Econ of Nano, AI

My January talk at Foresight 2010, Economics of Nanotech and AI, is now available: video, slides.  Seems I had a habit of messing my hair while talking.  Silly me.

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  • Steve Roth


    Your augment/replace waterline model is, IMHO, profound. To bring it down to our current situation:

    Have we reached that plateau? Perhaps sometime in the 70s, give or take?

    Is it related to the limits of (aggregate) human cognitive capacity? IOW, since 50% of people have an IQ below 100, and “valuable” knowledge-worker tasks are requiring ever-greater cognitive skills, can the ameliorating effects of education continue to maintain the augment/replace ratio?

    Since machines currently are not people, but are owned by people (so the machines’ earnings go to the owners), could this explain the increasing wealth and income disparities (labor vs. capital, wages versus rents) in recent decades?

    Re: your much-less-than-satisfying answer to the question about Germany’s success (highly industrialized, but with major social programs): is it possible that in order to maintain demand for ever-more-efficient productive capacity, government redistribution is a necessity? No–not at 1,000 times some imagined level, but somehow relative to per-capita shares of production?

    Given that individual utility functions (as measured by “happiness”) seem to flat-line at about $15K in annual income in developing countries, about $60K in the U.S. (yes, iffy stuff, but the threshold/flat-line seems likely at some level), can the demand from a small cadre of owners–who don’t “value” most goods very highly–provide the demand necessary to keep the economic log rolling?

    Could the absence of this widespread demand–making it difficult for capital to find productive investments that pay a good return–explain the massive increase in “casino investing” over recent decades? A desperate search for returns in a world where demand does not reward valuable production?

    IOW, could the Luddites (finally) be right? Even a stopped clock…

  • Chris

    We may have reached the limits of how quickly human society can readily absorb technical change (it may have also reached its limits in physically deploying it). Before a technology can be readily used, society has to figure out exactly how to use it and restructure around it.

    Case in point: Information is now effectively free and its spread is instantaneous. This has already occurred, but society has not completely adapted to it or figured out how to properly use it. Nor has it solved its biggest problem – how to separate good information from bad (cost and barriers to entry provided this service in the past).

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  • psychologist

    I thought both of the questions at the end were silly.

    Great video though.

  • Nanonymous

    Modeling entire cell is no more feasible than modeling entire world economy. Actually, it’s much more difficult than that. Simplistic models for special cases – sure. A model that faithfully describes every cell behavior – no way. If that’s the only path toward AI by copying, then it is as unlikely as AI de novo.

  • Karl Smith


    I think you are underestimating the potential impact of nanotech. Nanotech in it’s most blue sky form is mot about transforming manufacuring. It is about transforming the entire material economy. This means retail, wholesale, transportation, construction, utilities, manfacturing, food service and health care.

    If the material world can be precisely and cheaply altered by machines then deciding what to do and programing machines to do it will dominate human occupations.

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  • elmo

    yeah.. what was with the question at the end about the guy who didn’t believe that modern economies are actually growing. Something about paranoid mistrust of gov’t data. weird.

    If I didn’t know any better, I’d say he sounded a bit like Michael Vassar.

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