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Deconstructing the Replicator

replicator 3d printing nanotech

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#1
Jakob

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Ah, the replicator--or the molecular assembler for the more scientific types. The magic device that everyone thinks will solve all the resource problems. Except it won't. Because simply put, it's magic, not science.

 

We can look to 3D printers to start with. They are currently quite primitive. They are slow, imprecise, and can only print a handful of materials. I definitely believe that can change--I'm not a pessimist when it comes to technological growth--but slowly. (Does anyone have data on how fast 3D printer precision has increased over time?) It will take many decades to get from sub-millimeter precision to sub-micrometer precision (in my newest timeline, this level is reached in the 2090s, though I am hardly an authoritative figure), and many more to get to sub-nanometer precision. If we get 3D printers that can handle individual atoms are possible by 2062 (or indeed, anytime this century), I will eat my keyboard. If they are common consumer products, I will eat the rest of my computer too.

 

Consider, too, the mounting engineering challenges that occur with each mounting step, from the macro, to the micro, to the molecular. An especially big engineering challenge rears its ugly head once you get to the atomic level. You see, the process isn't instant. Even Will's timeline describes the process of nano-fabrication as taking "a matter of minutes". And to that, I have this response: atoms react with stuff, and they react with stuff on a timescale far less than minutes. While your molecular assembler is busy manipulating atoms into your desired configuration, the very same atoms will be reacting with each other and everything around them, even the stuff you don't want them to react with. Unchecked, this effect would ruin any object you attempt to fabricate it before you even finish building it.

 

In my mind, this is quite possibly a mere technical obstacle, not a law of physics. I'm prepared to admit that it can be done eventually, maybe in the 2200s. Maybe later, not before. Once such a machine is built...you still don't have a replicator. It's not like you can just shove random garbage into a magic box, press a button, and get whatever you want. The only remotely efficient way to do this is to have "cartridges" of sorts for each element you need, and those cartridges would cost money. You could have a machine that takes a mass of random junk, finds the right atoms, and sticks them into place, but that would obviously be far less efficient, and likely take centuries more than a "vanilla" molecular assembler. The files containing atomic assembly data also wouldn't be free, by the way. This is called an information-based economy.

 

I am, of course, aware of atomic transmutation. But using that for any practical form of is centuries more advanced than a molecular assembler. Look how hard nucleosynthesis is currently: it took millions of dollars and years of effort to create seven friggin atoms of tenessine. Yes, that is a super-heavy element, but we would also have to create a trillion trillion times as many atoms, and for a million times lower cost, for this to be economically practical. I can accept many things, but I can't accept that synthesizing light elements out of hydrogen will be thirty orders of magnitude more efficient than synthesizing super-heavy elements. Beyond that, nucleosynthesis-based manufacturing would require a masterful control of nuclear reactions. You would get the same problems as atomic manipulation, but at the sub-atomic level, where everything is orders of magnitude more difficult. Instead of controlling chemical reactions, you would have to control nuclear reactions.

 

So there you have it. Molecular assemblers. Doable? Yes. Good for extreme precision manufacturing? Yes. Easy? No. A magic box to make whatever you want for free? No.


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#2
Unity

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Bravo Jakob!

 

I highly recommend John Von Neumann's Theory of Self-Replicating Automata.  A bit outdated, but just how brilliant and ahead of his times he was doing work on this in the 1940s.

 

http://cba.mit.edu/e.../VonNeumann.pdf


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#3
Yuli Ban

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Ah, the replicator--or the molecular assembler for the more scientific types. The magic device that everyone thinks will solve all the resource problems. Except it won't. Because simply put, it's magic, not science.
 
We can look to 3D printers to start with. They are currently quite primitive. They are slow, imprecise, and can only print a handful of materials. I definitely believe that can change--I'm not a pessimist when it comes to technological growth--but slowly. (Does anyone have data on how fast 3D printer precision has increased over time?) It will take many decades to get from sub-millimeter precision to sub-micrometer precision (in my newest timeline, this level is reached in the 2090s, though I am hardly an authoritative figure), and many more to get to sub-nanometer precision. If we get 3D printers that can handle individual atoms are possible by 2062 (or indeed, anytime this century), I will eat my keyboard. If they are common consumer products, I will eat the rest of my computer too.
 
