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Re: (Fwd) 1995 Nanotechnology Conference

At 9:00 AM 8/23/95, J. Kent Hastings wrote:

>Tim says that quantum codebreaking and nanotech ain't gonna happen,
>because of things he explained in the past on the list, now available in
>the archive. I found a great Web version of the cypherpunks archive at http:
>//www.hks.net/cpunks/index.html and will indeed catch up on the
>quantum coherence subject.

I didn't mean to sound so dismissive, just that we've been around and
around on this one, and it's very, very, very far off. Some interesting
philosophical interests, but no evidence that the "instant factorization"
will ever be feasible.

>RSA Data Security printed an article in their newsletter, by one of the
>inventors of working quantum cryptography, which stated that there is
>a risk of cracking RSA because of efficient hardware factorization. Why
>would they make this up about their own product? OK Tim, I'll catch up
>before making further comments on quantum codebreaking.

They put this stuff in their newsletters because they have to fill space,
it's a sexy topic, and it's been in the news. But they won't keep running
the same article every few months, which is my main point.

>Now about nanotech: The Moore(?) scale mentioned here says the
>processing power of hardware capacity doubles every 12 or 18 months for
>a given amount of money. In about 20 years only nanotech will be on the
>curve. Will hardware progress just come to a grinding halt then or what?
>What's going on here? I thought cpunx were pro-nanotechnology.

Well, though this will sound like name-dropping, I know both Gordon Moore
of Intel and Eric Drexler of nanotechnology fame. In fact, I used to go to
Ted Kaehler's "Assembler Multitudes" nanotech discussion group in Palo
Alto, every month for a couple of years. So, I follow nanotech pretty

And it's as far off now as it was in 1985 when I first met Eric. (Well, not
technically, but essentially.)

Moore's Law is an observation of past behavior, not a law of nature. Gordon
thought the curve would "slow down" around 1980 or so. It didn't, for
various reasons. But many of us expect it will.

Consider that a new wafer fab capable of building these "Moore's Law"
devices has increased in price from about $50 million a couple of decades
ago to about $1.5 billion today. Lots of reasons for this, which I won't go
into here (yes, discussions may be found in the archives!). If this
"Barrett's Law" trend continues, the cost of a new wafer fab will equal the
GNP sometime around 2020.

Before anyone (Kent?) mentions table-top nanotech factories, ha!

Anyway, there are discussion groups for nanotech. Plenty of places to
discuss the progress and lack of progress. Not even the simplest logic
device has ever been built out of molecular gears and whatnot, and the
claim that biotech will be the route to nanotech is of course only

This is why I think nanotech discussion is inappropriate for this list.
More specifically, why I think vague promises about what nanotech may
someday mean are far afield from any real issues.

--Tim May

Timothy C. May              | Crypto Anarchy: encryption, digital money,
[email protected]  408-728-0152 | anonymous networks, digital pseudonyms, zero
Corralitos, CA              | knowledge, reputations, information markets,
Higher Power: 2^756839      | black markets, collapse of governments.
"National borders are just speed bumps on the information superhighway."