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« Making Noise About Nanotech | Main | Directed Energy Warfare »

January 12, 2006


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"But in this unit, anti-democracy forces are now a clear majority. Democracy, our least bad system of government, is on its way out."

Is it just me, or is he saying that since the majority of people don't believe in rule by majority, then rule by majority is no longer valid?


Yes he is saying that. And I would agree that democracy is probably not the best system when dealing with a largely uneducated population. Democracy probably functions best only with a large, educated middle class. And one could still make an argument it is not even the best system. It does seem however, to be the best that we've found so far.

If a population's majority consisted of an uneducated, agricultural based society... when given the vote they would probably be unable to truly become informed about the issues, much less fully understand the ramifications of their voting.

And I think history has shown that democracies tend to vote for more and more welfare support from the state, eventually bleeding the state's coffers dry. However, with increased education and access to information, hopefully today's Western liberal democracies can stave off this outcome.

Philip Huggan

Democracy isn't really a form of government. It is more a method for selecting a form of government. The democracy of say, Iran is very different than is the democracy of the USA.

Rip you hit on a very basic and powerful measure of measuring the performance of a developed nation's government: simply measure literacy rates and % of budget diverted to Universities. I would expect Ireland to score very high in this regard. If I had no choice but to hand over MM to an established government, those that recognized high societal rates of return investments would score highest.

Tom Huffman

This is very scary stuff. Responding to O'Donnell's assertions that:

"Technologies of communication and transportation now make geographically-defined communities increasingly irrelevant and provide the new elites and new entrepreneurs with ample opportunity to stand outside them. Economies construct themselves in spite of state management and money flees taxation as relentlessly as water follows gravity."
I would have to say that we've seen the results of a world run for these new elites: a declining standard of living and a shrinking middle class in the United States, and exploitation and continued, even deepening poverty in the rest of the world.

Some people are looking for alternatives, though. An article at vanguard.com, titled: Open source: The future of IT in Nigeria provides a look at new ideas that are taking hold in the developing world as well as the developed: open source.

"When intellectual problems become distributed, the search for solutions becomes collaborative and the research agenda is driven not by multinational shareholders but by the passions of the participants, you get not just better results, you get different results."

Open Source can apply to more than software:

"They’re working together, trying to educate more local scientists and allying themselves with open and non-commercial approaches, like the open access movement in scientific publishing (which demands that scientific papers be made freely available online, not published in expensive, limited-circulation hardcopy journals), precisely because they recognize that this makes possible a different kind of science. It makes possible a scientific research agenda based on what their people need, not on what will make Monsanto the most money."

The authors also realize the potentials of nanotech and other new technologies to bridge tha gap between the digital and material world.

Maybe this is taking the debate in another direction. The real issue is the fallacy that you can put "new wine in old bottles;" that we can continue solving our problems with old ways of thinking.


I hope I'm not circumventing you guys, but:


This looks pretty ambitious, maybe overly optimistic? Can't wait to see a discussion about it!


There is just no way 'nanofactories' could be implemented in the matter theorized on this site, manufacturing isn't just carbon + robots = Ferrari, there is material technology involved like advance steel,plastics,aluminum,glass,paints, there is parts inovations like engines,electronics,traction etc. Materials like teflon,nylon,composites,metals plastics etc are all patented, some company can't just start churning out pots and pans with teflon. Material science is a complex sector, materials and chemicals aren't generic, they're researched and improved constantly by hundreds of companies.

Most importantly where will all the jobs go? Humans need to work to make money, you can't just replace them with robots, hell we can replace half the autoworkers with robots right now, but thats not possible.

Private labels made right in the stores would bankrupt food and consumer goods companies, infact there would be no need for humans in the retail sector, people could just buy everything from home as this website implies.

Basically 1 percent of the population would be working by these standards.

The biggest problem that confuses and freightens the mass population about nanotechnology is the vast unaswered questions on nanofactories impact on HOW would it fit into our society or even if such a thing is even possible to integrate into society, not the dangers but how on earth will 'nanofactories' would integrate into economies, right now it sounds absolutely absurd to everyone with common sense, again not how the system would work but how it would fit into our world. Most websites about nanotechnology talk extensively about how nanofactories will work and how wonderful they are.

Besides how does anyone even know if every product could even be created by molecular manufacturing, what if the robots were so slow that it took hours to make toilet paper, how percise will they even be, what if they misplace a few molecules in a product when working with trillions of molecules. There hasn't even been one single nanofactory prototype nor even extensive research on one, who even knows its feasible.

We just started making a robot that can walk after 30 years, what makes anyone believe that in a decade or two we can make bacteria sized robots that can be extremely percise?


DT - Did you even read the site?


yes and a few hundred others, are you implying that what I wrote is contrary to this websites content? if so please elaborate on which parts? thanks

Phillip Huggan

Well, if MNT administrators have Conservative tendencies the general population will eventually be starved out by a superior market player. If administrators have Liberal tendencies, any MNT patents will be ignored and some MNT goods will be distributed to people in a "Guaranteed Annual Income" sort of scheme; the people will be free to upgrade their intellectual capitals or indulge in leisure activities.

