Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Radical Abundance: How a Revolution in Nanotechnology Will Change Civilization...

Radical Abundance: How a Revolution in Nanotechnology Will Change Civilization...

Or the author has lost the plot.

I was told to read this book by Philippe van Nedervelde. It would show me the error in my ways in believing in scarcity. The author, K. Eric Drexler has not really come a long way from his 1986 book. He has changed some terms and added the information revolution.

He is right in somethings. The technology he speaks of is around a corner, but not one as close as he proposes. Just as it was not in the book of the 80's where we should all be in abundance. He is again wrong for the same reasons.

One area is an assumption of wants and needs based on today's systems. We know of many materials that will remain expensive. The introduction of the techniques in the book will change society, but they will not remove scarcity.

First, we have to remember that the elements that make many of the items the author talks of will become more and not less scarce. Even common elements such as lithium will become more in demand. Far more than they are now as we move to more advanced materials. This is an increased scarcity, not a removal of economics, a need for more price controls through a market.

Next, we have a remarkable range of new materials. Even assembled on the nano scale, these will not all be manufactured quickly. There will be both time and material limits in the creation of new good.

The author even states how we will progress to control the unknown and unpredictable. He does make a large unscientific flaw here that many now in big data do, he has confused correlation with causation. We remain a long way to understanding the cause of many relationships and the "solutions" are not ones that provide a causal effect.

In adding these technologies, we need to also consider that lower costs in currently difficult to create products will make these mainstream, but at a cost. It will also allow expensive materials. But it will not remove scarcity.

I have more to read, I am just on Chapter 8. But I do not see much better coming from the author.

So far, it is an updated and still wrong version of his work from the 80's. If you take it as a list of great new technology and forget the silly biases and failure to see that new technology brings new challenges, it is ok. But I would not spend money on it (though I did).

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