Four Revolutions Compared: Agriculture, Industry, Information, and APM

by Eric Drexler on 2013/11/04

The following table is excerpted from the new report, NANO: Nano-Solutions for the 21st Century (the full report is available from the Oxford Martin School here).

“HT-APM” refers to high-throughput atomically precise manufacturing, a critical development on the horizon of advanced nanotechnology.

The Agricultural Revolution

Provided new means of producing food and materials by exploiting the productive capabilities of the molecular nanosystems found in living organisms.

Encouraged stable settlement and land improvement, multiplied population densities by factors of on the order of 10. Made possible the development of cities and civilization.

The Industrial Revolution

Provided new means of producing material objects by exploiting the potential of artificial mechanical systems on a human scale.

Multiplied productive capacity by a net factor now on the order of 100, during a period of 200 years. Made possible new products, new ways of life, and ongoing changes in the structure of civilization.

The Information Revolution

Provided new means of processing information using tiny, high-frequency components to manipulate and organize information in ultimate detail: patterns of bits in data.

Multiplied information processing capacity an exponentially growing factor (roughly 2 per year), now >109. Made possible new kinds of information products and new ways to organize the material and human world, resulting in ongoing changes in the structure of society.

The APM Revolution

Will provide new means of producing material objects:

Like the Agricultural Revolution, it will exploit molecular nanosystems.

Like the Industrial Revolution, it will use artificial mechanical systems.

Like the Digital Revolution, it will use tiny, high-frequency components to manipulate and organize something in ultimate detail: patterns of atoms in products.

Compared to present industry, HT-APM will enable
an enormous increase in throughput and efficiency
of converting raw materials into high-performance, high-efficiency, zero-emission products, potentially multiplying productive capacity (measured by delivered product function, not mass) by a large factor (10 to 100) in a short time.

Compared to present digital systems, the high performance of products of APM can increase machine capacities by >109.

Compared to present agriculture, abundant but conventional capital stock can be used to optimize growing conditions. Experimental results which have demonstrated the potential to increase grain production per hectare by a factor of roughly 10.

Can avert disastrous environmental effects of the Industrial Revolution, and willl make possible new products, new ways of life, and ongoing changes in the structure of civilization.


Download the full report:
NANO: Nano-Solutions for the 21st Century


My new book, Radical Abundance, includes a chapter that explores this comparison in greater depth. This is one of several chapters that examine APM from a range of perspectives — my favorite is “The Look and Feel of the Nanoscale World”.


{ 0 comments… add one now }

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: