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The Nanotech Network by Alexander Lazarevich. [Part 1]


Part Two: Something wonderful is going to happen


2.1. Gloomy morning. July 6, 1997, Moscow, 7 A.M.

Alexei Levshov went out onto the landing closing behind him the door to his apartment and started locking it up. The rundown-looking door was made of wood and badly needed a new coat of paint. There was only one lock in it. Almost immediately Levshov heard behind his back a series of loud clicks as the many locks in the new armored metal door on the opposite side of the landing started to unlock.

- Thats strange - thought Alexei. It was only on rare occasions that his neighbor got up so early. His neighbor who lived behind the armored door was known to everybody in neighborhood from his earliest childhood as Mityai. Actually his name was Dmitrii, but it is amazing how many diminutives there are in the Russian language for any name, each diminutive expressing a certain distinct attitude towards the person. If Dimitrii had been a well-behaved boy, everybody would have called him Dima or Mitiya, but Mityai suggested someone unruly, and unruly he was. As a kid he was considered a local imbecile. When he was 13 he landed up in a labor camp for juvenile delinquents for stabbing somebody with a knife, not to death, though. He served his term of several years and came back. Then came the new policy, the Prestroika. Mityai became one of the so-called New Russians - that is, the newly rich, and started buying for himself expensive foreign-made cars, one after another. Nobody knew exactly what was the nature of his business, but there were some dark rumors whispered around the neighborhood that Mityai had become a hit man, a killer - one of the many words that Russian language has borrowed from English during the Perestroika years.

The armored door opened. Mityai appeared in the doorway. He wore dark glasses and black leather costume adorned with multiple gold chains. He cast a disparaging glance at Levshovs old suit that was coming apart at the seams and said: You are wearing rags, old man. Our Science has gone completely to seed!

Mityai never passed up a chance to pick on Levshov, who had gotten used to it long ago and did not pay any attention. This time, as always, he left Mityai to lock up all his locks and went downstairs. Mityay caught up with him in the yard. Twirling the keys of his new Mercedes-Benz car around his finger, he clapped Levshov on the shoulder and said: Listen, Science, Ill give you a hundred bucks, buy yourself some decent trousers, cause you look disgusting.

Levshov froze in his tracks. He felt a wave of anger rising inside himself, while Mityai continued in the same impertinent tone: Lets take you, Science, as an example. You studied all your life, and all youve got for it is living like a homeless dog. And as for me, they threw me out of school when I was in the eighth grade for bad behavior and all that, but I now live as a Man. And you know why? Its because in the past the Communists were perverting the economy, but now the Free Market has come and shown everybodys true worth. And it turned out that Im a valuable member of society, cause Im in demand. But there is no demand for you, and so it turns out that your science is shit and you are a piece of shit yourself. Take the bill. Mityai shoved a one hundred dollar bill into Levshovs fist and started walking towards his Mercedes car.

Levshov felt a wave of hatred and anger flooding his soul like water that burst a dam. For a fraction of a second, through the mist of choking frenzy, he had in his minds eye a fleeting vision of all the power of NanoTech coming down upon Mityai, exploding this impudently smirking nonentity into a myriad of tiny fragments, smearing his remains all over the wall, splattering them on the blacktop.

Stop this! Being the NanoTech Network System Administrator means not only to be in possession of powers beyond imagination, it also means bearing an unimaginable responsibility. The First Commandment of the Nanotech Network System Administrator reads: Thou shalt not make decisions in wrath.

NANOTECH - mentally said Levshov. And although he pronounced this command only in his mind, without any audible sound, the cyborg-bacteria that were permanently hooked up to the nerve fibers going from Levshovs brain to the muscles of his throat, easily picked up those weakest action currents that are always generated when we want to say something, even when we say it inaudibly, to ourselves. The cyborg-bacteria took only one thousandth of a second to decipher the action current patterns in the nerve fibers and to understand that what they had received was the system activation command. One more thousandth of a second later, the cyborg-bacteria that were permanently hooked up to the nerve fibers going from Levshovs ear to his brain sent into these fibers a sequence of pulses, which, upon arrival to his brain, were perceived by it as a sequence of sounds, namely as words enunciated by a pleasant, radio announcers voice: SYSTEM READY. The further commands-and-messages exchange between Alexei Levshov and the NanoTech System was as follows:





Millions of cyborg-bacteria residing in Alexeis body immediately got down to work. In a second he felt an icy calmness come over him.



So, - said Alexei to himself - Firstly, disclosing the existence of the NanoTech network now would mean bringing the whole effort to ruin. Secondly, Mityai is an imbecile and a ruffian, but it is not his fault. He was made an imbecile by his parents, who conceived him when they were drunk. He was made a ruffian by the existing political regime. In the future, NanoTech might be able to correct both, and that means that potentially he is a human being, and therefore, he should be treated as a human being, and not as a bug to be smeared all over the wall.

In the meanwhile, Mityai who was absolutely unaware of the terrible fate that he had just escaped so narrowly, sat into his Mercedes and stuck his head out of the window: Goodbye, Science. A client waits for me. He took a hand gun out of the glove compartment, released a safety catch, and tossed it back. Suddenly, a new idea struck him, and he once again poked his head out of the window and said:

- And you know, Science, whats funny? I have no orders for finishing off your kind, I mean, scientists. I have orders for businessmen, for politicians, even for journalists. But no orders for scientists. You are not even worth killing. Thats how the things stand. Supply and demand. The invisible hand of the market. Adam Smith. Thats what I call real science!

He bared his teeth, showing a gold tooth, in what was probably meant to be a smile, stepped on the gas, made a complete circuit around the yard, at full speed ran the car into a puddle splashing water all over Levshov, and roaring with insane laughter rode into the street and was gone.

Levshov looked at the one hundred dollar bill in his hand, put it into his pocket, calmly shook the water droplets off, and headed for the bus stop. One hundred dollars almost amounted to his two months salary at the research institute. But even this pittance have not been paid him for the last four months.

2.2 The nightmare continues One hour later, Institute for Molecular Biology Studies, Moscow.

If a researcher on the staff of the Institute for Molecular Biology Studies had fallen into a lethargic sleep ten years ago, to be awaken only today to come and visit his institute, such visit would have left him in a state of complete shock. His first thought would have been that while he was asleep, some terrible and irredeemable calamity had happened. What once had been a proud edifice of shining glass and polished marble, erected back in the days when science was proclaimed to be a productive force of society, was now reduced to a state of decay and desolation, covered with layers of dirt, with many of the glasses broken and replaced with plywood. Inside, he would have seen deserted corridors - the staff was reduced to one tenth of what it had used to be and the people who were left were mostly those approaching their retirement age. True, he would have also seen some young people, who surely did not look like intellectuals and were carrying some boxes to and from lab rooms. Upon entering one of such rooms (if only he had been allowed to), he would have been shocked to see the valuable scientific instruments piled up into a heap in a corner, while the room itself had been converted into a warehouse for a commercial company dealing in ladies boots, or wallpaper, or some such stuff. In the Institutes scientific library he would not have been able to find even one scientific book published within the last five years. He would be astounded to see that librarians had been allowed to turn the library into a store selling all kinds of things that had absolutely nothing to do with books. True, among these sundry things he would indeed have been able to find some newly published books, but not scientific, but rather antiscientific in character: books on astrology, chiromancy, occultism, black magic and witchcraft, and so on, which would have led him to the conclusion that civilization is dead, and the mankind has been thrown back into the Dark Ages.

People can get used to the most horrible changes, especially if these changes dont happen overnight, but are spread over several years. And people got used to them and resigned themselves to them.

Alexei Levshov also got used to them. But never resigned.

That day, when he got to his work, he stopped for a second before a notice-board in the corridor. The most recently posted notice began with the words: In view of the fact that the employees of our research institute have not been paid their salaries for the last four months, the collective members of the research staff have petitioned the city authorities that they should not impose fines for arrears of rent and electricity bills. Alexei skipped reading the rest, and stepped into the room where his lab was based. One glance at the faces of his staff was enough to tell him that something was wrong.

- I have made up my mind - said a researcher, young woman with her face turned to stone - I have nothing to feed my kids with. I have made up my mind.

Everybody in the lab knew the story of this single mother. One old and loathsome New Russian had been propositioning her for a long time, offering lots of money.

Alexei came up to her desk, bent to her and said in a low voice: I cant explain to you everything now, I have no right to, but I want you to know that this nightmare - he made a sweeping gesture - will soon be over. I implore you to refrain from making any rash decisions. You are talented, you must continue your research. Youve got to stick it out for one more month. Take this for now. - he took the crumpled one hundred dollar bill from his pocket - I dont have the right to tell you anything, but trust me, very soon, maybe even sooner than one month, something must happen something tremendous, something wonderful, something that is going to change everything

2.3 Arrest The same day, July 6, 1997, 6 PM, Moscow.

They came up to him in the street when he was walking back from work, two from behind, one in front, all of them in civilian clothes. The one in front promptly produced a red KGB ID card, momentarily showed it to Levshov, and rattled off: Alexei Petrovich Levshov, I presume? Youll have to come with us in this car.. Sooner than Alexei could reply, he found himself sitting on the back seat of a black Volga car, caught between the two men in civilian clothes who had come up from behind. The one who showed his ID took the right front seat and the car sped off.

- Here we are! It has started! - thought Alexei - So they have finally found my autograph. Now the things will start moving!

