We're in for a wild ride. Exponentially accelerating technological, cultural, and socioeconomic evolution means that every year will see more developments than the previous one. More change will happen between now and 2050 than during all of humanity's past. Let's explore the 21st century and ride this historic wave of planetary transition with a confident open mind.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Third Industrial Revolution

Nanotechnological manufacturing will have more impact on humanity in a few decades than agricultural/industrial revolutions had over thousands of years. Such rapid change in production/distribution will push towards global unification to prevent potentially devastating occurrences

As of today, every major state power in the world is actively pursuing nanotechnological breakthroughs to give itself a geopolitical advantage. Public and private enterprises are seeing sharp increases in financial and logistical support. Although the global economic depression weighs down the hands of many civilian branches (legislative/executive) by increased centrifugal pulls of populist and oligarchic factions, military leaderships and intelligence services understand that allowing foreign powers to make a nanotech leap can be disastrous. Whichever society is able to produce the first fabricator is but a few steps away from being able to cheaply and exponentially produce advanced weaponry and weapons systems in bulk. Even Iran is dabbling with nanotech lately by giving Ministry of Agricultural Jihad (ministry name not a joke, check the link) some money for agricultural product research. Whether they'll be making better fertilizer or better fertilizer bombs remains to be seen. Supposedly there's already been some nanotech use in an explosive device that had more destructive power than US's MOAB while being lighter in weight.

In recent years we saw an increasing number of breakthroughs in manufacturing processes of nanoscale parts. The advancements stand to produce larger quantity as well as better quality of objects on the scale needed to build the first fabricator. This video shows a visual sketch to give a person an idea of how an advanced fabricator (one made a number of version generations after the first proto fabricator is created) in mid 21st century can produce publicly approved items.

The processes shown in the video might seem fantastical and impossible but a number of scientists (such as the polymath Richard Feynman a few decades ago) have shown that there is nothing standing in the way from the side of physics. As of 2009, dozens of very optimistic research papers have not been shown to be completely wrong yet. We also have plentiful evidence of advanced nanotechnological systems working splendidly due to the presence of self replicating machinery such as cells in plants, animals, bacteria, and human beings. There is also not one single manufacturing process (to assemble parts for the first crude fabricator and put them together) to be derailed since a number of roads within biology and chemistry can lead to same desired results.

I have written how existing non-nano mass production technology is already capable of feeding and providing a basic material stipend to all people in the world and how that is slowly and painfully leading to global unification efforts. Creation of the first factory producing product on nano level will put a nail in the coffin of defining economics as a study of allocating scarce resources. Although different branches of economics try to parade themselves as empirical science, economics has been estranged from empirical research into human welfare for over half a century. Nanotechnology will reunite economics with research into material logistics of how much energy is needed to constantly raise the minimum human welfare (and correspondingly how many more fabricators are needed to mass produce parts of new energy plants to power production of new material goods for all). Technocratic societal organization as a concept will re-emerge again after having been stifled under the disastrous ideological jihads of the 20th century. Both varieties of state capitalism in Soviet Union and United States overlooked the empirically proven possibilities of providing for their people.

The sheer transformative potential of the first fabricator (to change human condition more in a few decades than agricultural and industrial revolutions did over thousands of years) makes control over nanotechnology development top issue for world's power elites. The most likely scenario will be creation of international protocols concerning non-proliferation of dangerous nano technologies. The protocols can only extend further with time since:

1) knowledge of fabricator production may be easier to spread than that of nuclear warheads
2) energy needed for fabricator production and then energy to feed the fabricators may be a lot lower than uranium refining
3) fabricators will be able to mass produce deadly viruses and explosives to be used by non-state actors

It is thus logical that key technologically advanced countries will follow their eventual economic unification with political unification. This in turn will be followed with the North Hemispheric block (EU, North American Union, Europe, Russia, Japan, China) extending into global political unification of either imperial non-exploitative nature (Soviet model of unification), imperial exploitative nature (Anglo-Saxon model of unification), or most likely an imperial hybrid of both (EU model).

This will be to keep tight control over nanoscale production and to prevent large scale violent crime by non-state actors that is motivated by either luddite, ideological, or religious reasons. Western elites have been blabbing their mouths for some time now about economic global unification under the guise that "only international cooperation can solve global problems". Gordon Brown ( the leader of a country that is in much worse debt situation than United States proportional to its population) has had the nerve recently to say world needs to work together to solve things like hunger. Such blatant attempts by Anglo-Saxon leaderships to weasel out of national bankruptcies and acquire greater control over south hemispheric natural resources will fail. Economic and then political global unification will occur however with Eurasia in the political driving seat. Only this backdrop can properly release the third industrial revolution of nanotechnology manufacturing while greatly reducing potential for violence.

China and Russia have been funding large scale crash programs in nanotech development (Moscow is now determined to match US in annual public investment dollar for dollar). They however lack the benefits that years of investment has brought to nanotech research in the West. They also don't have the benefit of decentralized nanotech laboratories with enormous private funding. It is thus logical that the rapid construction of centralized nanotech centers by Chinese and Russians is to make use of the nanotech intelligence acquired through industrial espionage (or mass hiring of foreign talent after economic crisis deepens in the West). They will be prepared to rapidly emulate efforts in case breakthroughs occurs in Japan, South Korea, Western Europe, or United States.

Some give the name of third industrial revolution to the rapid increase in globalized capitalism. That is a historically incorrect way of looking at advances in manufacturing and agricultural processes. Globalization just changed the location of production whereas the second industrial revolution rapidly changed the quality and quantity of industrial products through better technological application of technology such as the assembly line. Having cars made abroad by former peasants to save money is not revolutionary when it comes to material progress. Neither is it revolutionary to use technology to move capital investments around rapidly to places where these peasant workers are willing to labor more to survive. Nothing evolutionary industrial in moving capital where the proles are under more crude coercion.

Nano level assembly will usher in such an exponential technological increase in manufacturing productivity that all socioeconomic systems we're familiar will rapidly disappear from sight. There will be a much larger break between a post scarcity world than one between a hunter gatherer world and an agricultural world (not mentioning the rather small differential jump from feudalism to capitalism).

Amidst these dark economic times and convulsions of inefficient market systems, there is a lot of optimism to be had. Economic depression is more likely to drive a company to try to offer an advanced product that is not just a tiny incremental difference over the old version. Nokia for example recently had refocused its research money towards luxury high end phones (demand for luxury items doesn't really dip during bursting of bubbles unsurprisingly). People are less likely to buy an object that is just a mild improvement such as a Pentium 4 was over Pentium 3. Hard economic times lead to greater application of new technology and pushes companies to offer something new enough to be worth buying. The more misery that this shrinking economy creates the more hopeful and amazing the possibilities of nanotech production will seem.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

No comments:

Post a Comment