Consider, too, the mounting engineering challenges that occur with each mounting step, from the macro, to the micro, to the molecular. An especially big engineering challenge rears its ugly head once you get to the atomic level. You see, the process isn't instant. Even Will's timeline describes the process of nano-fabrication as taking "a matter of minutes". And to that, I have this response: atoms react with stuff, and they react with stuff on a timescale far less than minutes. While your molecular assembler is busy manipulating atoms into your desired configuration, the very same atoms will be reacting with each other and everything around them, even the stuff you don't want them to react with. Unchecked, this effect would ruin any object you attempt to fabricate it before you even finish building it.
 
In my mind, this is quite possibly a mere technical obstacle, not a law of physics. I'm prepared to admit that it can be done eventually, maybe in the 2200s. Maybe later, not before. Once such a machine is built...you still don't have a replicator. It's not like you can just shove random garbage into a magic box, press a button, and get whatever you want. The only remotely efficient way to do this is to have "cartridges" of sorts for each element you need, and those cartridges would cost money. You could have a machine that takes a mass of random junk, finds the right atoms, and sticks them into place, but that would obviously be far less efficient, and likely take centuries more than a "vanilla" molecular assembler. The files containing atomic assembly data also wouldn't be free, by the way. This is called an information-based economy.
 
I am, of course, aware of atomic transmutation. But using that for any practical form of is centuries more advanced than a molecular assembler. Look how hard nucleosynthesis is currently: it took millions of dollars and years of effort to create seven friggin atoms of tenessine. Yes, that is a super-heavy element, but we would also have to create a trillion trillion times as many atoms, and for a million times lower cost, for this to be economically practical. I can accept many things, but I can't accept that synthesizing light elements out of hydrogen will be thirty orders of magnitude more efficient than synthesizing super-heavy elements. Beyond that, nucleosynthesis-based manufacturing would require a masterful control of nuclear reactions. You would get the same problems as atomic manipulation, but at the sub-atomic level, where everything is orders of magnitude more difficult. Instead of controlling chemical reactions, you would have to control nuclear reactions.
 
So there you have it. Molecular assemblers. Doable? Yes. Good for extreme precision manufacturing? Yes. Easy? No. A magic box to make whatever you want for free? No.

Hmmm...
 

I'm prepared to admit that it can be done eventually, maybe in the 2200s.

And here is where it all falls apart.
 
If we develop artificial superintelligence, it definitely will be developed before the 2200s. If we don't develop ASI, it definitely won't.
 
You're far too liberal with how quickly it is possible to develop ultratechnology sans AI assistance. Consider the weak and strong nuclear forces. It will definitely take a superhuman level of intellect to learn how to cancel that out; in fact, it is required for any form of doric-level nucleosynthesis. 
 
http://hyperphysics....ces/funfor.html
http://aether.lbl.go...ong/strong.html
 
Your phrasing that it's not a "magic box where you can do anything for free" also completely flies in the face of everything you wrote. If you're fooling with atoms, particularly sub-atomic particles, that means you've already managed to cancel the nuclear forces. So tell me, have you or haven't you? Either it is a magic box, or it isn't. 
If you haven't managed to overcome the nuclear forces, or the electromagnetic force, then you simply will not have a replicator. And as far as we know, it will take artificial superintelligence to achieve anything a billionth as difficult as cancelling a fundamental force of nature, something we humans, to this day, have not been able to do for even electromagnetism. Oh, we know it can be done, but the logistics in actually doing it are at least a thousand years beyond us
 
As for 3D nanoprinting; we've already completed proofs of concept
http://www.kurzweila...oscopic-objects
http://www.3ders.org...e-surfaces.html
 

The files containing atomic assembly data also wouldn't be free, by the way. This is called an information-based economy.

Which makes no sense. I buy the files, then I share them on an open source platform via the Internet. There's nothing you can do; the economy's collapsed. Game over. The only way to enforce this is to establish a totalitarian state; at which point, I want nothing to do with your world.

 

Is this based on your idea of "Innovationism", the idea that the future is a libertarian Star Trek where there is no artificial superintelligence and there are quadrillions of humans?


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#4
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I would post a response but it is going to have to wait till the morning because i am currently distraught by Mexico's 7-0 defeat. Football (Soccer for us Americans).

Tis a sad day.

The growth of computation is doubly exponential growth. 