2.4 Interrogation. The same day, half an hour later.

At first the Colonel was very polite and smiling.

- Alexei Petrovich! - said he, addressing Levshov with patronymic, which is the polite form of address in Russia - I think I dont need to explain to you the reason why we have invited you here. But just in case you might presume to deny everything, I would like to show you this picture right away.

The Colonel passed to Levshov a picture where one could distinctly see the inscription: Made in the USSR by Alexei Levshov and a team of his comrades.

- A good picture. - said Alexei - A good microscope. We never had one like this. And I guess you still dont have one like this. I would say it were Americans who took the picture.

The Colonel didnt respond.

- So, it were Americans. - said Alexei - That means that my babies are already over there, in America. Thats good. And the inscription did come off well. You know, its the first time that I actually see it. I did issue the command to make the inscription, but I wasnt completely sure that the characters will come out well, or that the command will actually reach as far as America. That means that the system is fully operational. Thats good. You, Colonel, cant even imagine how pleased I am with this photograph.

- So, you are not going to deny anything, are you? - Colonels voice betrayed his slight disappointment - In that case, I have only two questions: why did you do it, and who are the members of this team of comrades ?

- Im not going to give you any names. The team of comrades, who prefer to remain anonymous, have authorized me to conduct negotiations with the authorities. This picture, - Alexei put the picture to the Colonels very nose - this picture is my business card. It means that there is a power behind me, a great power, maybe even greater than you could possibly imagine. And thats why its me who is going to make demands, and you better meet them.

- Alexei Petrovich, Im afraid that you are not fully aware of your current situation. Let me first read to you some excerpts from our file on you. Now then, Levshov, Alexei Petrovich, born 1946; in 1969 graduated with honors from the prestigious PhysTech Institute, Moscow, and went to work at a secret unnamed research institute, known only as the post office box number such-and-such; in 1976 became the head of the nanotechnology lab that was founded at the time at that research institute.. But all this is not very interesting Here we are. This is sort of curious: in spring 1983 you wrote a letter to Yurii Andropov, soon after he had become the Secretary General of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Our man on the General Secretarys staff managed to make a copy of this letter. A very curious letter, and it reads as follows:

Dear Yurii Vladimirovich,

I took the liberty to address you because I would like to draw your attention to a very important issue, so important that the fate of the whole of mankind may eventually hinge on it. In one of your recent speeches you exhorted the Soviet people to return to the roots of our ideology, to return to Marx. One of the fundamental ideas of Marxism is the idea that new socioeconomic formations come into being as a reaction of society to the emergence of new productive forces. From this standpoint, Communism as an economic formation cannot at present exist in our country in principle, because we are still using the same productive forces as the capitalist countries, and the economic formation that currently exists in the USSR can only be characterized as a form of state-monopoly capitalism. A social formation is a superstructure over a foundation consisting of productive forces. The breakthrough to Communism can only happen as a consequence of emergence of a radically new technology, the very logic of which shall make the social superstructure adapt itself to this new foundation. And such a technology may emerge very soon. However, if improperly used, it may not only fail to free mankind from capitalism, but even might assist in perpetuating it, and the great historic chance will be lost forever.

My field of work is nanotechnology. It is not just one more technology. Potentially, it is a complete revolution in the methods of production, that is even greater than the Great Industrial Revolution of the 18th century, which, in its time, caused the demise of feudalism and ascendancy of capitalism. If we take the right steps, the emergence of nanotechnology should cause a similar natural extinction of capitalism. However, at present, all the research and development activities in the field of nanotechnology in our country are geared exclusively to military needs, and are not aimed at the above mentioned objective. We need to redirect the efforts of at least one of our nanotechnological labs from military to peaceful applications. I request that you grant me an audience so that I could explain to you my ideas and proposals on the subject.

The Colonel stopped reading, gave Levshov a disapproving look and said: One can clearly see from this letter that even as far back as 1983 you were reluctant to work on strengthening the defensive potential of our Motherland.

- Is this the only thing that you can see from this letter? - asked Levshov, mildly amused.

The Colonel ignored the remark and went on leafing through the thick folder containing Levshovs file:

So, the all-powerful General Secretary Andropov makes some inquiries, and soon afterwards grants an audience to Levshov, a chief of research in an obscure lab, virtually unknown to anybody. He has a conversation with him that lasts an hour and a half, instead of the scheduled ten minutes. The content of their discussion is unknown to us. But we know that soon after that the nanotechnology lab headed by A.P.Levshov is taken from under the control of the Ministry of Defense Industry, and moved to the Institute for Molecular Biology Studies which belongs to the USSR Academy of Sciences. However, the work in that lab still continues in strictest secrecy, even stricter than under the military. Our organization gets a directive from the very top to obtain for that laboratory some advanced Japanese equipment banned from export to the socialist countries Well, all this, once again, is not very interesting, so well skip it And now, we have reached the crux of the matter. In November 1991, when the country was in the state of complete disarray and chaos, our organization decided to assume the responsibility for the protection of the important state secret, which the work conducted in the A.P.Levshovs lab clearly was, and to move that lab from an Academy of Sciences institute to one of our secret research facilities. Some of the lab staff, including Levshov, refused to transfer to our organization and stayed at the Institute for Molecular Biology Studies. During the relocation to our secret facility some of the lab materials were lost. In particular, a test tube containing an experimental hybrid of a bacteria with a nanomechanism was found missing, which, in the opinion of some of our experts, set back the labs work by at least fifteen years. Even back then there was some suspicion that it was A.P.Levshov who stole the materials, but at the time his guilt was not proven.

The same experts are of the opinion that by the end of 1991 the work on the hybrid of bacteria with a nanomechanism had progressed to a phase where the further work would not require the use of complex and expensive laboratory equipment. Some of them even go as far as to say that that the only thing needed for the further work on the bacteria hybrid was the bacteria itself, since it already had in itself all the tools required for any further modifications or upgrades, and that means that all the further development effort could be conducted at home Thats how the things stand, Mr. Levshov - the Colonel looked up from the folder and once again glanced at Levshov - This photograph is an irrefutable evidence that it was you who, back in 1991, stole the test tube with the hybrid, which was government property, and by so doing have inflicted a considerable damage to the defense potential and state security of our country. Moreover, by the mere fact of letting the hybrid loose, you have given all our potential military adversaries the knowledge about the current status of nanotechnology research in our country, which can only be interpreted as an act of espionage. All of this is sufficient to put you away for a very long time. Thats why I dont recommend you to be impertinent and make demands. It is me who is going to make demands here.

Levshov replied with an inscrutable smile: Oh, Colonel, you cant even realize how ridiculous all your threats seem to me. If you had only known what is going to happen within the next week. We are standing on the threshold of a new world, a world where everything will be different, where, in particular, the mankind will not be divided into nations and nationalities. The individuality of a person will become more important than his or her belonging to any particular ethnic or social group. With the disappearance of nations, their respective nationalisms will also disappear, and such notions as national defense, or espionage, or national security will just stop to make any sense, and will start looking like atavisms inherited from the Stone Age

- Dont you even try to push me all this bullshit, Levshov! - barked the Colonel - What I want from you is a clear and intelligible answer to the questions that I asked: who else works with you and why have you done this?

- Done what? - asked Levshov.

- This, for example. - the Colonel poked with his finger at the picture with the autograph.

- Oh, this! This was done in order to draw the attention of the authorities, to make them lend an ear to our demands. By the way, Colonel, you still have not heard our demands, and I think that you should have had. If you had had, you would have asked a very different kind of questions.

- So what are your demands? - said the Colonel grudgingly.

- Inform your superiors that I need a series of my TV appearances arranged, half an hour, prime time, each day for a week.

- Do you realize how much this would cost? On what grounds do you presume to have it?

- On the simple grounds that I have something to say to the mankind, in stark contrast to the ones who use this time on the air now. I have a message of utmost importance.

- Why do you need a whole week? - asked Colonel - Usually, terrorists take no more than five minutes to make all their threats and demands.

- Now we have really come to the crux of the matter. You believe that Im a terrorist. But actually, nothing could be farther from the truth. You are just too much used to the idea that nanotechnological research and development were pursued with military applications in mind. You just cannot imagine the peaceful applications of nanotechnology. You have absolutely no idea of what I and my comrades have done in this field over the last five years, while working at home. What we have done can improve the lives of billions of people on this planet. But weve got to have a way of letting people know about the possibilities they now have. Of course, we could do this using the built-in capabilities of the NanoTech System itself, but we are concerned that if people suddenly hear a voice in their heads, a voice coming from nowhere, or see moving pictures materializing from the thin air right before their eyes, some of them might get panicky. We dont want anybody going crazy with fear and jumping out of the window, or anything like that. Television is something which is familiar to people, thats why we want to start a series of lectures on the uses of NanoTech on TV, and only after that well gradually switch to the purely NanoTech means of communication. As a matter of fact, we could have built our own TV transmitter - we have the capability - but we dont want to be pirates on the air. We decided to go through official channels. It might be hard for you to believe, but me and my comrades are actually law-abiding citizens.

The Colonel was silent for half a minute, digesting what he had just heard, and finally said: From what you have just told me, I understood only two things. First: you consider me a complete idiot who is supposed to believe all that bullshit you gave me. Second: you have finally admitted that you have stolen the test tube with the hybrid. And as for your law-abidance, when I went to the public procurators office this morning and showed him this file on you and this photograph, he signed a warrant to search your apartment without asking any further questions. The search is being conducted right now as we sit here, and I expect to have news from there any moment now. I think we are going to have lots of new subjects for our conversation pretty soon.

