X-Message-Number: 10632
Date: Fri, 23 Oct 1998 07:37:02 -0700
From: Peter Merel <>
Subject: Planet of the Ape Chow

Thomas Donaldson writes,

>To Peter Merel: I've already described how nanotechnology won't equal
>a matter duplicator. 

I hope you'll forgive me Thomas, but you write quite extensively on cryonet
and I have to confess that I missed reading this particular description. Of
course it's not matter that's intended to be duplicated by nanotech, but 
its molecular structure; presuming this is what you have refuted, could 
you either repeat your refutation or point me at it in KFL's archive? Or if 
it really is matter you mean, then I hope you'll explain the relevance of 
that here.

>As for the economic changes it will cause, I
>have this to say. First, I doubt very much that "nanotechnology",
>whatever it is, will suddenly burst on the world with all its 
>capabilities ready for use. That idea stinks of religious ideas 
>about the Millenium, actually. 

I should say this depends on whether you buy the Drexlerian notion of
automated design engines or not. So far as I can see, that's the real
limiting factor: while there's certainly "plenty of room at the
bottom", plumbing those depths will require engineering skills that would
take meatmen a very long time to acquire. If Drexlerian AI can be achieved,
however, or if uploading is feasible, then we can expect the dramatic
burst - or even a sustained exponentiation into the vaunted singularity -
as our technology feeds back into our engineering skill.

What factors do you see that suggest this Drexlerian scenario is unlikely?

>Over time we will be able to manipulate
>matter more and more powerfully, and this includes not only matter on
>very small scales but matter on very large scales, too (like moving
>planets about). But at any one given time, there are going to be
>limitations on what we can do. And as I said, even if there were not
>the issue would become that of what to make, not where to get the
>materials to make it.

Yes, so I said too. I'm trying to understand the point you're making,
but it's escaping me. Perhaps you can explain it more directly?

>As for scarcity itself, I would say that we've already passed way
>beyond the level of "need", so that even complete control of matter
>at all scales (which will never actually come --- the operative words
>are "complete" and "all" here) just won't change our economics so
>much that we won't want more than we have. After all, you can exist
>quite well in a relatively small space eating monkey chow, with water
>to drink (monkey chow is a variety of animal food for monkeys, just
>like you normally buy dog chow). The cost of both the space, the water,
>and the monkey chow will be quite small.

I'm still missing your point. In the article I think you're addressing,
I explained why I think socioeconomics is relevant even under nanotech,
and what present flaws in our socioeconomic systems I think my little
invention ameliorates in a way that may facilitate nanotech on both
small and large scales. What does this have to do with the price of 
monkey chow?

>But you know, for some reason nobody seems satisfied with that. And if
>everyone is as wealthy as Bill Gates, then we'll still have things we
>want but find that they aren't easy to get ie. cost us money and time.
>Just think a bit: the day will come when Bill Gates new house will 
>look like a primitive hovel. And Bill Gates will seem like an ignorant
>savage (I doubt that he's even trying for immortality). 

Again, please forgive me, but you'll have to explain the relevance of this.
In fact, in the article I think you're referring to, I stated much the 
same position. Is this a violent agreement?

Peter Merel.

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