Kutta, on Jan 1 2010, 02:37 PM, said:
Great post Val! Your enthusiasm is definitely contagious. I'd also welcome a fast advancement in nano; if done well it'd relinquish an immense amount of human suffering through boosting energy production, manufacturing, environmental science, medicine and basically all subfields of technology. However, like Nick Bostrom I think that the risks are very much significant. I hope that both political actors and researchers very soon realize the full potentials of nanotech and thus switch to a strategic, careful mode of thinking.
valkyrie_ice, on Jan 1 2010, 10:44 AM, said:
Welcome to 2010. And just maybe... the birth of the post scarcity world.
Post scarcity, if it'll be there, will be there for only a while. Remember, a 3 percent annual economic growth, if we suppose that it means a 3 percent more energy/matter consumption, would use up every atom in the observable universe in 10000 years! See this post.
Considering the chaos going on right now in Iran due to the massive increase in networking availability which is allowing the resistance to not only co-ordinate but release continuing updates, and the unrest growing in America over how corrupt Washington has become, I believe that political change is coming far more rapidly than many people want to believe. I think that by the end of Obama's first term, America is going to end Afghanistan, and begin reducing it's expenditures enormously both because the American people will demand it, and because it simply is becoming too expensive to fight. The Internet has done more to influence Iran's political changes than all the threats of force. Once they have ceased to be a fundamentalist bastion of power in the Middle East, most of the terrorists are going to find themselves without a base of support. A million laptops and internet in Afghanistan would do more to solve the terrorist issue than all the troops, and cost considerably less.
It's really a wonderment that we can look at the war in Afghanistan and consider it such a horrible war, considering that it is the SOLE war going on in the world now. In almost our entire history our planet has been embroiled in warfare nearly continuously, often with multiple wars happening simultaneously around the globe. Last century saw the highest peak of warfare ever, with significant percentages of the entire world participating, yet since then, we have been continuously declining in average yearly deaths due to warfare. Compared to previous ages, 2000-2010 has seen a significant decrease in the willingness of any country to engage in open war. America is proving right now why war has become a losing proposition.
Regardless, that war is being fought more on behalf of corporate interests than out of any real sense of threat from Terrorists. And the corporate giants are unlikely to survive the coming decade, let alone continue to play all sides against the middle. With the continual increase in our ability to communicate with each other as individuals and the pressure on manufacturing to produce more in less time, we are already starting to see the market beginning to shift from the hugely centralized systems of the industrial age which produced the Megacorps to much more democratized and decentralized networks that possess far more flexibility and offer greater choice. The Giants are too cumbersome to adapt to the speed with which the market is changing.
Learning how to design things on an atomic scale in and of itself is not dangerous. Our knowledge of design is likely to lag behind our ability to make for a while, much as computer programs have lagged behind hardware. And with the growth of opensource, we will likely develop a paradigm of modular construction at first, using discrete sub assemblies to make a finished project. The complexity needed to make a world killer is something unlikely to be developed outside of military black ops, and with war continuing to be a less viable option, and the trend towards a world government, it is possible that the worst dangers of Nanotech will be averted until such a time as our defenses via uploads, backups, and other methods have been implemented. Getting blown away by a nuke is not much threat when you simply respawn at a safe location due to the up to the millisecond of termination backups being made continuously. I won't say that our future will be without dangers, but we will have far better methods of minimizing the risks than we do today.
In my best guess, the next decade will continue to see nanotech advancing rapidly, with unbelievable advancements being made in electronics and biotech mainly, as well as materials science, but we need a far better knowledge of biology to create nanodevices capable of truly acting like living creatures enough to make grey goo a credible threat. By the time we reach that stage, I think we will have found our world has already started changing enough that violence will considered a poor choice for affecting change.
As for the calculations for how quickly we will return to an economy of scarcity, I find them to be somewhat suspect, as they are based on the assumption that nothing will change between now and the future. We are already finding evidence that our view of physics is not quite complete or correct, so how can we truly even understand what a far more intelligent human race can or will do? Any prediction based on current knowledge which attempts to exceed a timescale of 50 or so years is bound to be ludicrously incorrect. We can't even say what kind of economy will come about with 100% recyclable use of resources, near 100% efficent use of all atoms, or even how little material may be needed to produce any given item. Perhaps our future homes will use graphene walls only a few atoms thick and strong enough to survive hurricanes. We can't even say that we may not chose to rebuild our entire world to 1/44th scale, making our single planet 44x larger while reducing individual consumption a similar amount. Simply put, since we cannot predict what will occur beyond the Singularity, we don't have the foggiest clue as to what the REAL limits to growth are.