This time Levshovs smile was even more inscrutable than before. He said: Well, let them search. I wonder what theyll be able to find there. And more importantly, whether theyll be able to understand what they are going to find there

2.5 The Search. At the same time at Levshovs apartment.

One of the two witnesses summoned to the search was Levshovs next-door neighbor, that is, Mityai.

While they were opening the door, the investigator once again went in his mind over the list of objects that criminals usually adapt to serve as hiding places for all kinds of incriminating things. But nevertheless, he was absolutely unprepared for what he saw as soon as the door was opened. Entering into the apartment he stopped, completely at a loss. His carefully laid-out plan for the search had collapsed in a wink.

- Oh, my! - muttered Mityai pensively, looking around - Our science has completely gone down the drain!

There was absolutely nothing in the apartment. That is, not a single thing. Bare floors. Bare walls without wallpaper. In the hallway, there were no coats or slickers hung up on pegs. Actually, there were no pegs, not even a nail to hang things on (if there had been anything to hang up, but there was not a thing). They went to the kitchen. In the kitchen, not only there wasnt a counter, there was not even a fridge. Only a gas range and a sink. The range was covered with a thick layer of dust, attesting to the fact that it had not been touched by a human hand for many months.

- Poor devil! - exclaimed the second witness, a warm-hearted old lady who lived one story up - I wonder what he ate. He lived exclusively on cold food, I guess. After his wife left him for a New Russian four years ago, he completely went to seed.

As for the sink, its hole was plugged, and it was filled with water to the brim. But only with water. There was nothing else in the sink. No sign of any dishes.

In the bathroom, there was also not a thing, not even a mirror. Not even things for shaving, although Mityai immediately affirmed that Levshov went to work every morning smoothly shaven. In the bathroom, there were only a bath and a sink. Both were plugged and brimming with water. The biggest surprise was waiting for them in the living (?) room. There was also no furniture and no things in that room, except that more than half of the room was occupied by something very similar to a huge aquarium tank, but there were no fish in it. There was nothing in it but water. The walls of the tank were made of some strange sort of glass, very transparent, and infused with a mysterious luster. The last ray of the setting sun came through the window, fell on the tank, reflected from its walls, re-reflected, and the room was suddenly lit up with a piercingly brilliant iridescent glow. It shines like diamond! - exclaimed Mityai. He came up to the tank, and before the investigator could stop him, he pressed a small diamond, which was mounted into a gold ring that Mityai always wore, against the glass, and ran it across the tank wall. The result left him absolutely dumbfounded. He could not even say anything - the words stuck in his throat. The diamond has not left even a tiniest scratch on the tank wall. A six by nine feet tank, five feet tall, standing in the room of an impoverished scientist, was, to all appearances, cut out of a single diamond crystal

2.6 The first demonstration of the NanoTech system capabilities.

The Colonel replaced the receiver and remained sitting deep in thought.

- Well, have they found anything? - inquired Levshov.

- Levshov, why have you sold all the furniture and all the things from your apartment? Were you preparing to flee from the country?

- First of all, I have not sold them, I gave them away for free. But not because I wanted to flee, but because I no longer needed them. Being a System Administrator of the NanoTech Network, I can enjoy all the benefits of nanotechnology even now.

- How did you come into possession of a water tank made of diamond?

- Ive grown it. Glass can break, you know, but diamond is much stronger and from that standpoint is more practical. You see, I just needed some vessel for all that water.

- I see. You have grown it. - said the Colonel in a flat voice.

- You know, Colonel, I really think Ive got to give you a small demonstration, otherwise you just wont believe a word of what I say. A demo is worth more that thousands of words Do you have a sink somewhere around here?

- A sink?

- Yes, a water basin with running water. A bathtub would be even better, but I dont expect you to have one here.

Behind the door at the back of the Colonels desk, there was a private rest room with a sink.

- Well, just as I expected, you dont have a plug for this sink. - said Levshov - But well fix this in no time.

He turned on the tap, cupped his hands and filled them with water. Turning to the Colonel, he said: At the moment, I hold in my hands, together with the water, several million cyborg-bacteria. They are currently inactive. Now I am going to give them a command to speed up their reproduction. You wont hear this command - Ill enunciate it inaudibly, in my mind. Inside me, just as inside you and all the other people on Earth, there now live the same cyborg-bacteria, and these particular bacteria inside your body provide an interface between the nervous system of your body and the NanoTech System, that is, all the other cyborg-bacteria that live throughout the globe. This interface has two layers: a physical and a logical. Physical interface is implemented by the bacteria attached to the nerve fibers in your body, who tap into the action currents in these fibers and convert them into infrared signals used for data exchange between cyborg-bacteria. Or sometimes they do the reverse, converting infrared signals into action currents and feeding them into nerve fibers. As for the logical layer of the interface, it can be implemented by both the bacteria that reside inside you and all the bacteria of the NanoTech Network operating as a single global distributed computer - it all depends on the complexity of the task. At the logical layer, the commands of a NanoTech System user that are given in a high-level, almost natural, language, are converted into the NanoTech System executable machine codes. And now, watch closely.







The Colonel suddenly saw the water in the Levshovs hands start to turn opaque and opalescent. In a couple of seconds it definitely started to look like milk, in a couple of seconds more it reached the consistency of sour cream.



Levshov turned to the Colonel once again: What I am holding in my hands now is just an amorphous mass of cyborg-bacteria, that have no mechanical links with each other. To impart a structure and rigidity to such mass, we need to establish mechanical links between the bacteria. For this purpose Im going to use the manipulator arms located on the outer surfaces of each of the bacteria. Figuratively speaking, Ill ask them to join their hands. Watch!



What I have done now was to activate the so-called plastic links. This means that the bacteria dont hold each others hands very firmly - if a certain external force limit is exceeded, these links will break up, only to be immediately re-established. Simply speaking, the mechanical properties of this mass are similar to those of modeling clay. You can probe it with your finger. Go ahead, Colonel, dont be afraid!

The Colonel poked his finger at the mass resting in Levshovs hand, and the finger left a deep imprint.

- Now - said Levshov - Im going to model a plug out of this clay. Ill do this modeling manually, although I could have used for this purpose the resources of NanoTech, such as the capability of the bacteria to move themselves around, and the NanoTech built-in CAD/CAM - Computer Aided Design and Manufacturing System with graphic interface fed into the users optic nerve, with the IRV - Ideal Result Visualization controlled by the user, and the automatic fitting of the real object to the ideal one. But in this particular case, doing it by hand would be much simpler, although it may not be so spectacular. But this is not NanoTech Demo yet, these are still preparations - I just need a plug for the sink. Now weve got something which looks like a plug. I am putting this plug on the bottom of the sink, and now I see that the plug turned out to be a little bigger than needed and its shape is rather irregular. That is why I issue to NanoTech a command to shrink the object.



To his amazement, the Colonel saw that the plug began to shrink rapidly and finally droped into the sink hole.



- You see, Colonel, the plug is now in the sink hole, but it wont stop the water yet, because its irregular shape doesnt fully conform to the circular shape of the hole, and there are gaps between them. Thats why Im going to do two things now: Ill switch from the plastic link mode to elastic link mode, that is, Ill change its mechanical properties from clay to rubber, and then Ill issue a command to expand.





The plug began to grow, gradually filling the gaps, until they were completely closed.



- Well, Colonel, now we have a plug. Of course one could have worked on it a little bit more to give it a more presentable appearance, but for our purposes itll do as it is. So, lets proceed with the Demo proper. - Levshov turned on the tap and the sink began filling with water - While we wait for the water to fill the sink, I would like to briefly explain what you are going to see. Back in 1993, when we began our first experiments in manufacturing things using NanoTech, VCRs were still considered a luxury in Russia, and that was one of the reasons we decided to take VCR as an example. One of our comrades has nobly sacrificed for science his own video recorder.

By that time, we had already developed a program for copying any object atom by atom. Physically, the copying process went as follows: the object to be copied was submerged into a tank with water containing cyborg-bacteria, and these bacteria gradually disassembled, one might even say dissolved, the object atom by atom. That was a fairly slow process which took, in the case of the VCR, about three months. But since, as a result of this process, the cyborg-bacteria recorded into their database the information about where each atom had been located, this process was reversible, that is, a command could be issued for the cyborg-bacteria to start placing proper atoms at their appropriate places, and if the water in the tank had the atoms of the necessary elements dissolved in it in the required quantities, that meant that after some time (longer than three months, because now the bacteria also had to fish for the required atoms and to transport them to the required positions) the object once again would come into existence out of the seeming nothingness. Moreover, this process, besides being reversible, was also reproducible - by using the information from their database, the cyborg-bacteria could reproduce any number of identical copies of the initial object as long as they had a sufficient supply of the necessary atoms dissolved in the water. By the way, from that one initial VCR we finally obtained three absolutely identical (down to every scratch) VCRs, and all three were working normally. One must note though, that the whole process took more than a year. In other words, we have created what science-fiction writers call a replicator, but there was no practical use for it, because it worked excruciatingly slow.

