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« Too Damn Small | Main | New Zealand is Listening »

July 17, 2006


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Michael Deering

"...potentially so dangerous that maybe no one should be allowed to have it."

Doesn't that eliminate all possible benefits? If you're thinking along these lines that would make me suspicious of you possibly supporting a government monopoly on the technology. The risk of government abuse of nanotechnology is clearly greater than the risk of individual terrorists.

1. Government has the money resources to maintain a research lead in the technology.

2. Government has the motive to monitor and control the actions of its citizens and everyone else.

3. Individuals have limited resources.

4. Some individuals (bad) have the motive to destroy but most individuals (good) do not.

5. The good individuals have the greatest resources of brain power.

6. Even if in a balanced situation that offense beats defense, in an unbalanced situation where the defense side has the advantage of greater money resources and greater brain power, defense beats offense.

Conclusion: The only safe situation is unrestricted nanotechnology. If it is restricted either the government will become oppressively totalitarian or the bad will get the technology anyway (leaks, black market) and the good non-government individuals will not have the technology to stop them. The last best hope for humanity is not the government but the people.


I would tend to agree with the above poster, as we look around the world even today and see a variety of governments and ways of governing. Can anyone honestly say they would choose the gift of unrestricted MM to be given to any government currently attempting to govern its people. This issue really goes to the fundamentals of what's the people believe is right and what a government believes is right. And I believe there is the difference between what right and wrong means to individual versus any of the existing governments. A government seems to have no problem in ordering its military is to attack neighboring countries when it feels that it has something to be gained by this action. I have given considerable thought to the deployment and subsequent development of molecular constructed products i.e. MM. Most of this thought takes place in some sort of role-playing scenario where the device is developed and then deployed. I must say I am at a bit of a stretch to point to any scenario that in the short term reduces suffering by the individual. And indeed most scenarios point to widespread destruction by either those who have nothing and wish for something or by those who have something and wish to retain it.



I did want to comment on a couple of things had been thinking about recently I don't wish to misuse this block in some way as the specifics to the common signmaking are not in the above posting. We had spoken before about this idea of a transparent solar cell I was wondering if anyone had seen any additional research on the subject. It would seem reasonable that if the solar cell could be stacked one on top of another each drawing perhaps 10% efficiency that any given proficiency total could be obtained through this method by simply stacking five layers one could attain 50% efficient solar cells with a continuing layer for each level of efficiency. Granted it would perhaps be some loss due to not completely transparent versions of the cell but perhaps his could be worked out.

One of the other issues I was giving some thought to is does anyone know of a group using multiple electron tunneling microscopes in conjunction to move molecules about and thereby constructing some sort of molecular architecture or device.

Thirdly I was considering and perhaps we have discussed this before the idea of a feedstock elements being used in the molecular manufacturing device. Is there a governing issue that requires or extends the complexity of the feedstock in some form of restriction. That is to say is there in limiting variable that defines the complexity of the feedstock elements. What I'm getting at is perhaps some of the complexity of the molecular manufacturing device can be simply moved over to the feedstock being used within the device. We could simply designed a much simpler what your manufacturing device but the device would use a much more complicated feedstock to produce the end result useful product.

One last comment I would like to make is to the issue of molecular modeling through computer technology. We see a continuous increase in computer technology as to speed and performance how important to you feel this is in the overall progress of the development of like to manufacturing? If one was to layout the timeline of existing computer technology and its relevance to the minimum performance needed to model the entire much a manufacturing device. What is the timeframe that one would expect overall computer performance to achieve the required level of computation to model the device.

Once again I apologize if I have commented on subjects outside the parameters of this blog, and I will completely understand if my entry is deleted


Michael Deering

Todd, you make some good points. You can separate the molecular assembly process from the product fabrication process by using nanoblocks. One device, a feedstock processor, would take raw environmental materials such as coal or grass clippings and convert them into chemically pure simple molecular feedstock such as acetone, although there may be a better alternative. Another device, a nanoblock assembler, would take the feedstock and assemble a variety of nanoblocks. The third device, the product fabricator, would take nanoblocks and join them to produce consumer products.

Mike Treder, CRN

"...so dangerous that maybe no one should be allowed to have it..."

CRN has not taken that position, and I doubt we ever would, but I stated it because it's possible to imagine others saying just that.

An organized opposition to molecular manufacturing could emerge in the next five or ten years, citing precautionary reasons to abandon the technology altogether. Or, a government that possesses monopoly power over MM could decide it's just too dangerous to release.

What's the best way to counter these possibilities? Being straightforward about the serious dangers and about the magnificent opportunities that MM will present. Finding workable, responsible ways to avert the greatest risks while allowing as many as possible to enjoy the benefits. Showing candor about the risks plus openness about purposes and processes is the best way to avoid a backlash.

James Green

"...so dangerous that no human should be allowed to have it..."

That is my position and I will ask you to remember that when the shit hits the fan!

Mike said..."An organized opposition to molecular manufacturing could emerge in the next five or ten years, citing precautionary reasons to abandon the technology altogether. Or, a government that possesses monopoly power over MM could decide it's just too dangerous to release."

I'm saying..."An organized US(+European?) "opposition" to molecular manufacturing will emerge in the next five or ten years, citing precautionary reasons to abandon the technology altogether. And, the US government will possesses monopoly power over MM and will decide the world is just too dangerous and unpredictable and must therefore be subjugated in order to be truly "free"."

