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« The Next 30 Years | Main | On the Future of Warfare »

July 30, 2007


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Nato Welch

So in other words, the access gap between haves and have-nots is not really a problem that MM can solve by itself.

That's the bad news. The good news is that it's a problem that already exists today (if that makes sense), and so we can begin solving it actively now, instead of having to wait until MM exists.

No technology really solves anything "by itself" - it's all in how it gets applied. But MM might come close, if self-copying solar-powered nanofactories "got loose". If that happened, people in poor areas would have the greatest potential to dramatically improve their lives.

More likely though, MM will be released in a slower, controlled fashion - i.e. with the rich / powerful keeping control of it. By offering a fraction of the wealth the masses could have had if nanofactories had spread freely, they'll entice those masses to move into hyper-dense cities where they can be "provided for" with maximum efficiency.


There is a very important difference between water and nanofactories. Clean water supply is not a decentralized resource at this time. You either have to have physical access to a clean source, or pipe it from such a source with a significant capital investment or you have to purify water - again, with high capital investment.

However, we may be able to build a nanofactory with an input stage that can purify the necessary feedstock elements from biomass and air with sunlight as the energy source. If the nanofactory is independent of any centralized infrastructure, and by use of exponential manufacturing, each person can obtain their own factory. This would work around distribution issues or capital expenditures creating bottlenecks.

A nanofactory per person would probably also solve the water purification issue. Creating an active filter is orders of magnitude simpler than creating other nano products.

John B

Chris - First off, thanks for the notice. Second, if you're being outcompeted at $.10 bottles of water being sold for $1 +, and supposing there is a nanofacture capability that can generate your $.10 bottle of water - what's to keep you from doing so and making a $.01 or less bottle of water?

Were there a monopoly (or perhaps ogliarchy) on nanofature of bottles of water, I can see the producer using the tech to make $.01 bottles of water and sellling 'em for something in the $.25 range. This in turn would have significant negative ramifications for the bottled water industry, leading to terrific problems as people loose jobs, investors shun the old-tech capability, factories shut down, etc.

Nato Welch - I don't see a problem that's continue to get worse regardless of the 'solutions' thrown at it as a good thing, personally. Additionally, given the potential social polarization that limited release of nanofacture could (would?) have, I can't but expect that there will be some serious increase in the gap between the 'haves' and the 'have-nots'.

Whoever posted on the 31st namelessly - Agreed, that seems to me to be the current most-likely scenario. Nanofacs seem to likely be critically limited infrastructure. That is - you ain't seen DRM until that point - without HEAVY, deeply imbedded DRM equivalents, a reasonably capable nanofac is the ultimate copier - including of itself.

Nanoblocks at best delay this capability, given human & corporate nature (the urge of curiousity and profit will push each individually into expanding nanofac capability over time, IMO)

MC - Given a couple generations of nanofac growth, I think your position is reasonable. I do not think it will be an immediate capability, and it has yet to be seen how long it takes for 'generations' of nanofacs to be developed. I suspect that there won't be any clear date, but rather it'll happen in spurts and starts as commercial and collegiate investment bear fruits. This bars the invention, implementation, and/or imposition of substantiative DRM equivalents, however!

-John B

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