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.