So we began to look for ways to speed up the process. The first way was to refrain from the atom-by-atom assembly in those cases where it is not really needed. For example, the VCR body - do we really need to assemble it atom by atom, when we could just issue a command for the cyborg-bacteria to link up, the same way I have just linked them up into this plug right before your very eyes, specifying the required mechanical properties of the link. The surface color and reflectivity can also be varied by arranging the bacteria into different configurations, so that light waves of one wavelength cancel each other, while the waves of another length reinforce each other, giving the object a certain color, making it light or dark. Another way was to stop using atoms of any chemical element other than carbon. By changing the atomic lattice of carbon, one can simulate the physical properties of virtually any substance. By 1995 we have managed to write for the NanoTech system a program that converts the data bases obtained in a replicator into the databases for things to be assembled out of cyborg-bacteria and atoms of carbon. And that is what I want to demonstrate to you now - our VCR of 1995. And the sink is already full of water - just in time!.

Levshov turned off the tap. Now, Colonel, watch very closely.


Levshov stared fixedly at the water for a couple of seconds - he had to allow some time for the cyborg-bacteria to measure the contraction of his eye muscles, to recalculate these contraction values into the coordinates of the point in space at which his stare was fixed, and to contact the bacteria located at that point using an infrared link.






Initially, just as it had been the first time in the Levshovs hands, the water started to cloud. However, when in a few seconds time it approached the consistency of milk, the upper layer of the water suddenly began to clear, while at the bottom of the sink the density of the whitish substance started to grow even faster, and it gradually began to assume a definite shape. It was several more seconds before the Colonel realized that on the bottom of the sink, under a layer of slightly cloudy water there lay The Colonel could have sworn that it was a printed circuit board, were it not absolutely white and colorless! In the first second he thought that there were no components on that circuit board, but soon he did notice a few small parts, although a second before he was absolutely sure that there were none. Then he finally saw white rectangles, that looked more like ghosts of integrated circuits rather then the real things, to materialize on the board out of coagulations of turbid water that were running over the circuit board like ribbons of mist over a morning land. For a brief moment the water in the sink became completely transparent, and the Colonel could clearly see on the bottom a perfectly real circuit board with lots of components, only unnaturally white, looking as if it were made of alabaster. But the circuit board stayed in this ghostly state for only a fleeting moment. What happened next was as if somebody turned on a switch - the circuit board suddenly took on color - green substrate, golden conductors, black cases of integrated circuits. Now the circuit board was indistinguishable from a real one.

- Well, we did it for purely aesthetic reasons. - Levshov commented on this sudden transfiguration - It does not really affect the operation of the circuit.

The Colonel did not respond. He stood staring at the sink with his mouth agape with wonder, while the work in the sink proceeded at an astonishing pace. Over the circuit board, the mechanical part of the VCR started to grow up. It grew up like flowers grow in the films shot by the one-frame-per-hour process, where weeks flash by in mere seconds. One second - and it sprouted levers and springs, couple of seconds more - and a video head cylinder burgeoned like a huge flower-bud. Couple of more seconds - and it all became enwrapped into a transparent filmy case, which grew more solid and opaque with every passing second, until it completely obliterated the view of the components inside it. One more instant - and the case suddenly turned from white to black with golden trimming. Levshov took the VCR out of water and put it on the table. The VCR was steaming.

- Well have to wait a few more seconds to let it dry up, and then you can check its operation - I saw a TV set in your office. - said Levshov - By the way, did you time it? All of this should have taken three minutes and 20 seconds.

- That fast? - asked the Colonel. He stepped forward and touched the VCR. It was still warm to touch, although it had already stopped steaming.

- That slow. - answered Levshov - Too slow for our purposes.

- What purposes?

- Ill explain it later. And now, lets go and see whether it works.

2.7 All the things in the world.

On returning to the office, Levshov hooked up the newly made VCR to the TV set.

- Why doesnt it have a power cord? - asked the Colonel.

- We have introduced some changes into its design. It is now powered from a built-in power source. Have you ever heard about cold nuclear fusion?

- Thats one of the questions I was supposed to ask you: how did you do it? Physicists throughout the world has been puzzling over the cold fusion problem for years.

- We dont know it ourselves. I guess one might say we did it empirically. The first versions of cyborg-bacteria operated on organic power sources, the way ordinary bacteria do. One of our comrades was experimenting with what he called nanotechnogonics - in simple terms, it was artificial selection of cyborg-bacteria. He artificially increased the rate of mutations in some of the bacteria, and was placing them in various strange environments to see which way the evolution would take in those environments. In particular, he was trying to make one of the strains adapt to low levels of lighting, and he was putting them in darker and darker rooms. Most of those bacteria just died out, but there was one strain that turned out to be capable of living in complete darkness. Thanks to cold fusion, as we found later. Subsequently, we built this function into standard cyborg-bacteria, but we still dont know how and why it works - I think we should let physicists figure it all out.

- But isnt the work with mutants hazardous?

- Very much so. We had one accident Very gruesome I just dont want to recall it. But those bacteria which we have released now are perfectly safe. We have disabled their mutations, but if by any chance a mutant were to come into existence, it would be immediately destroyed but its normal fellow bacteria before it had time to do any real damage. Modifications in the design of cyborg-bacteria of this kind can only occur on purpose, by commands received from the NanoTech Network However, lets get back to the VCR. Please insert a cassette and press play button.

The VCR worked perfectly.

- Had I not seen this with my very eyes - said the Colonel - I would have never believed that a VCR can be sent over a water supply line.

- Water supply has nothing to do with this. I only needed water as an environment which makes it easier for the cyborg-bacteria to move around. In principle, we could have used the cyborg-bacteria who live inside you or me, and take the hydrogen for nuclear fusion from water vapors that are always present in the atmosphere, but in that case the whole process would have taken much more time. And as for sending, I hope you realize that this particular VRC was not sent from anywhere. It just exists in the NanoTech Network as a purely informational entity, as a data set and a program, which can always be executed, and it can be executed any number of times, and each time the result of executing this immaterial program will be a material VCR. One could say that the NanoTech Network is the place of potential existence of an innumerable number of VCRs, as well as lots of other things.

- What things?

- In principle, all kinds of things. You just place an already existing thing into a replicator, dissolve it there, obtaining an atom-by-atom database, convert this initial atom-by-atom database into a database for manufacturing that thing out of cyborg-bacteria and carbon atoms, and store this final database in the NanoTech Network memory, which is virtually infinite, since it grows along with the multiplication of cybor-bacteria. And please note that the whole process does not involve any resources beyond those of the NanoTech System itself, since the system already includes a program for creating a replicator, and the data processing and storage are performed by cyborg-bacteria. After the information about any particular thing is entered into the system, any NanoTech System user can access the program for bringing a copy of that particular thing into material existence, execute the program and use the resulting thing.

- What other people are NanoTech System users, besides you?

- There are not very many active users at the moment, but as soon as I issue the command to activate the system to its full potential, each human being living on Earth will be able to use NanoTech. I believe that by now the cyborg-bacteria have already infiltrated the bodies of all the people on our planet. These bacteria are so designed that as soon as they find themselves inside a living organism, they automatically determine whether this organism is an animal or a human being, and if human, they establish a data interface between this persons nervous system and the NanoTech Network, and automatically assign to this person a NanoTech Network Users ID number.

- And how are you planning to collect payments for the use of this network? And, especially, who is going to benefit from these payments? I hope you have not forgotten that these bacteria were stolen, and they are actually Governments property? - asked the Colonel.

- Therell be no payments. I mean, no payments in money.

- But youve been working on these bacteria for a long time, and probably expected to somehow benefit from your efforts?

- But Ill benefit. And youll benefit. And the whole of the society shall benefit. Imagine that somebody invents something new - and somebody will always be inventing something, a thinking human being just cannot stop inventing - and thanks to NanoTech this persons invention will immediately become accessible to all people on Earth. Including me. And this will recompense my efforts.

- I think Im missing something. - said the Colonel - Well, suppose NanoTech will give you things for free. All kinds of things. Can it create clothes?

- Easily.

- And an automobile?

- No sweat.

- And a house?

- As easy as anything else.

- OK, I can see that you wont have to pay electricity bills - the Colonel nodded towards the VCR running without a power cord.

- Neither shall I have to pay for gasoline. - added Levshov - The automobile will draw its power from cold fusion.

- Lets assume that it is indeed so. - conceded the Colonel - But you will still need something to eat! That means that you still need money! For food, if not for anything else!

Levshov gave one more of his inscrutable smiles: And how do you know that one really needs to eat? Have you recently tried not to eat?

- What do you mean by that? - asked the Colonel suspiciously. The world he knew and understood started to develop a flaw in its structure. A feeling started to well up from the depth of his soul, a feeling as if he were being dragged to the brink of an abyss he dared not to look into.

- The fact is that cyborg-bacteria are so designed that whenever they find themselves inside a human body, they automatically start to monitor the levels of nutrients in the blood, and as soon as these become dangerously low, bacteria automatically activate the genes that produce these nutrients, and immediately discharge the produced nutrients into the bloodstream.

For a few seconds the Colonel sat stunned and silent. Finally, he said in very low voice: So, you mean that Do you want to say that no one needs to eat anything anymore?

- Actualy, I would not recommend this. We still dont know the long-term effects of such fasting on the digestive tract. But there might be some difficult situations where such direct replenishment of nutrients in the bloodstream could actually mean the difference between life and death. Try to look up the latest statistics on the third-world countries. Im sure that over the last month or so they have not reported a single death caused by starvation.

