till tomorrow, I'll give them the answers today.

1. When? In the next few months.

2. Where? In U.S. classified labs.

3. Who? George Bush.

4. What? World domination.

John B

I don't believe that "exponential general-purpose molecular manufacturing" is likely in the near term.

However, "exponential molecular manufacturing" MIGHT be, and could cover some large percentage of the capabilities of the general-purpose capabilities, assuming the right atoms/molecules are developed in the limited case.

The classic example of course is carbon - graphite, diamondoid, buckyball/buckytube.

As for your four questions, I don't know that they're really something we need urgent answers to. They'd be very nice - but the questions of what the capabilities and limitations of the first /automated/ "exponential molecular manufacturing" is in my mind even more critical.

With that knowledge, your initial four questions aren't as urgent, as you can now work either with or against the technology in use.


Mike Treder, CRN


Our contention is that carbon-based diamondoid molecular manufacturing almost certainly will be flexible and powerful enough to be general-purpose, and therefore to cause the societal disruptions that concern us. An even more broad-based manufacturing system, using a wider range of molecules, could be developed at a later date, but by that time we probably will either have managed to successfully negotiate the transition into the nano era, or we will have destroyed ourselves in the process.


John B

OK - I was taking 'general-purpose' to indicate that it would work on most if not all atoms, rather than the end functionality the technology would support.

Guess I should read a little closer and skim a bit less, mmm? *wry grin*

With that clarification - agreed.


Chris Phoenix, CRN

John, to address another point you raised: Any exponential molecular manufacturing would require automation. It can only be scaled up if it's all computer-controlled. Self-assembly is automated, in a sense; I'm not sure how reliable it can be; and in any case, it'll need at least some actuation/control to make large engineered heterogeneous products. In diamondoid, it's the sequence and position of mechanosynthetic reactions that would be controlled. Either form of control implies the ability to automate.


John B

I think we agree on that, Chris - the point I was trying to raise (apparently unsuccessfully) is that worrying about global ecophagy is rather pointless if the only nanosystems developed are hard-vaccum denizens solely.

-John B

Chris Phoenix, CRN

The interface between hard-vacuum nanomachinery and the goopy world is far from fully designed. But it looks like there'd be at least some interface possible, through things like sorting rotors. Would that be enough to implement free-range replicators? I don't know, but I can't rule it out.



After reading the book "the age of spiritual machines"
and in general reading up on the net, this technology sounds supa and I would love to partake in the outcomes it has to offer in the hopefully not too distant future.

Does anyone think it would be a cool idea to make a movie about this nano revolution, it would be a big hit no doubt as well as give ppl a bit more insight perhaps into the possibilties.

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