#5
superexistence

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2200??? You don't have much faith in exponential growth, do you.
Eric Drexler's conservative estimate for a nano factory is 25-35 years

and I'm sure he knows more about it than you do.



#6
Jakob

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2200??? You don't have much faith in exponential growth, do you.
Eric Drexler's conservative estimate for a nano factory is 25-35 years

and I'm sure he knows more about it than you do.

https://en.wikipedia..._from_authority



#7
TranscendingGod

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Ah, the replicator--or the molecular assembler for the more scientific types. The magic device that everyone thinks will solve all the resource problems. Except it won't. Because simply put, it's magic, not science.

 

We can look to 3D printers to start with. They are currently quite primitive. They are slow, imprecise, and can only print a handful of materials. I definitely believe that can change--I'm not a pessimist when it comes to technological growth--but slowly. (Does anyone have data on how fast 3D printer precision has increased over time?) It will take many decades to get from sub-millimeter precision to sub-micrometer precision (in my newest timeline, this level is reached in the 2090s, though I am hardly an authoritative figure), and many more to get to sub-nanometer precision. If we get 3D printers that can handle individual atoms are possible by 2062 (or indeed, anytime this century), I will eat my keyboard. If they are common consumer products, I will eat the rest of my computer too.

 

Consider, too, the mounting engineering challenges that occur with each mounting step, from the macro, to the micro, to the molecular. An especially big engineering challenge rears its ugly head once you get to the atomic level. You see, the process isn't instant. Even Will's timeline describes the process of nano-fabrication as taking "a matter of minutes". And to that, I have this response: atoms react with stuff, and they react with stuff on a timescale far less than minutes. While your molecular assembler is busy manipulating atoms into your desired configuration, the very same atoms will be reacting with each other and everything around them, even the stuff you don't want them to react with. Unchecked, this effect would ruin any object you attempt to fabricate it before you even finish building it.

 

In my mind, this is quite possibly a mere technical obstacle, not a law of physics. I'm prepared to admit that it can be done eventually, maybe in the 2200s. Maybe later, not before. Once such a machine is built...you still don't have a replicator. It's not like you can just shove random garbage into a magic box, press a button, and get whatever you want. The only remotely efficient way to do this is to have "cartridges" of sorts for each element you need, and those cartridges would cost money. You could have a machine that takes a mass of random junk, finds the right atoms, and sticks them into place, but that would obviously be far less efficient, and likely take centuries more than a "vanilla" molecular assembler. The files containing atomic assembly data also wouldn't be free, by the way. This is called an information-based economy.

 

I am, of course, aware of atomic transmutation. But using that for any practical form of is centuries more advanced than a molecular assembler. Look how hard nucleosynthesis is currently: it took millions of dollars and years of effort to create seven friggin atoms of tenessine. Yes, that is a super-heavy element, but we would also have to create a trillion trillion times as many atoms, and for a million times lower cost, for this to be economically practical. I can accept many things, but I can't accept that synthesizing light elements out of hydrogen will be thirty orders of magnitude more efficient than synthesizing super-heavy elements. Beyond that, nucleosynthesis-based manufacturing would require a masterful control of nuclear reactions. You would get the same problems as atomic manipulation, but at the sub-atomic level, where everything is orders of magnitude more difficult. Instead of controlling chemical reactions, you would have to control nuclear reactions.

 

So there you have it. Molecular assemblers. Doable? Yes. Good for extreme precision manufacturing? Yes. Easy? No. A magic box to make whatever you want for free? No.

"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." - Arthur C. Clarke

 

https://en.wikipedia...nanotechnology 

 

These guys, who i don't know if you try to discredit with your above comment, do a better job of debating than we will. Also as for Smalley's arguments if you read "The Singularity is Near" then Kurzweil "deconstructs"(using the term you would prefer) them even further and you soon realize why a molecular assembler is indeed possible. I won't bother explaining it here because i won't do a good job. So i give you the "authoritative" sources. Not an argument from authority rather arguments by authorities which i am hereby presenting to you so that you may read and learn. 


The growth of computation is doubly exponential growth. 


#8
Jakob

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^I didn't say it was impossible, just that it'll probably be more difficult than most singulatarians think.



