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What do you think the future looks like?

I think it looks like a rising tide of technology that expands capabilities toward limits set by fundamental physical law -- thermodynamics, strength of chemical bonds, and so on.

I think that this process will blow away the resource limits that almost everyone in this conversation imagines, and that (yes), these advances will enable cheap access to space, abundant solar energy, etc., etc. That is, all that stuff that becomes easy if you get really good at making things. Physics seems to say that we're very bad at this today.

And no, this won't solve all our problems. Expanded capabilities will instead create a vast tangle of unexpected problems that sensible people won't discuss  until it is very late in the game, for fear of being called Utopians or Cassandras (on alternate days).

Two queries, for perspective:

If we were near the limits of material technology, how could it be that the biological world produces gigatons per year of cheap, atomically precise structures, while modern industry spends billions of dollars on semiconductor fabs that spit out mere tons of chips per year, and these covered with big, blobby structures containing millions of atoms apiece?

If we were near the limits of information technology, how could it be that brains (based on <1000 Hz devices) are smart, while current computers (based on >1,000,000,000 Hz devices) are stupid?

Note that neither molecular technologies nor information technologies are resource intensive, and that both are moving fast. I think that the real limits to growth aren't where most people imagine. For better, or for worse.

Words and ideas I offer here may be used freely and without attribution.

by technopolitical on Mon Apr 10th, 2006 at 05:08:13 AM EST

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