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SpectrumFX

The End of Scarcity

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This is a nice summary of the potential impact of the coming nanotechnology storm.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b09jvfc4?ns_mchannel=social&ns_campaign=bbc_radio_4&ns

Broadcasting legend James Burke returns to the airwaves to discuss the biggest change to humanity in 10,000 years. In 50 years or so he predicts nanotechnology will give us capabilities we've only imagined of in science fiction. In labs around the world the foundations are being laid for the 'nano-fabricator' a device that will allow us to assemble just about anything, atom by atom; including itself. IT COULD MEAN THE END OF SCARCITY ITSELF.

As far-fetched as it seems it's an idea that was first posited as long ago as 1959 by physicist Richard Feynman and then popularised as the 'replicator' in Star Trek. But this is no fantasy - in Manchester Professor David Leigh has made the world's first nano-robot, an arm a millionth of a millimetre in size that will assemble the molecules you programme into it. While at MIT's Centre for Bits and Atoms they're taking the replicator as their inspiration and are working on materials and methods to make our physical world as programmable as our digital one.

 

 

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13 minutes ago, SpectrumFX said:

This is a nice summary of the potential impact of the coming nanotechnology storm.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b09jvfc4?ns_mchannel=social&ns_campaign=bbc_radio_4&ns

Broadcasting legend James Burke returns to the airwaves to discuss the biggest change to humanity in 10,000 years. In 50 years or so he predicts nanotechnology will give us capabilities we've only imagined of in science fiction. In labs around the world the foundations are being laid for the 'nano-fabricator' a device that will allow us to assemble just about anything, atom by atom; including itself. IT COULD MEAN THE END OF SCARCITY ITSELF.

As far-fetched as it seems it's an idea that was first posited as long ago as 1959 by physicist Richard Feynman and then popularised as the 'replicator' in Star Trek. But this is no fantasy - in Manchester Professor David Leigh has made the world's first nano-robot, an arm a millionth of a millimetre in size that will assemble the molecules you programme into it. While at MIT's Centre for Bits and Atoms they're taking the replicator as their inspiration and are working on materials and methods to make our physical world as programmable as our digital one.

 

 

It's just about having the right atoms, not necessarily in the right order.

If you can make a gold atom from a carbon atom then it truly is magic.

 

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Great to know James Burke is still active but this idea lacks practicality to my mind.  Whilst you can create things in such a way the energy inputs to have sufficient force to bond atoms into molecules is going to be huge.

I would parallel it to extracting gold from sea water.  You can do it and there is a vast amount of gold in the oceans but the cost of the energy required to extract it vastly outweighs the value of the gold.

https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/gold-ocean-sea-hoax-science-water-boom-rush-treasure
 

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6 minutes ago, sarahbell said:

It's just about having the right atoms, not necessarily in the right order.

If you can make a gold atom from a carbon atom then it truly is magic.

 

Gold isn't really that exciting when you think about it. It's just a lump of metal that sits there looking yellow.

Making anything you like out of diamond  which you've made from carbon that you've scraped out of the CO2 in the air is much more exciting really.

 

 

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2 minutes ago, SpectrumFX said:

Gold isn't really that exciting when you think about it. It's just a lump of metal that sits there looking yellow.

Making anything you like out of diamond  which you've made from carbon that you've scraped out of the CO2 in the air is much more exciting really.

 

 

Diamonds just have very good marketing men.
 

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Posted (edited)

He has one of those faces/heads you cannot forget so I wondered what he looks like now at the age of 81.

200px-James_Burke_(science_historian).jp  

back in his TV heyday

DC ROCK LIVE - REVIEWS

Edited by Chewing Grass
how come eyebrows don't go grey?

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Posted (edited)
6 minutes ago, sarahbell said:

Diamonds just have very good marketing men.
 

Sure, but think beyond jewelry. Imagine if carbon could be manipulated atom by atom so that you could use diamond as a building and construction material.

Edited by SpectrumFX

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1 minute ago, sarahbell said:

Diamonds just have very good marketing men.
 

