There’s plenty of value at the bottom.
Molecular manufacturing (MM) will account for much of the world’s economy by 2025. But an economy like none we have experienced before.
When full blown MM arrives the marginal cost of creating any possible physical product would be on the order of pennies per kilo: basically the cost of the raw material. Eric Drexler (see side bar) estimates total manufacturing cost for MM process in the range of 2 pence and 10 pence per kilogram, regardless of whether the products are clothing, massively parallel supercomputers, tomato soup, or additional MM systems (or Nanofactory).
The value-added, however, will be in the information expressing each product. That is, the software that selects the atomic weight, and defines the geometry and molecular assembly process. In other words, the market value of all manufactured material objects will be based on information content.
As this happens the ratio of value added per bit will rise significantly. This is obviously a trajectory we have today. More value-added comes from information-added products and services, because the order of information embedded within a new product or service is increasing over time. Thus the technological innovations of the future will (1) mostly be information added, (2) exceedingly more complex than today. These will be key economic metrics of the future.