Snowcrashing Into The Diamond Age 2 (Part One) by Extropia DaSilva

Extropia DaSilva

Extropia DaSilva is back with another one of her fantastic essays. Enjoy! — Gwyn

In part one of this essay, we examined that most infamous of dystopian nanotech outcomes, the ‘grey goo’ of self-replicating machines. In this second part the view shall be widened as we examine how molecular manufacturing might affect society as a whole. I am obviously not the first person to attempt such a thing. In fact, ever since Drexler established the field with his books ‘Engines Of Creation’, ‘Unbounding The Future’ and ‘Nanosystems’, there have been no end of speculations regarding how society will adapt to this paradigm shift in engineering. Some of these speculations are decidedly dystopian, others defiantly utopian but if there’s anything their authors share in common it’s the fact that none of them have had first-hand experience of a society built on widespread access to molecular manufacturing. This is simply because the technology is still very much in the theoretical stage of development and no practical nanosystems currently exist.

However, I would argue that there does exist a society built around a manufacturing system that shares  certain similarities with molecular nanotechnology. There are no prizes for guessing that I am referring to Second Life. I believe that SL can serve two useful purposes as molecular nanotechnology emerges from vapourware. The first is that we can take those aforementioned speculations and see if they have come true in this prototype nanotech society. The second is that, as the metaverse develops, it may be possible to guide its evolution so that it represents a bridge that helps us cross over to a nanotech society as painlessly as possible.

Weaknesses in My Argument

Before we really get stuck in, there are some issues to clear out of the way. The first is to acknowledge that nanotechnology’s effect on society will be so far-reaching it would not be possible to fully examine every aspect of it. Omissions have to be made. On the dystopian side, I will not be discussing how war will be conducted in a world with widespread molecular nanotechnology, or whether its development decreases or increases the likelihood of conflict. Nor will I be discussing the possible negative environmental consequences of materials built at the nanometer scale. On the utopian side, I shall have nothing to say regarding the augmentation of human beings. There will be no discussions of ageless bodies or uploaded minds here.

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