Sunday, December 23, 2007

Molecular assembler impact on society

A recent post postulated that molecular assembler adoption is not likely to be an overnight roll-out, but more like the S-curve uptake of any technology product (TiVo, iPod, etc.) due as usual to cost, availability (particularly of element canister refills) and application.

Once molecular assembler roll-out starts, how is it likely to impact society?

It is assumed that all items necessary for survival can be made with the molecular assembler: food, shelter, basic medicines, etc.

Does this mean everyone will immediately quit their jobs and the world will turn to chaos?

No. While survival basics will be available from the molecular assembler in its initial form, many items and premium versions of basic items will not. Like the S-curve of assembler roll-out and adoption, the capability of what can be manufactured is also likely to grow over time. Businesses (Ponoko is a current example) and communities will arise to provide product designs for sale and share via the Internet. Expansion cartridges with elements other than the basic CHON stream (carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen) may be added or available at a community level for the construction of more exotic items.

How will the structure and activity of society change?

In the first phase, persisting for perhaps five years, society's structure and activity will slowly start changing. The norm is likely that people will continue to work for several reasons discussed below and that together with the static availability of land and locations of schools and universities will probably keep people organized around their traditional activities and groupings for some time.

  • The post-scarcity economy (PSE) has not yet been fully realized. Many things must still be purchased: premium items, services, content, entertainment, non-assemblable items, designs and inputs for assemblable items, land
  • Habit, risk aversion (unclear how the new phenomenon will unfold and whether it will persist), maintaining status quo while creating future plans, emotional reasons (static comfort in the face of great change)
  • Work is a venue for garnering status, participating, engaging in productive activity, actualizing
In fact, professional focus, activities and responsibilities will be shifting in interesting ways to accommodate, create and take advantage of the new ways of controlling matter. The molecular assembler industry will spawn many businesses from the manufacture and distribution of assemblers to element canister supply to design creation and implementation. Information economy businesses will be impacted and all matter based businesses will need on-site reinvention. The service sectors of the economy will explode as even if basic materials become free, if AI and robotics have not evolved similarly, labor will not.