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.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The multi-self team

Can you imagine yourself in competition for resources with ... yourself?

There are several future cases where multiple copies of people may be quite likely and normal. Multiple personal instances could arise to repair medical damage, to make a backup, to have a physical and a digital version, to extend the capability of an individual and because the technology exists, to name a few possibilities. Regulation and legal rights of multiple personal instances are interesting issues but not considered here.

It is likely that there will always be some scarcity of resources whether tangible (matter, energy, processing power, etc.) or intangible (status, reputation, attention, etc.). So it is likely that individuals and groups will always compete for resources.

Whether in the physical domain, digital domain or across domains, if you have copies of yourself, you will be competing with yourself for resources.

Initially, you will know exactly what your other self is thinking and strategizing and you might share resources effectively.

Then, although identical at the outset, any copies, if not mind-synced, will increasingly diverge. In situations of multiple personal instances, regular mind-syncing will probably be desirable but there will be many cases where this will not be possible or desired.

Even if two copies of the same entity are experiencing the same situation, it will not be equal in interpretation by both, the physical experience will not be completely equivalent and the mental experience will be even more different with the randomness of the brain and micro differences in cell chemical states triggering different experiences and interpretations.

Divergence in experience and interpretation could lead to divergence of goals. As with any current or historical examples of resource competition, divergent goals lead to destruction or collaboration.

The multi-self team
An optimal and evolutionarily superior final state would be one's selves coming together in a new entity, a multi-self team, a pool of many nuances of self and abilities, a borg being broader and more capable than any individual.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Virtual world killer apps

Virtual worlds seem to be distinct from the Internet but are really the natural evolution of the web as a communications, commerce, information and computation medium; a move to real-time 3D interaction from 2D text.

Virtual worlds are no longer exclusively recreational, they are becoming increasingly routine for a wide range of professional activities. Will Sun Microsystems be the first to announce their corporate earnings simultaneously in-world as they do now on CEO Jonathan Schwartz's blog?

There are about 50 virtual worlds in various stages of funding, launch and adoption. Linden Lab’s Second Life is the largest and most complex with an economy in excess of $1.5m USD per day. With the surge in activity, killer apps are starting to emerge.

Consumer Killer App: 3D Immersive Shopping
Shopping could be the killer app of virtual worlds for consumers, just like email drew people to the Internet. Shopping, not in the sense of avatar couture, coiffeur and custom animation, although this is an important sector of the virtual world economy, but in the sense of physical-world retailers having virtual showrooms for customers to review and potentially purchase their products in a 3D visual immersive way, everything from cars to furniture to electronics to tax services to books and music.

Steelcase furniture showroom
Click here to teleport

EOLUS/SAP experimental shop
Click here to teleport

Business Killer App: the Interface
For businesses, it is not about the application but the interface, the interface is the application. Virtual worlds are the modern functionality-extending overlay for any existing application, a 3D real-time information-rich collaboration environment. Some examples include IBM's virtual NOC business, constructing VNOCs for their own and client operations, Intel's in-world Dev Zone developer network meetings and Coke's "Virtual Thirst," Cisco's "Connected Life" and Osram Lighting's "One Million Dollar Idea" virtual world creativity campaigns.

IBM Watson's VNOC (Virtual Network Operations Center)
Click here to teleport

Due to resource consumption, virtual worlds are not yet used pervasively by most people; they are an application to log into intermittently, just like the Internet was before broadband. It could be in five years that computer processing power and broadband speeds, including on the mobile platform, make virtual world pervasiveness possible. Even before then, it will probably be as natural to book an airline ticket in-world via a travel sim as it would be to go to Orbitz.

How could progress not be underway in an evolution from users to residents?

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Molecular assembler adoption

What would the technology adoption curve for the molecular assembler look like? A molecular assembler is a home appliance which would sit on a countertop supplied by water, element canisters and electricity and make items on demand such as food, clothing or other objects personally created or generated from designs found on the Internet.

Molecular Assembler,
As with other technologies like the personal computer, cell phone, Internet, TIVO/DVR, iPod, etc., there would likely be a gap between launch and widespread adoption. Not everyone wants to or can be an early adopter. People watch new technologies as their friends and other people buy and use them; they assess the price point for value and killer app-ability and adopt when it becomes personally relevant and possible. Although the time curves are increasingly compressed, it is still taking a few years for technologies to reach mainstream penetration.

Theoretically, the molecular assembler adoption curve could be much quicker than with other technologies because the dream of a machine that can make anything is of course that it can make copies of itself so that everyone can have one. While this may be the ultimate result, it is unlikely in the first phase since the intricate nanoscale molecular machinery components of the molecular assembler will need to be manufactured and assembled at special nanotechnology facilities. The first molecular assemblers will likely quite expensive.

Even when molecular assemblers can be manufactured or copied with ease, the supply canisters need to be considered. The element cartridges for the main CHON stream, carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen, plus specialty element cartridges are conceptually similar to laser printer ink cartridges. The element cartridges will need to be manufactured and distributed (e.g.; head over to Fry’s for a hydrogen cartridge) or there will need to be local refilling stations, possible via the existing gas or food distribution channels. Eventually, there could be utility feeds into communities or houses with measured usage.

Governments, having every interest in a stable transition to the molecular assembler and the post-scarcity economy (PSE), would likely regulate or otherwise attempt to control the distribution and refilling of element cartridges and possibly the assemblers themselves. Providing assemblers and element cartridges would be big business, attracting corporate and entrepreneurial activity to find effective ways to supply the demand.

Another factor inhibiting the immediate widespread adoption of molecular assemblers would be the need to have a fully developed value chain or offering ecosystem, particularly having some sort of recycling mechanism for unwanted or waste material from the assembler.

In summary, the factors influencing molecular assembler adoption would be like those of any technology adoption: cost, availability and application.