- So, one still needs to buy food for oneself? - asked the Colonel, his spirits revived.

- As a matter of fact, one needs not. The nucleus of each cyborg-bacteria cell contains a library of genes each of which can be selectively activated by a command from the NanoTech Network. Instead of that mass of white material that you just saw during the demo, I could easily produce a piece of meat or yolk. The standard gene library includes the most popular staple foods, but if you would like to eat something special and are willing to wait a little, the cyborg-bacteria have the capability to assemble new genes from individual nucleotides using blueprints - that is, the information obtained from the NanoTech Network databases. By the way, Colonel, its high time to have a supper. How about some caviar? If you allow me to use your sink once again

- Thats it! The sink! The waterworks! - the Colonel once again regained his spirits, which had begun to flag for a moment - I should have remembered about it all along! Youll still have to pay for water supply! That clinches it! Youll never be able to do without money! Money is a material manifestation of the relationships that cement society, and you cannot live in a society and be free from it!

- Oh, Colonel, what a muddle of ideas you have in your head! Capitalism jumbled together with communism As for the waterworks, let me explain it to you once again. Massive amounts of water are only used to facilitate the movement of cyborg-bacteria, but, in principle, they are not absolutely necessary for manufacturing things using the NanoTech Network. Water is needed for sustaining the life of the human being though, but there is always a sufficient amount of water vapor in the air. Even now, in the memory of the Nanotech Network are stored a number of simple devices that allow to condense a glass of water out of the air in a matter of a few minutes. And dont forget about clouds that are almost always present in the sky. They consist of minute water droplets, that also contain cyborg-bacteria. You only need to give them a command to merge, and the cloud will produce rain.

- You want to say that you can even control weather?

- To a certain extent, yes. At least, I can always pour a glass of water out of a cloud.

- OK, lets assume that you can always get yourself some water for free. But your house - even if we assume that it will be completely built by NanoTech and wont cost you a penny - it will still be standing on land, and a plot of land costs money, and that means that you still wont be able to build it, if you dont have any money!

- Tell me Colonel, have you ever camped out? Ever put up a tent in a forest?

- Suppose I did.

- You didnt pay any money for the land you put up your tent on, did you?

- But I put up the tent for one night only, while a house will stand there permanently!

- Who said that a house must stand in one place permanently?

- What on earth do you mean by that? - asked the Colonel. The feeling that he had been dragged to the very brink of an abyss and was being forced to look down there, at another, frighteningly alien world, that feeling became almost unbearable.

- Our team of comrades have formulated for ourselves three rules of good design practices that are most consistent with the NanoTech System capabilities. The first, and the most important rule is that things must be what we call living.

The Colonel opened his mouth to ask something, but Levshov had anticipated his question: Let me explain what I mean. Take for example that very first VCR that we produced, the one that we assembled in the replicator. That one was an absolutely dead thing. Dead not in the sense that it didnt work - it actually worked perfectly - but it didnt hold a single living cyborg-bacteria, and that meant that it could not rebuild itself, couldnt change its own design, couldnt repair itself and so forth. It was a very ordinary thing, one of those things that we usually find all around us, the only difference being that it had not been built with machine tools at a factory, but rather had been assembled by cyborg-bacteria in a replicator. That was the only difference, and the difference lay not in the thing itself, but in its earlier history, which was absolutely immaterial from the standpoint of its consumer qualities.

Now, lets have a look at the VCR which I have just produced before your very eyes, the 1995 model. This one is already what we call a semi-live product. It already incorporates quite a lot of living cyborg-bacteria. They provide power to this thing, they can even re-grow the video heads, if they get worn-out. However, this product also contains a lot of dead parts, that, built by the cyborg-bacteria though they were, dont contain cyborg-bacteria themselves. And this means that this thing will never be able to instantaneously disappear, to decompose itself into individual cyborg-bacteria that could once again disperse.

- Why would they need to do this? - asked the Colonel, baffled.

- Dont you see it? As things stand now, youll finish watching your video cassette, switch off the VCR, and itll just be left standing in the corner gathering dust and occupying space to absolutely no purpose, until you once again decide to watch something. How much more convenient it would have been if, for the time between the two viewing sessions, it had just disappeared, with the cyborg-bacteria that had been its building blocks re-assembling into some other thing, the one that you need at that specific moment in time. They could have become a part of a plate, a spoon, a toothbrush, a razor, a coat, a shoe, a chair for you to sit on, anything that you actually need at the current moment in time. And they would have left that thing as soon as the need for that thing is no longer felt, and they would have gone into a new thing, the one you are going to need at the next moment in time.

Look at this empty chair near me. Why does it have to stand here, while nobody is sitting on it? And nevertheless it does stand here and occupies space. In a perfect world, it should have only appeared here if a third person came into this room. And this applies to the majority of things around us - we only use them one percent of the time, at best. But they occupy space in our houses the whole one hundred percent of the time. Dead things demand that their owner dust them, maintain them in proper condition, and always take them with him every time he moves house. Oh, those moves! There seems to be nothing so terrible as moving house, and this terror can chain a man to one and only place of living forever. Dead things turn their owners into their slaves!

And now imagine a house built in the true spirit of NanoTech. At any given moment in time, only a few things exist in it physically. Actually, only those things that you need at that particular moment. And at the same time, there exist in it an infinite number of things - all the things in the world that have been entered into the NanoTech Network database are potentially present in that house, since any of them at any moment can be brought out of non-existence and be given a material form. And the NanoTech-type house itself , if you live in it alone, contains only one room, since you cannot simultaneously be in more than one room. And at the same time, potentially, it contains an infinite number of rooms, since that one and only room can indefinitely change its appearance and size, filling itself with all kinds of things, effectively transforming itself into a different room, into an infinite number of rooms. And as soon as you leave your house, it disappears or transforms, for example, into your car, or into a house for another man who was passing by and decided that it would be a good idea to live in that place for a day. And if you, during your outing suddenly have a wish to find yourself back at home, your house will immediately reappear in front of you wherever you are.

- Immediately? I find that hard to believe. - said the Colonel - It took you almost four minutes to grow only one VCR.

- Let me repeat it once again - this VCR is a semi-live thing. It grows so slowly only because in this case we force NanoTech into reproducing a thing which was designed to be manufactured using an absolutely different method of production, that is, the serial industrial machine production method characteristic of capitalism. In this case we abuse NanoTech by making it operate in a manner which is completely inconsistent with its character. I have done this demonstration on purpose, so as to show you that in principle NanoTech can even cope with such difficult task as an almost perfect reproduction of things characteristic of a historically antecedent method of production. It is worth noting here that machine production cannot always cope with the task of reproducing, by its own means, things that are characteristic of an antecedent era - the era of master craftsmen working manually, the era of feudalism.

And now Im going to give you a demonstration of a video system designed in the true style of NanoTech. Please note the difference in the time required for its manufacture. This time I wont need much material, so Ill just use the bacteria that live inside my body.

Levshov put his hands on the table, palms up, and suddenly the palms started to cover with a sort of perspiration, to glisten with little beads that began to quickly grow and turn whitish. The beads began to roll off onto the table, and in a second they merged into a single thin white sheet. Half a second later the sheet suddenly changed its color to deep black.

- So its ready now. Two and a half seconds. - said Levshov.

- Whats ready? - asked the Colonel.

- The video system is ready. Please, order the movie you want to watch.

Only then the Colonel noticed that the sheet lying on the table was no longer black, but was glowing as if it were a computer screen, and on that screen a list of movie titles was slowly scrolling.

- We dont have a very wide selection yet. - apologized Levshov - as of now, only a few hundreds of movies have been stored in the NanoTech Network memory, but we believe that as soon as the Network becomes accessible to the general public, the users will transfer to it everything that is now available on video cassettes Dont be shy, Colonel, choose a film title and touch it with your finger!

The Colonel warily poked at the title of his favorite movie, the list of titles immediately cleared off the screen, and instead the Colonel saw the familiar movie characters, in full color and motion.

- I just cant understand where the sound is coming from. - said the Colonel after a few seconds of viewing.

- The film soundtrack is fed directly to your auditory nerve, by-passing the phase of its transformation into sound waves, which makes for the high quality of the sound, because there are no intermediaries, no loudspeakers which usually introduce sound distortion. Generally speaking, the picture could also be fed directly to the optic nerve, and this would be more consistent with the Third Principle of good design in the style of the NanoTech. The Third Principle says: always use only direct interface between the human nerve system and the NanoTech Network, without any intermediaries like human bodys sense organs or muscles. In practical terms this means that if, for example, we design a automobile for the NanoTech, it should not have a dashboard - all the necessary information about the status of the car systems should be fed into the drivers optic nerve, to be superimposed on his actual field of vision. Also, such a car should not have a steering wheel or pedals - mental commands from the driver should be routed directly to the cars final controls, without any mechanical intermediaries. All this allows to radically simplify the design, and consequently, to considerably reduce the time needed to grow a car.

- You said it was the Third Principle. And what is the Second one? - asked the Colonel.

