Re: poly: Re: the economics of transition to nanotech

From: Peter C. McCluskey <>
Date: Wed Jan 12 2000 - 09:15:19 PST (anton sherwood) writes:
>Damien Broderick wrote:
>> . . . . My question was: who will invest
>> heavily in developing a magic mill that makes copies of itself for free?
>Those who care more for absolute wealth than for relative wealth.
>Is there any way to estimate how many such people are active investors?

 While most people prefer to claim that they want to maximize absolute
rather than relative wealth, their behavior suggests that they aren't
being very honest about their motives (probably not even to themselves).
Valuing relative wealth seems more antisocial than valuing absolute wealth,
so unless there's widespread analysis of the issue, it shouldn't surprise
us that people exaggerate the extent to which they want absolute wealth.
 The book Luxury Fever presents a fairly strong argument that we should expect
people to value relative wealth, not absolute wealth. As long as people are
well above starvation levels, relative status within a tribe has had a much
bigger effect on reproductive success than absolute wealth, so we should expect
more genetic mechanisms for rewarding relative status than absolute status
(see my review of that book at
for other comments on Luxury Fever - a very provocative book.)

 I expect assembler development will bear some resemblence to the early
history of the computer industry (presumably with faster change). Initially,
some of the building blocks will require expensive labs (cleanrooms?
feedstocks requiring an elaborate purification process?) and will be hard to
use. At this stage, assemblers will be restricted to a handfull of companies.
 Eventually designs will improve to the point where they can be built
in a garage, at which point (in the absence of legal barriers) people will
create them for some combination of fun, fame, and desire to use the
results (as with Linux or the first Apple computers).

Peter McCluskey          | Boycott until they stop suing | companies that support 1-click shopping.
Received on Wed Jan 12 09:16:27 2000

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