Totally, but if you have very cheap diamond then you can form it into watch glass, windows that will never break etc.

As per previous I think the energy cost would mean it is impractical for anything bar very specialist uses.

The programme's title, The End of Scarcity, seems to miss the point.  It is rather that you can produce anything if you're not worried about the cost. It's still going to be cheaper to dig coal out of the ground than create it by stripping the oxygen atoms from carbon dioxide.

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Just now, Frank Hovis said:

Totally, but if you have very cheap diamond then you can form it into watch glass, windows that will never break etc.

As per previous I think the energy cost would mean it is impractical for anything bar very specialist uses.

The programme's title, The End of Scarcity, seems to miss the point.  It is rather that you can produce anything if you're not worried about the cost. It's still going to be cheaper to dig coal out of the ground than create it by stripping the oxygen atoms from carbon dioxide.

Yes! Energy costs mean all these mad ideas won't ever make it past dreamland.
 

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Just now, Frank Hovis said:

Totally, but if you have very cheap diamond then you can form it into watch glass, windows that will never break etc.

As per previous I think the energy cost would mean it is impractical for anything bar very specialist uses.

The programme's title, The End of Scarcity, seems to miss the point.  It is rather that you can produce anything if you're not worried about the cost. It's still going to be cheaper to dig coal out of the ground than create it by stripping the oxygen atoms from carbon dioxide.

He reckons that the energy costs will be minimal due to the inherent efficiency of working at the atomic scale, and that you'll be able to do it all from solar.

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2 minutes ago, SpectrumFX said:

He reckons that the energy costs will be minimal due to the inherent efficiency of working at the atomic scale, and that you'll be able to do it all from solar.

LOL
 

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1 minute ago, sarahbell said:

Yes! Energy costs mean all these mad ideas won't ever make it past dreamland.
 

 

Just now, SpectrumFX said:

He reckons that the energy costs will be minimal due to the inherent efficiency of working at the atomic scale, and that you'll be able to do it all from solar.

I'm with Sarah on this one!

I don't see how it makes a difference that the energy comes from solar; if you divert solar to that purpose then something else will need to make up the shortfall.

Don't get me wrong, I think it's great and like all new techs it will have applications we can only guess at. I just don't buy the cheap volume production concept.

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6 minutes ago, Frank Hovis said:

 

I'm with Sarah on this one!

I don't see how it makes a difference that the energy comes from solar; if you divert solar to that purpose then something else will need to make up the shortfall.

Don't get me wrong, I think it's great and like all new techs it will have applications we can only guess at. I just don't buy the cheap volume production concept.

It won't be volume production. You'll have your own "replicator" which will produce what you need locally from dirt, the air, and solar power.

That's all the transport costs saved, plus all the overheads.

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Just now, SpectrumFX said:

It won't be volume production. You'll have your own "replicator" which will produce what you need locally from dirt, the air, and solar power.

That's all the transport costs saved, plus all the overheads.

Ah. Okay, that's a different angle on it.  I can see that working in isolated sunny areas.

Although it isn't going to work in Cornwall unless they can come up with something rain-powered.

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8 minutes ago, Frank Hovis said:

Ah. Okay, that's a different angle on it.  I can see that working in isolated sunny areas.

Although it isn't going to work in Cornwall unless they can come up with something rain-powered.

The first Rain Powered energy source will be in Oldham I reckon.

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, Frank Hovis said:

Great to know James Burke is still active but this idea lacks practicality to my mind.  Whilst you can create things in such a way the energy inputs to have sufficient force to bond atoms into molecules is going to be huge.

I would parallel it to extracting gold from sea water.  You can do it and there is a vast amount of gold in the oceans but the cost of the energy required to extract it vastly outweighs the value of the gold.

https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/gold-ocean-sea-hoax-science-water-boom-rush-treasure
 

That is rather the point.

