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« Megaconstruction Projects | Main | Gigantoraptor!!! »

June 13, 2007

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Nato Welch

Recycling of MM products has also interested me from a security design standpoint: under what conditions can you disassemble a product? You mention in the cited paper that fireproof water-ballasted products "will burn once any water ballast is removed". How would you go about draining the water? How would you go about designing products such that strangers can't "drain" your water ballast and torch your car?

This is probably overstated, though, since I realize that a molotov cocktail can already ruin modern vehicles, but they are still made out of non-flammable metals.

What about looking at this from a forensics standpoint? If everything can be burned, there's that much less material evidence to find at crime scenes.

Similarly, with nanoblocks, how would you go about authorizing and authenticating the rightful owners of products, to prevent malicious vandals from taking apart stuff that doesn't belong to them? The car is the good example, being something valuable that is often left by itself in public.

Tom Craver

Nato - to your final point - every nanoblock could have a unique code imbedded at production time, with the blocks sold in sequentially numbered lots, and a record kept of who both what lots.

I'm not saying this kind of universal tracking is a good idea, or that society would accept it - just that there's a possible technical solution.

Tom Craver

Also - disassembly: I'm far less worried about the consequences of disassembly, than *re-assembly*. There're many easier ways to destroy something - but if you can take apart someone's car and turn it into a self-reproducing killer robot, there's a problem.

Chris has suggested not making nanoblocks at all recyclable - just burn objects when your' done with them. Feasible - but it strikes me as wasteful.

I also think that'd likely mean that home nanofactories are left no more significant than home printers are today - i.e. it'd leave people mostly buying stuff in stores and later discarding it, while creating pressure for people to live in virtual reality (analogous to people reading news from the web instead of buying newspapers and magazines). Corporations would probably love this continuation of the consumer society, but it doesn't seem optimal for individuals.

I'd rather see a scenario in which nanoblocks are very recyclable, but designed to require a special disassembler unit to take them apart, clean them, and store them for re-use.

If we end up needing to put some kind of restriction on nanoblock fabbers, I'd suggest that the main restriction be that the fabber will only build things out of nanoblocks that have serial numbers that were assigned to you when you obtained them. So you could disassemble an object you got from someone else, but the disassembly unit would sort their nanoblocks into a separate container, to be returned or discarded.

That also raises some interesting socio-economic speculations - e.g. what if everyone were given "their share" of nanoblocks, and that's all anyone could have, and while they could make things to give or rent or sell to others, there'd be an upper bound on how much stuff, in total, could get made, how much power the stuff could consume, etc.

Mike Treder, CRN

what if everyone were given "their share" of nanoblocks, and that's all anyone could have, and while they could make things to give or rent or sell to others, there'd be an upper bound on how much stuff, in total, could get made, how much power the stuff could consume, etc.

Tom!! That sounds awfully close to a managed economy, or even communism -- you're not suggesting that with tongue in cheek, are you?

Tristan Hambling

How do propose stopping someone creating a means to just changing the serial on the block?

A nano block serial number would likely be just a combination of missing atoms, forming a digital like serial number on the block?.

Do you store also the serial in the centre of the block or on the outside of the block, so it could be more easily scanned/read on the outside? If in the centre would you be required to disassembled the block to read it?

One of the biggest problems I see is the "genie in the bottle effect" of technology, currently we are edging closer to the cusp of possibly knowing if molecular manufacturing is actually achievable, however until the time we can actually prove it is via the first working assembler. We won’t really have released the MM technology genie from its bottle.

Once thou the genie is released for MM at the first assembler point, it should become easy for anyone else to recreate an assembler, (be that governments, corporations, or other) in part because they will be working from active knowledge of the first.

Even if you don't know the exact details, the fact that you know its possible is a significant point, plus i cant see any reason why someone can’t simple stick a microscope back down one and figure out the missing pieces, relatively quickly, by reverse engineering one of the first, then modifying the design, then rebuilding it to suit your desires, then your back to unrestricted nano-blocks as is wished possibly including a serial number onto every single block, then how do you know how many blocks belong to who and how many they should have?

As a side note: should access to microscopes once MM is developed be restricted?

Nato Welch

Tom: the serial number bit works fine for nanoblocks (and I've thought of that before), but not so much for burning raw diamondoid. You wouldn't burn nanoblocks (would you?).

Forensic considerations is also a reason to consider centralizing recycling (by the heirs of our current sanitation/waste management industry) over decentralized recycling (by appliances in the home). I imagine recycling facilities might be required to keep "logs" of all serial numbers and products they disassemble, not unlike some ISPs. This is important not just for the sinister implications of being fingered (or framed) for a crime, but also for being vindicated (if a block went through recycling after you had it, you're probably not the one who misused it after that). It's analogous to keeping receipts everywhere you go, in order to provide some proof of where you've been.

Another application of serial numbers is that online nanofactories can report the serial numbers of all blocks used in a design, what it was put into, etc.

I tend to jump on the transparency bandwagon over the fab-restriction bandwagon EVERY time, because the motives for circumventing reporting mechanisms are much narrower than the motives for circumventing restriction mechanisms.

Tom Craver

Mike -

Hmm - I should have been more precise - as with pointing out the potential of universal tracking of nanoblocks, I'm not *advocating* that scheme - just pointing out the interesting potential for it to arise as an approach to controlling nanotech.

People could probably be easily convinced that the "equal shares of nanoblocks" approach is "fair", and be enticed by the material benefits, while driven by fear that if they don't accept this form of nanotech, they'll be denied any form of it. Given a false choice between what looks like a utopia, and continuing the same old grind, what would people choose?

In any future where all needs and wants can be supplied with very little human effort, we have to be very wary of any situation that leaves a powerful elite in control, that might come to see the teeming masses as only a burden, providing nothing in return - and as a potential threat that might revolt and take away the privileges of the elite.

All socialistic/communistic/other approaches that favor concentrating power in the hands of the government would create such a scenario.

My own "utopian" scenario would be "flat, consensual and mobile" - no hierarchies in which total power is concentrated at the top; rules set by near unanimous consent of those who will be affected (say, with 95% agreeing), and with those few who cannot live with the rules their neighbors set, able to move freely to someplace they find more attractive.

The hard part of such a utopia would be ensuring that no group of individuals with common goals is allowed to reconstitute a power pyramid that can force others to join.

Tom Craver

Nato -
I believe burning nanoblock-based objects is what Chris proposed as a simpler means of recycling them back to carbon. That might not mean literally burning them with oxygen - perhaps just decomposing them with heat to raw carbon.

Regarding issues of evidence and so forth - I'd say it's too soon to try resolving such questions, let alone deciding to let the "evidence trail tail wag the nanoblock architecture dog". There are many other ways of collecting evidence.

I'm leery of transparent society ideals. Imagine living in a perfectly transparent society - in which Sharia is the law of the land, and you happen to disagree with some of those laws. Everyone who goes along, is probably given a "pass" on minor infractions. Anyone who would challenge the law, would find that every tiny infraction gets them in trouble.

And once that chilling effect has taken hold, corruption will creep in, and no one will dare protest, because everyone knows that any corruption they see must be known and tacitly sanctioned by someone even more powerful and corrupt. The hierarchy of power becomes a hierarchy of corruption that no one dares challenge.

I'm not saying transparency can't work - just that it shouldn't be assumed to be a cure-all for a bad system of laws.

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