If what I say is true, then the efforts of CRN are automatically rendered irrelevant.

What's the best way to counter these probabilities? Immediately begin a strong grassroots effort - A Grand Challenge issued by the citizens of the world to the worldwide scientific community - to rapidly, but safely, develop genetic enhancements in order that we might EVOLVE! I urge the reader...if you have you have talents please put them to use to spread this meme. It's not a crackpot idea...It truly is our only hope.

I would also ask the reader to please prove me wrong...If you think me deluded then show me the evidence that proves it!

Chris Phoenix, CRN

James, evolution through genetic enhancements is likely to be too slow. I suspect neurotech (improving our existing brains) will work faster and might be a key component of good MM administration.


Dan S

Neurotech or genetic brain enhancements would need proper administration themself. Their use can be as dangerous as MM and may be even more. Managing one dangerous general-purpose technology with another is probably not a good idea. That is just another kind of vicious cycle.

Chris Phoenix, CRN

Dan, then how would you suggest managing general-purpose technologies?

Note that a g-p technology will have special-purpose applications. These applications need not engage the full generality of the g-p technology. So for example, neurotech for MM management might involve verifying high levels of trustworthiness, which in itself doesn't seem nearly as dangerous as high levels of aggressiveness.


jim moore

I don't think that neurotech is the answer, at best it can be a tool. The real problem is not so much individuals as it is social systems that need to behave well.

To solve the problem you need to transform social relationships all around the world. The only idea that I have read on CRN's blog that I think has even a small chance of working is

Cornucopia Inc,

2016 and Cornucopia Inc. (the first organization that has a working nano-factory) begins its plan to employ the entire population of globe as designers / testers for nano-factory products. The founders of Cornucopia Inc. realized that wealth and power come to those who have first access to new technologies. And they realized that design and litigation costs out weigh by billions of times the incremental costs of making another copy of a product from a nano-factory.

The "business" plan was as simple as it was bold: Enter into contractual agreements with everyone (who wants to) as testers of products from nano-factories. In exchange for limited liability and being able to monitor the behavior of the device and your reactions to the device, you get to test and keep 1-10 kg of new nano-factory products each week. Of course youc can always buy more 1-10 kg worth of stuff (at partner prices).

People who also want to be designers have a contract that says in exchange for access to design software and a wide range of pre-existing designs you submit all of your designs to Cornucopia Inc. and get payment for your design based on usage.

To the outside world Cornucopia Inc. only sells products from nano-factories never the nano-factory itself. The only people with access to nano-factories directly are the designers from Cornucopia Inc.

By the end of 2019 every one in the world was a an partner of Cornucopia Inc. except about ~600 million people who did not want to join.

Dan S

"Cornucopia Inc" idea is good but it misses the key point: who will get nanofactory first. That is the problem with any transformative general-purpose technology: it is available to the first inventor in unrestricted form. Example: Nuclear fission has a special purpose application: power plant. But it was used to make a bomb instead. If neurotech or MM would appear as a result of goverment (military) project there are no way to guarantee responsible use of these technologies.

Yes, neurotech can be used for "verifying high levels of trustworthiness" but who define what constitutes "trustworthiness"? The main problem with using g-p to manage another g-p is that such technologies amplify dangers and benefits to the same extent. It is up to people to put them to the proper use.

Responsible people have only one way to ensure responsible use of such technologies: they must get them first. Here I agree with James Green. However the problem is how to get them first and neurotech or genetics enchancemnts don't give an answer: they just change the problem of "how to get MM first" to "how to get neurotech first". Not good at all

jim moore

Dan S,
I would agree that the FIRST key is for the good guys to get MNT capability ahead of every one else. After that you still have to figure out How to roll out the technology? How to stabilize the system in a way that insures Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness for everyone?

I think that there are millions of ways this to go wrong and only a few ways for it to go right.

We need a technique (that has some validity) that can distinguish between good and bad strategies for handling nano factories. (Many runs of a multi-player online game ???)

Tom Craver

Ah, but who are the Good Guys?

Anyhow, I don't think "we" will have any real opportunity to determine who gets MNT first, short of "us" buckling down and developing it - and even then, chances are government will take over.

The only two realistic choices I see for would be developers are (a) let governments have control (which they will attempt to take anyway) but try to educate them in advance to use it wisely; or (b) deny concentrated control to anyone by arranging to distribute MNT as widely and quickly as possible - before (a) steps in to prevent it.

(b) can be achieved most readily by continuous release of information during development. That creates an expectation that the final product will also be made available, and allows others to recreate the final steps if/when government steps in to monopolize it.

Dan S

Distributing MNT looks like most realistic options among all proposals. Unfortunately, consequences are hardly predictable. I fully agree that there is a need for technique that "can distinguish between good and bad strategies". MMORPG idea should be considered seriously: at least it will allow to us to made some experiments and analyze results.

Chris Phoenix, CRN

Is neurotech a symmetrical advantage for good and bad?

I think it might actually be better for good people than for bad people. Good people could use it to promote cooperation, diversity, trustworthiness... all things that create value and help their practitioners get ahead (as long as they are reciprocated).

Bad people could use neurotech to promote control-freakism, cruelty, personality cults, and slavery. These are not very productive.


Dan S

Imagine, for example, making a group of trustworthy slaves with amplified intellegence working on development of new weapons. This can be very "productive".

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