Sry for the political nature of this post, but there is an federal election coming up here soon.


Phillip thats just never going to be reality, guaranteed. Specially "guaranteed annual income"? my aunt makes 1 million dollars a year, she has a 3.5 million dollar house in malibu and a 185 thousand dollar mercedes, I have a friend that makes 24 thousand dollars a year, has a 1999 nissan altima and a rented apartment, so how is "guaranteed annual income" going to balance that out, and 99 percent of people strive to become wealthier, the communist thing didn't work and never will, specially in western countries, or any wealthy nation.

The reality of it all is that molecular manufacturing will compliment advance human manufacturing, and it will be exclusive to only corporations, since a small nano factory will most likely cost 10 million dollars each, its not like you glue a few robot arms to a box, the technology and time that has to go into making such a thing is so complex that a F-22 fighter would look like a calculator. Ignoring patents would be the fall of humanity, because noone will invest time and money in R&D, Intel spends 4.4 billion on R&D alone, IBM 6 Billion, Pfizer 7.8 billion, BASF 2 billion and the list goes on. Product inovation would stop and the economy would fall within days.

Phillip Huggan

I said ignore patents post-MM.

It would be nice if present patent laws took into account the life-cycle duration of the intended market, and if they took into account the education and basic consumable prerequisites that must be fulfilled for a person to become a consumer. I've no illusions of that happening.

Phillip Huggan

A GAI (in most developed nations) results in fewer transfer payments and eliminates corporate welfare costs, both of which your auntie is already burdened with. It isn't communism, it is the only form of libertarianism I find remotely palatable.

DT, I suggest you be really nice to your auntie and tell her to take out a reverse mortgage on her gold-plated mansion to invest in foreign currency denominated commodities that will gain in value when American real-estate prices tank.


From your posts I get the sense that you're a "everything for everyone" idealist that holds a grudge against the wealthy. Well my friend your simplestic views on world economics seems straight out of hippy idealogies which since the 60s haven't become a reality to date and will never become reality.

American real estate prices will come down but won't tank, luxury homes will barely be affected as they are a "luxury" and few in numbers, and don't worry about my 'auntie' she's made a fortune in the real estate business for the last 22 years.

Now hopefully there are people on this site that are driven by understanding the knowdledge and impact behind nanotechnology, rather than just interested in talking about how we're all gonna have these "machines" in our homes that makes us free stuff while corporations and researchers will spend time making these incredibly advance machines for the love of saving the world.

Mike Treder, CRN

DT, before you complain about unrealistic or overly optimistic people "on this site", I'd suggest you read these pages:

Molecular Manufacturing: What, Why and How
Dangers of Molecular Manufacturing
Thirty Essential Nanotechnology Studies
Three Systems of Action

That's a lot of reading, but the point is that CRN has done a lot of research toward "understanding the knowledge and impact behind nanotechnology."

We also have organized the CRN Global Task Force on Implications and Policy, which is significantly expanding on this important work.


DT - Everything you're complaining about is covered in detail on this site.

Phillip Huggan

DT, you misunderstand the concept of a GAI. It is only meant to be a small redistribution of wealth. Not the equivalent of giving you your Aunt's entire Benz. Just a part of it, say, the brake line. :)

A think my aversion to large capital accumulations (I've done many thousands of case studies and never once found 9-figure sums used in a beneficial way) is healthy in this context. Pyramiding mortgages in a non-inflationary environment is a parasitic vocation. I'm not blaming anyone. The same historic forces are likely responsible for absurd levels of educational specialization. But parasitic memes in any Molecular Manufacturing administrative structure will lead to many worse scenarios than this "benign" reverse robin-hood effect.

DT, you've touched on a very important detail regarding patents and innovator motivations.


I've already read most of the articles regarding nanotechnology, the problem is it is all theories with absolutely no physical proof, however that aside I think if nanotechnology or molecular manufacturing is ever going to be accepted by the broader population then it needs to answer the questions that most people are thinking.

Lets look at it this way, I'm average joe right now, now I'll ask you a simple avergae joe question and see if any of you can answer it.


1.Where will all the jobs go for Humans, and how will humans make money?

2.How will Dupont make money if a pots and pan manufacturer needs teflon for its products, will the manufacturing make as much teflon as it wishes since it can manufacture it itself, if so who would research anything if its going to be copied with no compensation?

3.Everything has to be built from something, carbon doesn't pop out of the ground it needs to be processed from natural resources, what natural resource? and who will provide the carbon raw material? another "oil/steel" company like monopoly?

If any of you can answer these simple questions then that means that molecular manufacturing is possible, not from a technological point of view but from a social and economical sense, if it can't be integrated into our society and economy it won't see the light of day.

In the ancient and middle ages technological innovation was astounding, but public acceptance retarded its growth dramatically, leaving humans today 1000 years behind what it could have been, all because explaining the simple questions or even trying to market it to the average person was never accomplished because scientists and inventors discussed thier inventions amongst themselves and not in a tone that the general population could understand, also integrating it into Human society was never given thought, library of alexandria was dominated by scientists and not common people.

