Gem-gum goo

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This article defines a novel term (that is hopefully sensibly chosen). The term is introduced to make a concept more concrete and understand its interrelationship with other topics related to atomically precise manufacturing. For details go to the page: Neologism.

This article is speculative. It covers topics that are not straightforwardly derivable from current knowledge. Take it with a grain of salt. See: "exploratory engineering" for what can be predicted and what not.

Assuming in the future big catastrophes can be averted and advanced atomically precise gem-gum-technology widely grows in complexity Then there might come a point where gem-gum-tec (on an overall average) overtakes the complexity of life on earth.
The scenario of gaily colored gem-gum-goo. (In analogy to the dystopic horror tale of grey goo).

Looking at the richness and beauty of life on earth this seems to be a prospect to look forward to. But on another note life on earth is pretty hash with a situation of eating others or being eaten by others.

Actually evolutionary biotechnology (that is life on earth) and the artificial gem-gum-technology of the far future are totally different. they might not really be comparable. But for the sake of insight let's do it anyway. (Note: Beware of analogies to biological systems. They can be very misleading.)

Inventiveness through pressure

In nature the richness/variety of life emerged partly due to:

  • the harshness of the environment requiring various different optimizations to conquer different habitats and
  • the tightly packed / densely populated ecological niches requiring different optimizations to conquer their share of a specific habitat.

Unlike in nature the lifeless creations of humans (living in a harsh world) did not need these conditions to gain richness/variety. With advancing technology that thereby becomes more and more life like and physical this might change.

In case of successfully reaching advanced APM

Once humanity reaches the level of advanced atomically precise gem-gum-technology with it's ordres of magnitude in improvement for many performance parameters there'll most likely will be quite a stretch of time where humanity can rest on its laurels (for the most part). But then ...

Artificial predators - making life difficult for ourselves

Even today (2016) we already crate malware so some amount of physical malware will likely be unpreventable in the future. More aggressive computer viruses & co are to expect. Extending to the physical realm too. If there's a multi party long term arms race going on for a long time (similar to biological evolution -- we are looking on the very far future here) then it is thinkable that the analogy of gem-gum-technology to life grows much stronger.

Instead of ecological niches there are now "mechanospherological" niches where the boundaries are much further out than those of biological life. Temperature and energy plays much less of a role. Likely remaining "habitat" limits are e.g.

  • nearness to the sun
  • nearness to hot planetary cores
  • nearness to interplanetary space where travel times become unpractical long (Oorth cloud)

When the "mechanospherological" niches finally get filled up to the brim (that is the hole material of the solar systems asteroid belt got used up) merely existing will be harsh. That would be in essence a zero sum game and would if going on for a prolonged period of time likely cause an end to civilization (whatever it is that lives then dies).

A way out?

But there might be further inventions preventing such an end. Currently these inventions are by definition not accessible even by exploratory engineering. So they are pure fantasy and talking about them can at best be beneficial for entertainment.

One such SciFi fantasy technology regularly popping up is femto-technology. For people without much knowledge in the field it seems natural to just use nucleons instead of atoms as building blocks. But this specific approach to our best knowledge absolutely cannot work. Note the formulation: "this specific approach". We cannot say anything in general about the avoidability or unavoidability of getting trapped in the aforementioned way. (See: Impossibility) On the longest thinkable term what we need to do is to to defer thermal death. Our far successors (may they come this far) may rout around the problem from a completely other side.

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