- The Second Principle of good NanoTech-style design says: for a power source of the device you are designing always use the internal power of the cyborg-bacteria, and the power should always be generated at the same location where it is to be consumed. This allows to eliminate all the contraptions for transferring power within the device. For example, our semi-live VCR complies with the Second Principle only in part: the power is indeed generated inside it by cyborg-bacteria, but after that it has to be transferred to non-live components, such as electrical motors, integrated circuits, and so on. Thats why it has so many extra wires, levers and shafts serving the only purpose of transferring electrical and mechanical energy from one location to another. From the standpoint of the Second Principle, a much better design is the video system that you can now see on the table. - Levshov nodded towards the glowing sheet, where the scenes from the Colonels favorite movie still continued to unfold. - Each luminous dot on this surface is a cyborg-bacteria that itself generates the power for its own glow. That means that the power is consumed at the same spot where it is generated. This is only possible in a completely live product.

- So, if I understand you correctly, - said the Colonel musingly - an automobile built in compliance with the NanoTech principles doesnt have any transmission, and the function of the engine is performed by the wheels themselves?

- You got the idea absolutely right. And to completely visualize a NanoTech-style car, please remember that it always has just as many seats as it has passengers and its trunk is never larger than the luggage it carries. And if you take into account the fact that it just doesnt make any sense to transport things that can always be grown at your destination, it means that usually such car doesnt have any trunk at all.

- And all of this, all this things, cars, houses, all this will immediately become available to every human being on Earth as soon as you give a command to activate the system? - asked the Colonel in a slightly trembling voice.

- In principle, yes, although it will take some time for the people to learn to use the system. But its not very difficult, anyway. We have recently developed a graphic user interface, where the signals are fed directly to the users optic nerve which results in the user seeing an illusory, or a virtual, to use the current buzzword, space, or rather a virtual store filled with all kinds of things, where he can walk around and choose whatever he or she needs. After that its just a matter of the user reaching for the chosen thing and grabbing it in virtual space. The thing will immediately materialize

- Thats not what I was asking about. - interrupted the Colonel, impatience showing in his voice. He felt that the abyss had already opened up under his feet, and he was falling, falling, falling - Its money. The money in your virtual shop - is it also virtual or is it real, after all?

- You know Colonel, I just cant imagine what other explanations do you need. Ive been speaking about this for an hour now, and you still dont seem to understand that therell be no money at all. Think for yourself: who and for what purpose may need any money at all, when any one can get out of NanoTech any thing he or she may need, absolutely for free? Money will take its rightful place in museums as an evidence of a past-and-gone era in the history of mankind.

In despair, the Colonel squeezed his head between his hands and fell silent. The world around him was coming down. The Colonel had spent all his life to make a career for himself, to reach the position which allowed him, back in the days of the total chaos of late 1991, to grab hold of a certain amount of the Partys money, to transfer it abroad and stash it away in a Swiss bank account. This money was supposed to provide for a comfortable existence in his old age and a secure future for his heirs. All the terror he had to go through to do that, all the nerves and energy spent! And, as it turns out, everything was in vain?! The monstrous unfairness of this all was searing the Colonels soul. His brain was in hectic search for a rebuttal.

- There can be no market without money, and the market is the only force that can fine-tune the required amount of production! - spluttered the Colonel and immediately realized the stupidity of his remark.

- Why would you need to additionally fine-tune the production when everybody produces exactly what he needs, at the exact moment when he needs it, and in the exact quantities he needs? - Levshov seemed surprised - The market forces are only needed to adjust the amount of production at that phase in the development of productive forces where things have to be produced before they are actually needed.

- Without money therell be no incentive for increasing the efficiency of labor! - persisted the Colonel.

- Whose labor? - asked Levshov, surprised - The labor of cyborg-bacteria? Since its them wholl be doing all the work.

- What I mean is creative work. Therell still have to be somebody wholl be inventing new things for NanoTech, otherwise the progress will stop. Does it make any sense for an inventor to work, if his invention wont in the end give him any advantage over the rest of the people?

- You know, Colonel, I think you are seriously mistaken about the motives behind creative work of an inventor. The desire to create is a need deeply rooted in every human being. This need exists not only because in satisfying it one may gain some advantages for oneself, but also because of the very fact that a human being has a brain which needs a workout from time to time, just as muscles do. Just as youll never be able to sit in an unchanging posture for hours - youll finally need to stretch your legs - your mind also needs stretching from time to time. The brain wants to work just because it exists, however, under the existing method of production, only a chosen few can afford the luxury of brain-streching, while most of the other people have to earn their living by doing purely mechanical mind-numbing jobs. Under capitalism only a few lucky ones can afford to do some creative work, but even they are forced to sell their creative products in order to be able to buy their freedom from mechanical work. In contrast to this, NanoTech opens up the possibility of doing creative work to every person on Earth, and also allows any person to immediately use the creative products of any other person. I think that as a result of this we are going to see a creative progress like we could never imagine under capitalism.

The Colonel would not give up: I just dont want to listen to all this babble about mind-stretching, need for creativity, and the like bullshit. The people wont understand your system and wont accept it, because the motive force behind the progress of the human race has always been and forever will be the desire of each individual to get ahead of his neighbor, to become richer then his neighbor, more powerful than his neighbor, to become famous and make his neighbor green with envy, to buy things which only you can buy and never your neighbor. You want to destroy all this, to let everybody have anything he wants, but the people will never accept such a state of affairs where nobody can envy anyone. If this happens, nobody would want to live at all, because there would be nothing to live for! Imagine a typical everyday situation: one guy, lets call him Kolya, strolls down the street and meets his friend, lets call him Vasya, and says to him: Come and visit my place, I want to show you something. Show what? Just come and youll see. And it turns out that Kolya has, for example, a luxury model VCR, a genuine Panasonic from Japan, and Vasya does not have anything like that! And Kolya also has video cassettes, direct from US, with the latest Hollywood blockbusters, and Vasya still has none of these! And thats what makes Kolya happy! And thats why he needs a VCR and cassettes! He doesnt really need these idiotic blockbusters! He needs the satisfaction of knowing that he is superior to Vasya! But if Vasya were to have the same VCR, and the same movies, why would Kolya need a VCR at all, if this VCR doesnt help him to become superior to Vasya? Why would he torture himself watching these idiotic movies? And, on the other hand, why would Vasya want to have a VCR, when Kolya, Petya, whoever, can at any moment obtain the same VCR for themselves? You have invented an absolutely useless thing, Mister Levshov. The people wont understand you.

- People? What do you know about people, Colonel? Do you know how many people on planet Earth are starving? Physically starving, and can actually die of starvation. NanoTech can feed them and save them from death. Do you know how many illiterate people are there on Earth? Really illiterate people, people who cannot read, people who are denied all the wonderful treasures of knowledge accumulated by our civilization? NanoTech can open up to them these treasures. And a VCR, as a means of obtaining knowledge, could be very helpful in doing this. But when the age of NanoTech arrives, neither a VCR, nor any other thing will ever be the means of establishing Kolyas superiority over Vasya, or Vasyas over Kolya. The time of apish games is over. And, I hope, forever.

- What do you mean by apish games? Explain yourself! - said the Colonel through clenched teeth.

- You see, Colonel, human beings did descend from apes. This is a firmly established scientific fact, whatever various naysayers may say. Therefore, every human being carries in his genes a burden inherited from the past - the instincts of his wild ancestors. The apes are tribal animals, and each tribe has its own hierarchy: it has its chief and its outcasts, and it has all the rungs of the hierarchical ladder between them, and each ape craves for a higher rung on that ladder. Thats the source of the peoples craving for power, glory, recognition, money, in a word, for getting ahead of ones neighbor. All the social systems of the past used this craving as a driving force for their own development. The capitalistic system is especially outstanding in this respect - its not just an apish game, its a whole apish Olympics, which very efficiently exploits all the instincts that humans inherited from beasts of the wild. But human nature is not confined to bestial instincts, human beings have one thing which beast lack. Humans have reason. Reason can overcome instincts. Reason is the only chance of freeing man from the tyranny of instincts. But this chance cannot materialize while the social system itself makes people to take part in the apish games. NanoTech gives us a chance to stop this protracted apish Olympics, to stop living as apes live, and at long last start living as human beings should live, that is, live by reason, not by instinct.

- I cant understand you, Mr. Levshov. You seem to be an intelligent man, an outstanding inventor, but your reasoning is ridiculously nave. Do you really believe you can go and change all the social structure just like this? You want to carry out a world revolution which will make everybody equal overnight. To make the powers that be as powerless as anyone. How can you seriously hope that those who have power and money, and high social status, let go of their privileged positions? What a political naiveness! And you still hope that we shall help you to get time on TV? Of course Ill report your request to the higher authorities, but its a foregone conclusion that nobody will give you any time on the air. Moreover, youll go to jail for stealing governmental property, disclosure of military secrets, and, as it has just turned out, also for an attempt to overthrow the existing social, political and economic system of the Russian Federation!

- First of all, Colonel, its very difficult to imprison me. Physically impossible...

- Why so? - asked the Colonel.

