Nanotechnology rave

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I posted this to
a slashdot thread

If we somehow do manage to get home “makers” (as they’re sometimes called in SF), it’s true that the economy will go to Hell in a handbasket. However, everyone’s dependence on that economy will follow. In effect, everyone will be able to make their own food, CD players, etc, etc. It will be the beginning of the Real Information Age™. People will trade nanorecipes for fridges, stoves, ovens, photovoltaic arrays, computers, and cars over the internet. Just about anything you buy right now will be “downloadable”. Like the latest Porsche? Here, someone scanned the one he bought (by dumping it into a maker in “record” mode) and uploaded it to

Aside from social needs (hospitals, internet service, transportation, government) there won’t be a whole heck of a lot left for people to do. Expect the cost of physical labour (and people’s incomes from that) to dwindle. Expect the cost of goods to do likewise. “Knowledge workers” who design new items, the recipes for which can be sold over the Internet will do well. These will be people who know How Things Work, and who are currently emplloyed in the manufacturing industry, so at least some people will make the transition nicely.

In a lot of ways it will be good. It will remove a lot of resource bottlenecks such as food, water, oil, .. chocolate. 🙂 How it will impact our need for energy depends on the efficiency of the technology. Will the energy cost to make a barrel of oil be higher than a barrel of oil? If not, we’re in good shape. If so, then we would be in for interesting times.


About rae

I'm a long-time Mac and iOS developer. I'm also a big fan of Ruby on Rails and relational databases. I tend to work remotely, in my basement with occasional trips to the office. I'm also a big videophile, both TV and film, and can't wait for a good, inexpensive home 4k solution.

1 Comment “Nanotechnology rave

  1. Jeff K

    I don’t see how what we’ve got today differs significantly from what you talk about. Made in China DVD players for $70 are but one example. Most hot-rods are like public domain Porsche’s [I think most people who buy them *want* to overpay]. Anyway it’s the same problems as open source and Intellectual Property all over again. Also, Bill Joy of Sun does not want universal constructor technology pursued, and I happen to agree.

    As for making oil, I don’t think it really matters. We can’t all have nuclear power plants in our cars for several good reasons, so if it takes a nuke plant in the tar sands [or whatever raw material you decide to use to make oil] to produce oil so be it. I managed to botch up the gas price cycle timing this week and paid $1.009 / Litre today. (94 Octane).

    There are a lot of conventional machines that do what you want to do. We just don’t have access to them.

    Anyway, as a start, how about publishing my recipe for a region-free DVD player on Linux? I mean we discussed it in general terms, but to actually have a bash script which downloads and installs all the bits and pieces and/or providing the actual libdvdcss are quasi-illegal for all the reasons a home “maker” would also be operating on illegal info. It still amazes me that the CSS title keys can be cracked by libdvdcss in mere seconds. [glibc is largely broken on Fedora 1.92 test 3 for Athlon 64, but I’d guess it would crack the key in under a second if I could actually compile PERL or Qt or Gxine or anything and try it — fixing all of those involves rebuilding X & glibc. How they missed them in the Fedora 1.92 test 3 x86_64 distro, I have no idea — that’s like forgetting to put your pants on.] I’m having too much fun running 64 bit benchmarks that do work, so I don’t want to risk breaking my X installation by rebuilding it just yet.

    That said, since the math lib is missing, I can’t really do any pure-math benchmarking. Sigh, all I risk is having to re-install (again), maybe I should just rebuild the whole mess, in which case, maybe I should just run Gentoo. The Athlon 64 3200+ cranked out a new kernel in about 25 minutes (still a fairly long time, but survivable).

    See what I mean? If you limit yourself to wanting digital stuff, you can already own a fast “maker”. Hm, and as far as that goes, I wanted to build a scrap book of mothers day photos, so I selected a few dozen photos, did a few clicks and the Athlon 64 cranked out a whole suite of web pages and image files in about 5 seconds. You can see the results on my page if the router/firewall doesn’t croak again. It was a lot less painful than configuring Movable Type (which I’ll get to, yes yes).

    Remember, the money you spend on “things” doesn’t get tossed into the earth, it’s all going to people who provide stuff. e.g. Take nuke power, you’re lining the pockets of certain electical equipment providers because they have all of the recipes for transformers, turbines & reactors (and presumably paid big $$ to the engineers who worked on the stuff, but that’s another story).

    I thought I’d mention that, since PV arrays, after the recent natural gas & electricity price increases, are getting pretty close to cost-effective for me. I just wouldn’t enjoy the risk that the people will revolt again and get another subsidy from our tax dollars for the next 40 years, screwing me at both ends (electricity costs & tax increases to pay for the subsidy+interest etc. etc.) and um, shovelling snow off the array…

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