X-Message-Number: 10647
Date: Tue, 27 Oct 1998 07:45:36 -0800
From: Peter Merel <>
Subject: No No Technology

Thomas Donaldson writes,

>Basically I do not credit the idea that nanotechnology will produce 
>a situation without ANY kind of scarcity at all. Nor do I credit the
>idea that we will EVER have a universal machine ie. a machine able to
>make whatever we want in whatever conditions.

Again I think we're in full agreement on this point. I certainly can't
conceive, for example, of any way nanotech would be able to accomplish
tasks that computability indicates are impossible. Still it seems to
me that you're objecting to something I've written, but damned if I can 
figure out what it might be. Perhaps you could quote the objectionable 
text, or indicate explicitly its location? 

>I will say that it is not denigration to say that someone has noticed
>a trend going on all around us. Drexler noticed that trend. I think
>he took a wrong turn when he decided to emphasize his "molecular
>nanotechnology", mainly because he wandered off into theory and
>forgot one other major point Feynman made: that we are unlikely to
>be able to apply effectively apply principles we have learned about
>physics in other scales to the nanoscale. 

You'll forgive me Thomas, but this seems a terribly vague objection. At least
to my inexpert eyes Drexler and Merkle seem to have worked through enough
theory to demonstrate the plausibility of programmable self-reproducing
molecular automata; if you have such theoretic qualms I think you ought 
to be able to describe at least one counterexample in concrete detail.

>(He didn't mean that our physics was WRONG, but rather that its 
>consequences on those scales were far from obvious and probably would 
>have to be found out by experiment and explained later).

Of course engineering proceeds by the iteration of prototypes, and indeed
with regard to nanotech the bulk of this engineering remains to be done. 
But did Drexler and Merkle ever suggest otherwise? Or are you saying
that the process of this engineering will take too long for it ever to 
be relevant to human-scale economics? Or what?

Peter Merel.

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