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What Does Nano Mean for Economics?

DavidfriedmanThe next speaker is David Friedman, from the Santa Clara University School of Law, speaking on "What Would a Nanotech Economy Look Like" (personal homepage here, professional homepage here, abstract here).

Professor Friedman is trying to answer the basic questions that people have about nano-economics. Will we all be out of work if it's cheap and easy to manufacture every imaginable product? (No.) Aren't patents going to be a problem? (No, because patents aren't the kind of intellectual property we'll be dealing with. Most likely, when we get to the point of advanced nanotechnology, we'll be programming matter -- so we'll have to mostly be concerned with something like copyright, just like in programming software today.)

There are, Prof. Friedman suggests, two options to protect the world from the dangers of nanotechnology, and we can choose only one of those options. One option is to have government defend us (like in national defense today), and the other is private decisions to protect us (like private defenses against computer viruses). Prof. Friedman -- as you might guess from his writings on libertarianism and anarcho-capitalism -- prefers the latter.

Prof. Friedman refers the audience to a book he's writing, which is on the Web in draft form: Future Imperfect.

UPDATE: At the end of the conference, I asked Professor Friedman to explain on camera his argument about something like copyright, rather than patents, being the best model for the sort of intellectual property protections needed in the distant nanotech future. Click the picture below to see his response, in streaming Windows video:


October 23, 2004 in Ethical / Social Implications | Permalink


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