The Industrial revolution occurred when fossil fuel and other energy sources such as rivers were allied to the means of mass production in factories. If they had not possessed the means to convert energy sources to power then it would not have happened no matter how inventive the machine designers. The same limitation applies now to things such as nano technologies or robots (basically the bigger the robot the more energy it will require when it moves). One of the reasons humans are still used as labour sources is that we can still do complex tasks on relatively low energy requirements (if you doubt this see how long you can power a light bulb using just muscle power). This was both a boon and a limitation to human development until we learned how to harness the power of fossil fuels.

The limitation to human civilisation is not our inventiveness but the amount of energy available to do stuff and how efficiently we use it.

As an aside that is why I am one of those people in favour of some sort of energy based currency because basically the amount of energy you have at your disposal is really a pretty good measure of wealth.

 

Edited by Virgil Caine

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19 minutes ago, dgul said:

It is just a 'future is lovely' type dream.

We've got warm houses (not all of us), water that comes out of taps, food delivered to the door by a nice Polish guy, amazing 'light in the darkness devices' ,special energy sockets in every room that can deliver all sorts of greatness.  We've got special travel boxes that will allow us to do a day's hard travel in just a few minutes, and feel refreshed at the end. We've got magic communicator systems, boxes that show images from the past, or a different country, or that are completely made up space nonsense.  We've got things where we just ask for music and then that music comes.  And most of us spend most of our lives working for less than half of the waking part of the day, and even then usually not physically arduous work.

Yet we still spend most of our time worrying about how our working and not-working time is slightly less nice than someone else's.

I entirely agree with the first bit.

I don't agree with the second; that's a Facebook view of the world.  Competitive leisure time, who can take the most "amazing" selfie etc.

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16 minutes ago, Frank Hovis said:

I don't agree with the second; that's a Facebook view of the world.  Competitive leisure time, who can take the most "amazing" selfie etc.

Fair enough.

Perhaps it should be 'so many of us spend time...'

Achieving a happiness and contentment in life is a fairly decent goal -- and is something that Facebook etc make more difficult, not less.

And replicators (etc) won't particular help with that, even if they do manage to make us more comfortable etc.

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Posted (edited)

These panglossian views of the future always ignore the limitations

It is like the old cliche about robots never getting tired and having endless energy.

The first point is true in part ( though being mechanical robots wear out just like their human counterparts) but the latter is completely false. Just like humans robots only have as much power as their energy source. When it cuts out they cease to function. Indeed humans can run for up to a month on just their internal body resources like fat reserves and water. To provide the same for robots reproducing the range of task humans routinely perform is way beyond current battery technology. This is why modern robot design tends to concentrate on doing a relatively limited range of tasks using as little energy as possible. 

Anyway while we fetishize about new technology our existing infrastructure in the UK is decaying fast. We travel around in the oldest trains since the railways begun and pay more for the privilege

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/01/01/britains-trains-oldest-since-records-began-figures-show/

Edited by Virgil Caine

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6 minutes ago, dgul said:

And replicators (etc) won't particular help with that, even if they do manage to make us more comfortable etc.

 

There'll be wars over replicators. 

The more we have the more unhappy other people will be with what we have. 

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1 hour ago, SpectrumFX said:

Sure, but think beyond jewelry. Imagine if carbon could be manipulated atom by atom so that you could use diamond as a building and construction material.

On the other hand, each "nano-fabricator" can only build a very small amount of diamond. Great for specialist uses - e.g. if you could easily and cheaply nano-fabricate hard-wearing low-friction coatings then it would be a revolution in domains such as precision instruments, watches, etc...

For bulk production, you'd need millions of fabricator units; I often read that the easy answer to this is self-replicating nano-factories. Which seems a bit of a pipe-dream to me. Self-replicating "human scale" factories would be an industrial revolution, and make the UK/USA/Europe competitive with China once more, by cutting out all of the labor costs.

But it's not been done - because it's incredibly complicated. To assume that the level of complexity is lesser if you're working at "nano scale" rather than at "human scale" feels like handwaving to me.

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2 hours ago, SpectrumFX said:

It won't be volume production. You'll have your own "replicator" which will produce what you need locally from dirt, the air, and solar power.

That's all the transport costs saved, plus all the overheads.

Now i understand what bitcoin is for :D 

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