Degrees of abundance

From: Brian Atkins (
Date: Thu Jun 23 2005 - 09:52:19 MDT

Dani Eder wrote:
> --- Samantha Atkins <> wrote:
>>In my view MNT is essential if we are to get to a
>>truly Abundant world
>>on multilple levels congruent with our benevolent
>>goals and perhaps
>>essential to human survival. Many of the current
>>global tensisions
>>that threaten devastation play off of actual or
>>assumed scarcity.
> Please explain why highly automated macroscale
> manufacturing would not serve to generate abundance.
> As an example of highly automated, the computer chip
> company AMD is proposing building a 3rd factory
> near Dresden, Germany with an investment of
> $3 million per worker:
> and an output of 30,000 cpus per worker per year.
> This chip factory, by the way, is expected to
> produce CPUs with 45 nm feature size. One could
> say this _is_ boderline nanotech, since you are
> almost as close to nanometer scale as micrometer
> scale.

I'll jump in and mention some things that occurred to me:

1. Samantha may be after a more personalized form of abundance. In your AMD case
for instance, the customer can have any kind of CPU they want for relatively
little money, as long as it is one of the few AMD designs. If they want
something custom though then they have to go elsewhere. Now, you can argue that
eventually advanced macroscale automation could provide extensive customization
on a one-off basis very cheaply, but I'm not sure I would buy that argument. For
one example, in many current manufacturing processes there are very expensive
molds (or litho masks in the example of chips) that have to be created for any
given design. Some of this expense could be reduced through automation, but some
of it would seem to be driven purely by macroscale manufacturing process
inefficiency, and therefore will always cause one-off things to be significantly
more expensive.

2. AMD's proposed fab is estimated in the $3 billion region of cost. This trend
of increasing cost of manufacturing /facilities/ seems to be continuing even as
more automation is used. Will a complete end-to-end automated manufacturing
system for cars, including all their parts, cost more or less than current car
manufacturing plants? If it costs quite a bit more, what does this mean for a
smaller company or entrepreneur who wants to create a competing but different
product? And will even the big companies really be able to sell goods that much
more cheaply if they have to be constantly repaying large debts they incurred
for their factories? Sure, costs charged to customers will probably drop
somewhat, but how much really?

3. Degrees of abundance. So I think there are clearly different degrees here
that can be imagined. Samantha is probably envisioning a "higher" degree both in
even cheaper costs (free or nearly, rather than just cutting my yearly living
expense by some percentage), and in even more personalization of products than
you may be. She also seems to mention things like aging which may literally
require MNT, and may not be solvable using macroscale therapies/products.

Brian Atkins
Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence

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