Without saying a word, Levshov picked up from the table the video system which was still working. He held it at the edge and it hung down like a piece of soft cloth. For a fraction of a second, a moving picture could still be seen on its rumpled surface, but suddenly that picture disappeared to be replaced with a checked pattern like on a handkerchief. It took the Colonel one more second to realize that what Levshov was holding in his hand was indeed a handkerchief. Levshov used the handkerchief to loudly blow his nose and then threw the handkerchief on the floor, where it sort of dissolved into nothingness before the Colonels very eyes, and then said: Well, just try to imprison me, and then youll understand why its impossible. That was the first thing I wanted to say. Now, the second: nobody is going to take away from the ruling circles of the Russian Federation their villas, Mercedes-Benz cars, Swiss bank accounts, portfolios - all their playthings and baubles. If they still want to play their apish games - let them play themselves crazy. The only thing that NanoTech is going to take away from them are the people of the Russian Federation. But from the very moment when the Russian Federation came into existence as an independent state in 1991, the people were only a burden to them. They have brought the industry and agriculture in this country to ruin - and thus deprived the people of any means to fend for themselves, so now the people have to be fed from above. That means the new rulers have to share their petrodollars with the people, but they dont want to, they are too greedy. And although they starve the pensioners to death with low pensions, and although they have destroyed the public health system, and reduced the standards of living to such a low level that the birth rate has dropped almost to zero, and although they are waging senseless wars where they kill off young men, the surplus population has not been sufficiently reduced (from their standpoint), and there are still more people around than they know what to do with. NanoTech is going to rid the government of this burden by taking upon itself the responsibility for maintaining the people, so the government should actually be thankful to us for this. And the only thing we want in return for this service, is that government forever forget that the people exist, and never again bother the people with taxes, elections and army drafts.

- So, Mr.Levshov, you are going to let people live without a government. Then will you be so kind as to explain how are you going to maintain law and order among the people? By the way, could one use NanoTech to produce arms and drugs?

- Theoretically, it is possible. But we are going to close access to programs for manufacturing dangerous things like that to ordinary users of the NanoTech Network. Only the System Administrators of the Network will have access to arms, just in case somebody does make an attempt to use NanoTech to harm people and we have to fight such an offender.

- Well. Thats great. Thats terrific. That means that in your brave new reasonable world everybody will be equal, but some will be more equal than others. Marvelous. - said the Colonel. The world which had all but completely collapsed around him, began to gradually restore itself. There was not going to be a uniform mass of people with equal rights after all. Everybody would once again stratify. There might not be money any more, but there would certainly be levels of access to information. The higher you are in the social hierarchy, the wider the access. And of course, they would need a police. Everybody needs a police. But still it was sad that there would be no money - he spent so much nerves on it. The Colonels spirits slightly uplifted. The system based on the apish striving of everyone to stand above everybody else was unshakable and eternal and it would live as long as human beings live. And that was the only system that the Colonel believed in. Intellectuals might invent capitalism, communism and all kinds of other isms, but in reality what had always existed and would exist was only one system, The System, and it was only this System that the Colonel had served and would ever serve, because only within this System the Colonel was worth something in his own eyes. The idea behind The System was primevally simple, and it was exactly from this simplicity and primitivity that it drew its unshakable and eternal nature. The idea behind The System was the struggle for power. This struggle could be waged by all kinds of means: by accumulation of money, by political games and by passing laws, by palace intrigues, or, as a last resort, simply by bludgeoning the competitor. It was not the means that mattered. What mattered was the final objective, and the final objective was power. This was part of the human nature, and therefore, it could not be uprooted

The Colonels reverie was interrupted by Levshovs voice: I know what you are thinking about, Colonel. You are thinking about The System. The Colonel started and wanted to say something, but Levshov anticipated his question: Dont worry, Im not eavesdropping on your thoughts, although, in principle, NanoTech does have such a capability. Your thoughts are easy to guess. You are thinking that the new world opened up by the NanoTech will be the same as the old one, that the apish games will continue, that nobody as yet has managed to suppress apish instincts in humans, neither the church in a thousand years, nor the communists in the seventy years of their rule. But youve got to keep in mind one thing: up till now a human being who might have wanted to leave The System didnt have a chance to survive outside it - he would have simply died of cold and starvation. For the first time in the history of mankind, NanoTech gives us this chance. For the first time in history, one wont need to snap the food out of the hands of ones neighbor so as not to be hungry. Will we be able to use this chance to get from under The System, and to conquer at last our animal instincts? If we dont, well turn the new world into a semblance of the old one, but even more terrible, where the power of one group of people over the others will be infinitely amplified by the new, previously unheard of means of NanoTech. The loss of this historic chance will result in an unimaginable tragedy for the mankind.

- But if you are not certain that youll succeed, why did you have to start all this in the first place?

- I just had no choice. I know what is happening now in nanotechnological labs all around the world. Tens of thousands of scientists are working on creating a new terrible weapon of enslaving man by man, a weapon which will give the rulers a complete and absolute control not only over the actions, but also over the very thoughts and feelings of people, a control none of the tyrants of the past could even dream of. The last chance to stop the impending catastrophe is to put NanoTech into the hands of the people, and hope that in the long run the reason will prevail over the dark instincts. There is no other way out. Whatever happens, it wont be worse than what is now being prepared in secret labs. And there still is a chance of creating a society ruled by Reason, Freedom and Equality. Its a small chance, but it does exist.

2.8. An hour later, in an office one story up.

The video recording of the interrogation ended and the Colonel switched the VCR off. The General was silent for half a minute and finally said: Yea, this son-of-a-bitch has us up against the wall... We know next to nothing about his real capabilities, and he uses this to put pressure upon us. And whats most frustrating, we just cant quietly finish him off, because we dont know how his Team of Comrades will react in that case. They are all at large, and probably all of them have access to NanoTech.

- Do we know who they are? - asked the Colonel.

- The members of his laboratory staff who, together with Levshov, refused to be transferred to our secret facility. We have complete files on them - their names, pictures, home addresses. The only thing we dont have is their present location. Half a year ago these people, all twelve of them, disappeared without a trace. Nobody saw them afterwards. But he must be keeping in touch with them through this network of his. And they must have instructions telling them what they are supposed to do if he gets killed. We need him alive. Weve got to get out of him the password for the NanoTech System Administrator. The future of Russia as a great power hinges on this now.

- What about giving him a shot of truth serum? - suggested the Colonel.

- Wont work. I talked with our experts. Everybody says that whatever we inject him with, the cyborg-bacteria in his blood stream can decompose the substance and get it out of his system in a fraction of a second, before it has time to produce any effect. And if they can, they sure as hell will do it. I assume he had done his homework before he came to us. This option is out of question. In this case weve got to find a more subtle approach. Could you run once again the end of the interrogation?

The screen once again showed Levshov and the Colonel.

The Colonel: Levshov, I hope you realize that we just cant let you walk away now, and youll have to spend the night here, in the lockup ward.

Levshov: Colonel, I agree to spend the night in the lockup, but I want you to clearly understand that its purely a goodwill gesture on my part. I reserve the right to leave the lockup at any moment. This is to give you notice that I have the capability to do so, and that you are not going to have any chance to stop me.

What a rascal! - said General, his eyes glued to the screen.

Comrade General, what about a copy of this cassette? Are we still going to hand it over to that American or not? - asked the Colonel.

- We have to. If today we try to withhold the cassette from their liaison officer with special powers, tomorrow theyll know about this at CIA - I am pretty sure that we have a CIA mole in our directorate. Then well have diplomatic notes - you know, unwillingness to cooperate, and all that. And of course, we will be the guilty party. Better turn the cassette in. But there is one thing I want you to do - the General suddenly lowered his voice - Arrange for me a visit to Levshovs cell tonight. But do it in secret. Nobody else should know about this. Im going to have a man-to-man talk with him

2.9 At the same time in the lockup ward.

Levshov could not get to sleep. Or rather he could have, if he had chosen to use the services of the NanoTech. But he did not want to. His thoughts were focused on that gray March day of 1983

2.10 March 1983, Kremlin, Moscow. The office of the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

Thus, Karl Marx was absolutely correct when he predicted that capitalism would be superseded by communism. He was also absolutely correct in believing that this change would come about as a result of the development of productive forces. He was in error only about one thing, that is, at what level of the productive forces development this change was to occur. Back in the nineteenth century he believed that the mankind had already reached the level where the capitalism could be superseded by communism. This error in judgment was caused by a very human weakness - the author of the theory was too eager to see it put into practice. But this error resulted in his violating history, in his trying to force upon the mankind a kind of social system for which it was not yet mature enough.

- Well, well, young man - said General Secretary Andropov and smiled slyly, smiled to the extent the continuous ache in his kidneys allowed him to - So, in your opinion, Marx was not right, after all?

Levshov stopped short and fell into a frightened silence. Finding fault with Marxs opinions in the Soviet Union was fraught with a lot of trouble.

- Thats OK. - said the General Secretary, giving Levshov a wink - you can discuss things like that with me, but I dont recommend that you do it with the others.

Levshov recognized the quotation - a line from a popular Soviet spy TV series - and smiled back.

- So you say that it was a violation of history? - asked the General Secretary. His face grew serious once again and turned into a mask of stone - But imagine for a moment that the Great October Revolution of 1917 never happened and all of the world now belongs to capitalism. Who would you have come to with your invention in that case? To monopolies? But they are interested only in one thing - in power, in an absolute power over everything and everybody. They would have used your invention to augment their power, to perpetuate the capitalism. The possibility of communism emerging on the basis of these new productive forces would have forever remained an unfulfilled possibility. If we had not violated the history, it would have been them who would have violated it. Do you think it would have been better if they did it instead of us?

Levshov wanted to say that it was exactly what he had written in his letter, but thought better of it. He decided that the General Secretary just wanted to give him a hint about the ideologically correct way of presenting his invention: Marx is right, Marx is always right, Marx just cannot be wrong. However, from the further words of the GenSec (Soviet vernacular acronym standing for the General Secretary) it became clear that what he meant was far more serious than simple observance of ideological decorum.

