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1011Re: [nanotech] Re: Bill Joy (Japanese)

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  • DonSaxman@aol.com
    Aug 7, 2000
      In a message dated 00-08-07 19:12:57 EDT, you write:

      > You may be interested in a science fiction book, _The Cassini Division_ by
      > Ken MacLeod, that explores nanotech, economy, power, war, Singularity, and
      > conflicting cultures. I didn't notice any blatant mistakes in the tech.

      Thanks. My favorite nanotech novels tusfar are the "Slant" books (by Bear?)
      Did anyone notice that nanotech played a big role in the latest Clive Cussler
      Dirk (Raise the Titantic) Pitt novel. In fact, Drexler and his wife were
      mentioned by name.

      > In the broadest sense, exercise of power simply causes change. Change may
      > be good or bad, and should be done responsibly. The trouble is that a lot
      > of change can't be planned. "Social conscience" is the best answer I've
      > come up with.

      I thin k individuals (including indivisuals with great secular power) can
      have a "social conscience, but I don't think a state can. (as an aside,
      that's why I'm against capital punishment, but I'm for a well-armed citizenry
      with legal concealed carry).

      > I suspect "natural" diamonds will be worth more than synthetic diamonds,
      and
      > the price even of synthetic diamonds will be kept high. Probably some of
      > the poorest mine workers will lose their jobs, but the rich owners will do
      OK.

      Speaking as a geologist (that's what my degree is, even if I haven't
      practiced for over a decade), I'd say it depends on how good the synthetics
      are. Synthetic rubies never really caught on big-time, even really lovely
      star rubies. But synthetic emralds are very popular. And cubic zirconia in
      general drove down the market for cheap diamonds. Every diamond mined (on
      the average) kills about 2.5 antelopes (because of the way South Africa is
      fenced off and because of the way water was redistributed). I think if cany
      synthetic diamond marketers did their job, they could make them a credible
      alternative.

      > Of course that's just one product, and certainly there will be massive
      > economic disruption once we get flexible factories.

      Long term, certainly. Short term, probably not. Combinational chemistry
      hasn't distroyed the market for botanical drugs for instance.

      All that said, I don't think we can stop it. I started writing a book on
      supressed inventions once, but it got too depressing (especially depressing
      was the good chance I'd have been sued by somebody or another). Most of the
      good stuff was supressed for economic reasons, not enlightened self interest.
      And most of the time, the good ideas didn't stay suppressed for long.

      > I'd love to see your notes for that! I wonder if there's any way of
      > distributing them that 1) preserves your IP; 2) protects you legally; 3)
      > makes them useful even in an unfinished state? Hmmm... perhaps a
      > slashdot-style website where you post your references on each invention and
      > other people write the comments?

      It was frustrating. I played a relatively minor, but direct role in two
      big-league "supressions" back in my technical jorunalist days. One was for
      "TENS" units (the devices that kill pain via an electrical charge). The
      other was "in situ vitrification" (wherein hazardous and/or radioactive waste
      is cheaply and permanently enclosed in a pool of molten glass.) In one case,
      I had Johnson and Johnson threatening to sue. In the other case, I had the
      governor of New Jersey threatening to have me arrested! In both cases, the
      inventions were eventually "outed" and are now moderatly successful
      commercial products. In both cases, the technology was suppressed for over
      ten years. I believe there *are* still "supressed invention" use groups.
      There used to be anyway. They kind of blend into the urban mythos. I could
      post more on this, but this probably isn't the appropriate forum.



      Anyway, nanotechnology research is (by now) too distributed, and there is too
      much interdisciplinary overlap to effectively control or spike. All we can
      hope for is that it is pretty easy to get some great nanotech benefits and
      pretty hard to cause great damage. For instance, lets hope that blue goo is
      tricky to design, or that germ-level gene therapy runs into some problems.

      > Um, you mean you want grey goo to be tricky? Blue goo is supposed to clean
      >up after grey goo. I'd think we'd want blue goo to be easy. Or are you
      > thinking that would make totalitarian governments too easy and strong?

      I was actually thinking it might be good if both blue and grey goo were
      pretty difficult to make. As hard, say, as a nuclear bomb. Not something a
      bright grad student could do (or a tinpot dictator).

      > What do you see as the problems with germ-level gene therapy? I haven't yet
      > been able to understand why people think it's a bad idea. Presumably within
      > a few years we'd be able to undo whatever we did, yes?

      I think it is dangerous to screw around with germ-level genetics without
      knowling the consequences. Maybe we could fix our mistakes and maybe not.
      For instance, I don't *really* think that AIDS is a manmade mistake, buit it
      could have been. How much damage might we inadvertantly cause before we
      could fix it?

      > I've heard that HeLa cell cultures do take over 'most any other cell
      culture
      > in the lab or cell library, and that this has caused the loss of a lot of
      > useful cell lines. As for ice-9 (polywater?), what about prions? A lot
      > slower and with limited substrate, but similar autocatalytic process, and
      > quite scary. >>

      That's a good point. I was thinking more along the (fanciful) lines of
      Aldous Huxley's "Tissue Culture King" or Edgar Rice Burroughs "Synethetic Men
      of Mars" type tissue culture problems. Of course, we now know tissue culture
      doesn;t work those ways. But both were throught to be fairly accurate
      extrapolations at the time.
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