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Re: <nettime> DNA and computers
Ognjen Strpic on Mon, 8 Sep 2003 16:42:25 +0200 (CEST)


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Re: <nettime> DNA and computers


Eduardo Navas <eduardo {AT} navasse.net>:
> This vibe was all over the labs, and I felt like the director was
> frustrated not just with the corporations but the incentives driving the
> minds of the young researchers.  I do find it very problematic, as I did not
> learn about one project being developed without direct money rewards being
> involved.  Sad but true.

that's exactly what I meant. on one hand, this vibe is characterictic
to technology/engineering, but now it infected nano _sciences_, where it
is as odds with the whole spirit of scientific enquiry as a creative
process. maybe I'm being naive here, and nanotech certainly isn't the
only field affected, but, hell, what a shame. 

> From: "ricardo dominguez" <rdom {AT} thing.net>
> 
> Hola,

Zdravo!

Thank you and Soenke for announcing the Cancun gathering. hope it'll
turn out as good as it sounds. keep us posted!

> I remember sitting around under the dark skies of Tallahassee, Fl with
> some of the old CAE crew yakking about the Engines of Creation when it
> first came out (1986-7): http://www.foresight.org/EOC/index.html I did
> think it was important to start disturbing these engines early...but,
> the sense was that the Public Ear was not ready to hear about it.

...

> Drexler states that those working with nanotechnology must accept
> that, ".the future capabilities of MNT also raise an unprecedented set
> of military, security and environmental issues. Dealing with these
> issues proactively will be critical to the positive development of the
> field." That's what scientists said when talk of splitting the atom as
> possibility was contemplated.  It did not help the outcome.

ok, but I got the feeling that there's a deeper disagreement with you
and Drexler, beside social responsibilities of the scientist. if I got
that right, what is it? Foresight Institute may be one place to blame
for current trends in nanotech, but my sense is that they do foster
discussion and keep what's left of creative initiatives alive. check
http://www.foresight.org

> pps Here is a little tale I did a couple of years ago that has floated
> around...mostly recently
> on http://www.intelligentagent.com
> 
> 
> Nano-fest Destiny 3.0: Fragments from the Post-Biotech Era

whoa, fantastic story. I wish I knew about it then. this paragraph 

> The market containment of MNT is now under a double re-configuration:
> first, the economic enclosure of scientific speculation as a new
> market engine and, second, as a technological displacement of economy
> as a historical drive. At the same moment that MNT is being embraced
> as part of the general economy, its internal objective trajectory
> signs it speculations with a vision of material scarcity as the
> governing doctrine of Capital finally ending.  Capital under the sign
> of MNT enters slow eraser. The exploratory engineers working on
> Nanotech see the end of Capital. Indeed History as Capital will now be
> re-shifted into History as Assembler. The historical shift of an
> economic embrace of an anti-market science will expand into assembler
> networks - exchange will become based on design values as distribution
> and not as Capital.

seems crucial to me. however, do you still believe that the premise,
nanotech as a means of abolishment of material scarcity, holds? 

nano science is obviously an anti-market science, and extremely hungry
for capital, too -- comparable to high-end microprocessor production
today, which is availably only to the richest (can you see any African
CPUs around?).  if you're right, my conclusion would probable be that
design values-based _capital_ would triumph over material goods-based
capital. but, I don't see that revolutionary social consequences
necessarily follow. the richest man in the world today is in the
business of exploiting design values, not of exploiting raw materials,
isn't he? 

earlier in your post you wrote

> Tactical media, bio-interventionist and critical theory sectors should
> have already been involved in disturbing nanotechnology by the late
> 1980's when it was first being defined for the engineering sectors as
> a sign moving from a speculative model to a sanctioned exploratory
> zone. At this point in time not even Bill Joy's (cofounder and Chief
> Scientist of Sun Microsystems) rant "Why the Future Doesn't Need Us",
> which appeared in Wired in 2001, about the ramifications of molecular
> nanotechnology will do little more than alter a few micro points of a
> revised MNT Guidelines by the Foresight Institute.

and I agree with you, but am afraid I don't have that tactical ace up my
sleeve. if your card was design values capital, then I think it isn't
strong enough. nanotech by itself (may I predict :-) won't bring about
any significant new patterns of redistribution, although some substitute
products in low-end nanotech may alleviate some burden off of poor, but
then again not poorest people (about substutute products see De Landa,
Thousand years of non-linear history).

there's (at least) one ingredient missing in your vision of nano
revolution, and my prime suspect is the regulation of intellectual
property, esp. patent law. this has been largely discussed in the
context of biotech and software, so I'll just say that many of the same
points are applicable in nanotech, too.

just one more minor thing,

> As Drexler first warned in Engines of Creation: The Coming Era of
> Nanotechnology (1986):
> 
> "Among the cognoscenti of nanotechnology, this threat has become known
> as the "gray goo syndrome." Though masses of uncontrolled replicators
> need not be gray or gooey, the term "gray goo" emphasizes that
> replicators able to obliterate life might be less inspiring than a
> single species of crabgrass.  They might be superior in an
> evolutionary sense, but this need not make them valuable.  The gray
> goo threat makes one thing perfectly clear: We cannot afford certain
> kinds of accidents with replicating assemblers.  Gray goo would surely
> be a depressing ending to our human adventure on Earth, far worse than
> mere fire or ice, and one that could stem from a simple laboratory
> accident."

as far as I know, the story of gray goo has been abandoned by
nanoscientists as a remotely realistic danger... don't have the
references nearby, but you can browse sci.nanotech archives, some good
pointers appeared there.

long live the storytellers!
Ognjen

> [Video Fades to Black]

Brian Holmes <brian.holmes {AT} wanadoo.fr>:
> Can you even imagine what a million dollars will buy?

I often do. guilty as charged 

> The upshot of this is that pretty much all people who let their 
> excellence develop in a way and in a place where it can be recognized 
> by the socially dominant powers become totally subservient to their 
> magnetic attraction.

being kind of an easy-to-become-pessimistic person, I think this
predicament is too grim. actually, most people have this "dream of
million dollars" when they choose their profession, and it often doesn't
mean that this fantasy blur their vision so completely. I _know_ that
most computer programmers are by all means aware that they are in a very
lucrative field, and they didn't enter it unconscious of this fact. but
that doesn't prevent many of them to write free software.

> The few exceptions (for instance, the current "stars" of the various
> political resistance movements) are constantly balanced on a knife
> edge where their omnipresent reflection in the media screen is the
> only barrier that keeps them from falling to the temptation to simply
> and immediately profit from a personal capital which, they know, is in
> constant danger of suddenly deteriorating and becoming nothing.

this is a fine point. one may think about what would happen if big
business weren't so protected and financial capital became similary
volatile. 

another thing is that pressures of one's social environment force (or
used to force) people to account for their personal capital when
considering their financial decisions; when being rich became a virtue,
this system of checks and balances fell apart. my, what a conservativist
statement that was! then again, one of the things political left may mean
is arguing for some kind of introducing and preserving some different
non-economical values, so...

> I am afraid that "visionaries," technological and otherwise, become
> extremely rare under these conditions.

probably. and it's bad for business, both social and financial.

thank you all for your comments
Ognjen

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