- Im reading a book now - said the GenSec - A curious book. Some dissidents who have defected to United States wrote a book about my ascent to power from a petty party official to the Chief of KGB, and, eventually, to the position of the General Secretary. They presented me as a sort of a Machiavellian ruler who will stop at nothing. Most of the facts seem to be true, but there is one thing missing in that book. There is no answer to a seemingly simple question: what did I do all that for?. The authors of the book seem to believe that the answer is self-evident, and isnt even worth righting about: they think I did it all for power. But they apply their own yardstick.

Im an old and very sick man. Too old and too sick to enjoy those pleasures of life that the position of the General Secretary potentially places within a mans reach. They can kill me at any time - there are too many people around me who dont like to see me in this position. So why did I take up the burdens of this office, while I could have retired and been sitting now peacefully at my country house? And the answer is simple: because there is nobody else to do the job properly. If I had not taken this office, it would have been taken by somebody for whom the position of GenSec does indeed mean only one thing - unlimited power, somebody who does not care about the ideals of socialism, about our painful and bloody history, who does not care about the things for the sake of which we have been enduring all that pain and spilling all that blood for the last sixty years. When Im looking around me I can see that the pinnacle of power is surrounded by exactly such people, and when I am no more, this chair will immediately be occupied by one of them

You probably wonder why am I telling you about all this? I just want you to clearly understand: you have no more than ten years to finish the work on your invention.

- Why?

- Because we are going to loose the cold war to the West.

- But comrade General Secretary, I dont think that

- Young man, I know the true condition of this country much better than you do. We just dont have any resources left to continue confronting the West. And please, remember, that after me this chair will be taken by the people who dont care about our ideals. They will surrender the country to the West at the Wests first beckoning. That means you dont have more than ten years. Can you make it?

- Ill try.

- Please, try hard. And remember that you are going to assume an awesome responsibility. If you dont make it, all those millions of sacrifices our people made in the cause of socialism will turn out to be meaningless. But if you do make it, the Soviet Union, even if it falls at the hands of traitors, will nevertheless have fulfilled its historic mission of opening for the mankind the road to communism. You are our last hope. Always remember it.

And now, back to business. I hope you realize that this work should be done in strictest secrecy. And keeping it secret from Americans is the easier part. Although even this is fairly difficult, in view of the fact that KGB is already heavily infiltrated with CIA agents. But well be able to solve this problem - security in your lab will be maintained by my own tried people. The most difficult part will be keeping it secret from our own bureaucracy. Your invention is going to encroach upon whats holy for them - the pyramid of power, the very principle of power. If they learn about this before time, theyll reduce you to dust. Thats no joke. Yes, to dust. By the time you are ready to announce your invention to the world, you must be fully armed. Yes, fully armed

2.11 The night of July 6, 1997, lockup ward.

Levshovs reminiscences were interrupted by a groan of the metal door being opened. In the doorway stood a man in a uniform with generals shoulder boards.

- Here we go again. This time its a general. - said Levshov, and sat up in his bunk, putting his feet on the floor, trying to find a comfortable sitting position - Well, general, since you are here, sit down. Ill try to arrange a chair for you.

Only now the General noticed a strange device of unknown purpose standing in the corner, a device, which, strictly speaking, was not supposed to be there. Levshov noticed General staring at it: Oh, this. This is a device for condensing water out of the air. Here you can see a small thermoelectric refrigerator, which cools this plate. As you can see, water from the air condenses on this plate and runs off it into this receiver. I had to grow this machine because your colonel had had the water line to my ward disconnected. Although I had warned him that I had the capability to build the machine for extracting water out of the air, he did not seem to believe me Ah, here is a chair for you.

A white mass that had just crawled out of the devices receiver, quickly took the shape of a chair, then suddenly changed its coloring, and began to look like a piece of furniture made of real wood. The General tentatively touched the newly grown chair with the tip of his finger.

- Dont worry, general, the chair is strong enough for you to sit on it. But if you dont trust me and are afraid that one of the legs of this chair may suddenly disappear, I can sit on the chair and you can sit on the bunk.

- Ill sit on the chair. - said General - I dont think that you are going to play practical jokes on me.

- Thats correct, general. Its no joking matter that brought me here.

The General sat down on the chair, paused for a second, gathering his thoughts, and finally said:

I came to you not as a law enforcement officer to a detained, but rather as one Russian to another Russian. I want you to clearly understand all the consequences of your actions for our Motherland. In my opinion, you have your head in the clouds, and I want to bring you down to earth. In theory, all the things that you preach are very nice - you know, all this talk about instituting the Reign of Reason, Universal Equality, Brotherhood of Man, and all that. But let me tell you what is going to happen in reality. The Americans have now put together a big team of outstanding scientists, gave them the best equipment and offered them lots of money, and all this to achieve one task - to crack the password of the NanoTech Network System Administrator. And nobody doubts that eventually they are going to achieve this. This can happen any moment now. And as soon as they achieve their goal, they will disconnect from the Network its creator, thats you, and all your noble intentions will forever remain just that - intentions without any power to carry them out. The Americans will use the power of NanoTech to reign supreme over the rest of the world for ever. If this happens, Russia will never be given a chance to rise from her knees. If you still have at least a vestige of patriotism left in you, you must immediately surrender the control over the NanoTech Network to us.

- Who is us?

- We are a group of true Russian patriots, who, for a long time, have been preparing the overthrow of the pro-western puppet government. Up till now we didnt have enough power to carry out our plans. But with the help of NanoTech well finally be able to take the offensive. This Network is ideally suited for performing acts of sabotage on the enemys territory without physically entering that territory. We are going to carry our a pre-emptive nanotechnological strike at the West, to throw it into chaos, the chaos they wont be able to sort out in years. Theyll have too many problems on their hands to care about supporting their puppets here, in Russia. And it is then that well be able to get our country out of this current mess and establish here the true Russian Order. Russians will once again become the masters of their own country.

- And what about all the other nationalities living in Russia. Will they become sort of your guests?

The General screwed up his face, as if he had a toothache: Listen, Levshov, are you really concerned about whatll happen to all those black-asses? - the General used the vulgar derogatory expression applied in Russia to all those nationalities whose complexions are not as fair as the Russians - It were the communists who were forcing us to be internationalists. But now, thanks to the fall of communism, one no longer needs to be afraid of being a nationalist.

- You see, General, because of the event which you call the fall of communism, it is now possible not to be afraid of being any kind of scoundrel, but I prefer not to take advantage of this possibility. Im perfectly aware that being nationalist or racist is a part of human nature - the people of your own tribe are closer, easier to understand and sympathize with than some aliens. A strange complexion, or an unfamiliar shape of somebodys nose may even be repulsive at a purely biological level. But all these are purely emotional, biological reactions. Beside pure biology, a human being is also endowed with reason, and at least at the level of our reason we must try to see ourselves not just as members of our own tribe, but also as members of the united mankind. Otherwise, the only prospect we have is an interminable war, unending retaliatory strikes at the other tribe, a vendetta handed down from generation to generation, without anybody remembering the cause of the initial conflict. And the weapons grow more dangerous and destructive with each passing year. This is the road to complete self-destruction. Do you have any idea how the West might respond to your pre-emptive nanotechnological strike?

Somebody must break this vicious circle, and stop the madness of the war of peoples that has been dragging on for thousands of years now. NanoTech gives peoples a chance to escape from under the authority of their governments, and thus end the division of the single mankind into different nations. Such division only serves the interests of the governments and national elites, but not the interests of the peoples themselves who have to spill their own blood in the wars protecting the interests of these elites. So, excuse me General, but I absolutely dont like your idea of using NanoTech as a weapon.

And as for the attempts to crack the password of the Network Administrator, please tell those hackers who are making such attempts - I believe you have the capability to contact them - that cracking a conventional computer system is very different from cracking NanoTech. Please, remind them that conventional computer systems are always located outside the hacker, while in the case of NanoTech a part of the system is actually located inside the hacker himself and is capable of controlling some vital functions of his body. Please tell them that if during an attempt to break into the system they set off alarms built into the NanoTech system, this might have a very deleterious effect on their health. Will you?

The only response from the General was an annoyed nod.

- Very nice of you. - said Levshov - Ive given the warning, so if anything happens to them now, my conscience will be clear. And now, to the most important question, General. What about my televised address?

- I think youll have to make a pre-recording of your address. The proper authorities will have to view it and make a decision. I hope you realize that we cant put on the air something that has not received the proper clearance.

- When can I make this recording?

- Anytime you wish. As soon as tomorrow, actually.

- And when can I expect the decision?

- Thats something I dont know. You must realize that the issue will be decided at the highest level.

2.12 Ten minutes later at the Generals office.

- Any results? - asked the Colonel.

- All to no avail. - answered the General - Stubborn bastard. He knows he has the game in his hands and behaves accordingly.

- So, what do we do now?

- There are only two things we can do now - play for time and pray that the specialists in our secret lab crack the password before the Americans do. Although we dont have the kind of equipment the Americans do, but some of our specialists used to work with Levshov, they understand his psychology and this gives them a certain advantage. Levshov mentioned something about an alarm system that might go off, though. It sounded like a threat. Lets hope he was just bluffing. Well have to take this risk.

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Copyright by Alexander Lazarevich, 1997, 1998.
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