X-Message-Number: 10635
Date: Sat, 24 Oct 1998 10:33:22 -0400
From: Thomas Donaldson <>
Subject: CryoNet #10630 - #10634

To Peter Merel:
Perhaps I misunderstood you on the effect of nanotechnology, but as
I understood you we would all have virtually whatever we wanted and
therefore economics would cease to be relevant. If you believe that
some things (for instance, ideas) would continue to be scarce, then
that scarcity will create an economics around it.

When I said that nanotechnology would not be equivalent to a matter
duplicator I meant exactly that. Whatever we used nanotechnology to
build would require matter from somewhere to build it. A matter
duplicator (if such a thing could ever exist as a practical tool)
would not have that problem.

And then we come down to the issue of the "perfect nanotechnological
tool", able to create anything on demand (given, as above, the needed
materials). If you read science and technology, not just in some 
field in which you are expert but widely, you will notice that our
ability to manipulate matter on nanoscales has been steadily increasing.
None of this has been a consequence of Drexler's specific ideas; what
Drexler did was to notice what was happening and give a name to it. 
Now the limit of this process would indeed be the kind of machine you
talk about, but coolly regarded that limit will take a long time 
coming. For one thing, all machines consist of atoms of some element
or other, linked together according to the rules of chemistry, and
those molecules again combining by suprachemistry (one of the 
lines of study behind nanotechnology, actually). This automatically
limits any given machine: it can only work in milieu in which it
can continue to exist and not be too badly distorted from its 
proper form. I doubt very much that modestly high temperature
in an atmosphere of pure O2 would be very good for a mostly carbon
machine... yet we can still devise machines which work in such 

In his later writings Drexler seems to want to limit the word
"nanotechnology" to only one particular kind. Perhaps I mistake him, but
if so the word ceases to be very useful in understanding what's
happening. After all, if we have some means to manipulate matter on
nanoscales that doesn't happen to be of the approved kind, then just
what do we call it? My personal opinion is that the leading nano-
technology now, in the broad sense, is biochemistry-molecular biology,
and I have had the experience of finding devotees of nanotechnology
(in Drexler's sense) propose that it might do something which current
biotechnology has already done or is right now working on. Biotechnology
doesn't even require water for its milieu: right now, biochemists are
busily adapting enzymes to work in solvents such as polyethylene glycol
(no kidding). 

Just because it happens to be the leading version now of course does
not mean that it will remain in that position forever. But I do believe
it is wise not to limit ourselves too much. Wake up and smell the 
bioflowers, so to speak.

To Jim Yount:
Speaking for myself alone, I have never felt that I could argue biblical
quotations with a Christian. I've just noticed passages which are very
suggestive. And yes, I too prefer a rational approach, but then just
what is rational? 

Those cryonicists who are also Christians are welcome to look at the
Bible from a cryonicist perspective. It seems unwise to actually try
to convert them to atheism before we convert them to cryonics, after

As for the word "soul", I do think it may be appropriately used as
shorthand for that which we really want to preserve. I have thought so
for years. Right now, our soul is destroyed when our body is destroyed
(not just dead, but destroyed). But we still can be said to have a soul.

			Best and long long life to all,

				Thomas Donaldson

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