#9
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Yuli, your argument hinges on the idea that the laws of physics are not universal, which may perhaps be true, but you can't assume that it is true.  You have to prove that it is true by performing some kind of experiment and then showing how that experiment confirms a more accurate model that explains a greater range of phenomena than the current model.  It doesn't matter if we create a quantum artificial intelligence that has more computing than is possible by converting 1,000,000 normal universes into classical computers.  If there are universal principles they likely can't be violated, though perhaps these principles may be conserved across a range of several of those principles for example using angular momentum to conserve energy.



#10
kjaggard

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https://3dmicroprinter.com/

 

https://3dprint.com/...e-ever-printed/

 

I think the other things you are missing are:

 

1) taking 10 minutes to print an object isn't a problem. It still beats getting something shipped to your home over a couple days, or driving ten minutes to the store shopping for what you want for ten minutes and then driving ten minutes back. And that's when we talk about printers with only a single head. Hundreds or even thousands of heads working together at one time change things drastically.

 

2) almost anything you can want could be printed from carbon in different configurations. Making a printer that makes essentially nano scale lego out of carbon would make the vast majority of things possible. (even star trek series made a distinction between general replicators and ones used in food and medicine). Carbon blocks in a printer can and would be molecularly stable until being used and bonded to each other. as stable as any diamond product.

 

3) carbon extraction from the air is possible, as are sources like leaf litter, feces, dust, food waste, lawn clippings, landfills, old books magazines and clothing, plastic bottles, toenail clippings and shaving.

 

Once the majority of your things are made most entirely of carbon you don't have to disassemble a leather purse to get carbon sources. You just scrap one carbon item for the blocks to build another.

 

and you don't make the block when you make the items, you just add raw materials to a recycler that stocks carbon blocks into a storage tank for feeding a printer.

 

4) http://www.thingiverse.com/ yes the files will be available for free. not everything, but we also don't have to pay $300 for a pair of jeans, some people choose to. Likewise you won't ever have to pay anything to print things you want or need, there will be a printable version of pretty munch everything freely available, some may pay for a brand name or whatnot though.

 

5) with all the above taken into consideration the only factor for difficulty is where does one get the energy to power such things? https://www.technolo...e-solar-panels/


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#11
sasuke2490

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http://www.zyvex.com...ch/howlong.html

Plotted on semilog paper as a function of year, such parameters as

  • the number of atoms required to store one bit
  • the number of dopant atoms in a transistor
  • the energy dissipated by a single logic operation
  • the resolution of the finest machining technology
  • many others

have all declined with remarkable regularity, even as the underlying technology base has changed dramatically. From relays to vacuum tubes to transistors to integrated circuits to Very Large Scale Integrated circuits (VLSI) we have seen steady declines in the size and cost of logic elements and steady increases in their performance.

If we extrapolate these trends we find they reach interesting values in the 2010 to 2020 time frame. The number of atoms required to store one bit in a mass memory device reaches 1. The number of dopant atoms in a transistor reaches 1, (while fundamental device physics might force us to use more than one dopant atom, it's clear that some not-too-large integer number should suffice). The energy dissipated by a single logic operation reaches kT for T=300 kelvins; this is roughly the energy of a single air molecule bouncing around at room temperature. The finest machining technologies reach a resolution of roughly an atomic diameter.

Such performance seems to require a manufacturing technology that can arrange individual atoms in the precise structures required for molecular logic elements, connect those logic elements in the complex patterns required for a computer, and do so inexpensively for billions of billions of gates. In short, if we're to keep the computer hardware revolution on schedule then it seems we'll have to develop nanotechnology in the 2010 to 2020 time frame.

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#12
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I'm unsure how this is relevant, but okay.



#13
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So what is the argument here?

First of all your description of 3D printing is relative to what? For if it is relative to the history of 3D printing then it is not an apt description. 3D printing has developed an an extraordinary pace. The resolution, materials, and speed have all increased immensely in the past decade.

As for reactions i don't understand what you mean Molecular manufacturing already happens in the body. You cannot just say "stuff reacts" and expect people to take that as an argument. Rememver that article i posted? Where Drexler and Smalley debated? No such thing as "atoms react and thus prevent the manufacturing of items". No i suppose the closest thing brougt up was the sticky fingers "problem".

A repicator depends on self replicating nano machines. The costs related to physical products will take the nosedive that computer chips have taken. A 50% deflation rate as these technologies advance bringing their costs asymptotically to zero.

The growth of computation is doubly exponential growth. 


#14
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I'm unsure how this is relevant, but okay.

it shows where we are not and where we will be in a decade or two 


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