Phillip Huggan

1) There is already a natural unemployment rate in any given economy. Post-MM that figure will be much higher. Just like today, members of this group will have to be given money or they will starve.

2) If DuPont invents MM I don't know what will happen. If someone else does, DuPont will soon cease to exist as an administrative entity.

3) Carbon is plentiful. Soil, coal, CO2 in atmosphere and oceans, lunar crater breccias, black asteroids...

Perhaps resources that won't have MMed substitutes can be given to inventors as compensation the way cash is given today?


1) I'm sorry but thats not good enough, if some average person hears such a thing they would laugh at the idea of molecular maunfacturing ever becoming a reality.

2) I was talking about material technology, such as teflon and nylon, Molecular manufacturing would still have to be programmed on how to connect molecules to shape and make effective materials or a part such as a engine or any other part. Companies like Dupont who invented such materials as Teflon and Nylon and any future material or part would have to be compensated for thier research and money spent on research.

3) Carbon is plentiful but it has to be processed, you can't just throw a net into the air and catch carbon, there is a complex processing involved and transportation. All those natural resources that carbon comes from thier prices would skyrocket, just look at cheap plentiful palm oil, its price exploded from a few months ago because oil companies found that palm oil can be used in gasoline to lower emmissions.

Tom Craver

These answers are in the context of the early days of MM availability, since that is most relevant to the question of whether MM will be "socially acceptable".

1) In the most likely scenario, some people have to shift from manufacturing and distribution to service jobs. Marketing and advertising and corporate management and R&D and many other jobs persist. There will police, lawyers, doctors, military, government bureaucrats, etc. Most people will still BUY goods, online and from stores, for a variety of reasons, including the fact that they won't cost much more to buy than to make, and the convenience of comparing a range of products in a store, perhaps with some expert advice to help them choose the right product for them.

2) In the early days, MM will not be able to make Teflon - in fact there will be a huge range of products that cannot be made early on, due to the limitations of early MM. Of course, within a few years, someone will design and patent a surface programmed to behave like Teflon. So a more relevant question is whether people will be able to invent things ("simulated Teflon") and get paid for it.

The answer is yes, they'll get paid when people buy products, though there will be on-going "piracy" problems and lawsuits and so on. But it'll be more like the current potential for book piracy (due to widespread printers) than music piracy (where it's all just bits).

3) In the scenario I think is most likely, individuals and companies that wish to make products will buy nanoblocks from a government licensed supplier and use them to build products. They will not have the means to make nanoblocks (nor *any* atom precise product), only to assemble nanoblocks into products.



Thank you very much for the answers, they were very insightful.

I have a question though, by nanoblocks you mean sort of like a material, like todays steel? yet much more advance and complex.

Tom Craver

Nanoblocks would be small (on the order of 100nm) units made by atom-precise nanofactories, designed for easy interconnection.

There would likely be a variety of types - structural blocks to provide strength, motive-power blocks to induce motion into products, sensor blocks, computational and communication blocks, and other specialized functions.

Benefits of nanoblocks would include:
- Designers could work at a more abstract level, much as computer programmers don't need to know how to design a computer.
- Many low-level design tasks could be more easily automated, much as a compiler automates some programming tasks.
- Nanoblocks could be made in advance and stored for quick final assembly into useful products.
- Nanoblocks would have limitations (as compared to releasing full atom-precise MM to everyone) that make them attractive from a global security perspective.


Janessa Ravenwood

DT: Just because a technology will cost jobs and is not popular with a lot of people does not at *all* mean that it's not coming anyway. Love or hate it, it's coming.

As for the jobs - that's an open question. As Chris (I believe) puts it - will we be retired or unemployed? That's the question. Will it free us from work or permanently take away a lot of the jobs, just causing mass poverty? Again, just because this is unpopular doesn't mean it won't happen. Outsourcing to India's not popular with me or my fellow programmers, but that's not even slowing it down. I suspect mass poverty at first and then product / IP piracy on an unprecedented scale as the people permanently without jobs get their hands on the first home nanofacs (go ahead and try to ban them, that’s worked so well with file sharing networks and illegal drugs). The Open Source community, in particular, is going to just *love* home nanofacs. Lots of fun coming there.



again thanks for the info, great stuff.


They don't need to ban personal MMs, because making one would be harder than making a F-22 jet fighter, these machines that would have to perform such incredible tasks would be extremely advance, and no person would be able to make one. Also as Tom said they need processed feedtsock for the MM, which could be only sold by the feedstock processor directly to licensed corporations.

Janessa Ravenwood

Devan: Early models might require pre-fab nanoblocks, but that's hardly the most useful version of one to have; one with an intake hopper (or separate attached unit) for processing raw materials is where you get real usefulness and stand-alone ability. And not everyone needs to know how to make one. Self-replication of a single nanofac, once it's sufficiently developed, will be able to be done by more or less anyone. Does everyone know how to make a car? No, but they drive them. This will eventually be a consumer appliance.

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