Smalltalk

Glenn Reynolds has taken a bit of abuse from time to time regarding his fascination with nanotech. And not just from Mark Modzelewski. I've read comments on other blogs indicating that some of his most loyal readers find that aspect of his interests, well, unreadable. The more fools they. Some of the things that drew me to his blog in the first place were his interests in nanotech, stem cell research, and mocking Leon Kass.

Had enough of nanotech? Too bad. Too much is never enough, and if you agree with me you should check out "Soft Machines", an excellent nanotechnology blog run by Richard Jones, a physics professor at the University of Sheffield.

Dr. Jones is not a Drexlerian, but he is fair and open minded, which is worth a lot. If you have no interest in diamondoid synthesis, you should probably stop right here...

Will it be possible to make functional machines and devices that operate on the level of single molecules?
Yes. As pointed out by Drexler in his 1986 book Engines of Creation, Nature, in cell biology, gives us many examples of sophisticated machines that operate on the nanoscale to synthesise new molecules with great precision, to process information and to convert energy...
Do the proposals set out in Drexler’s book Nanosystems offer the only way to achieve such a radical nanotechnology?
Obviously not, since cell biology constitutes one radical nanotechnology that is quite different in its design principles to the scaled-down mechanical engineering that underlies Drexler’s vision of “molecular nanotechnology"... Undoubtedly other approaches to radical nanotechnology that have not yet been conceived could work too.
Does Nanosystems contain obvious errors that can quickly be shown to invalidate it?
No. It’s a carefully written book that reflects well the state of science in relevant fields at the time of writing. Drexler’s proposals for radical nanotechnology do not obviously break physical laws. There are difficulties, though...in many cases, Drexler used the best tools available at the time of writing...Since then, though, nanoscale science has considerably advanced and in some places the picture needs to be revised...many proposals in Nanosystems are not fully worked out, and many vital components and mechanisms remain at the level of “black boxes".
How easy will it be to implement the vision of diamondoid-based nanotechnology outlined in Nanosystems?
The Center for Responsible Nanotechnology writes “A fabricator within a decade is plausible— maybe even sooner". I think this timeline would be highly implausible even if all the underlying science was under control, and all that remained was the development of the technology. But the necessary science is very far from being understood...
Will the advantages of the diamondoid-based nanotechnology outlined in Nanosystems be so great as to make it worth persisting to overcome these difficulties, whatever the cost?
This depends what you want to use the technology for. Much of the emphasis from proponents of MNT is on using the technology to manufacture artefacts. But arguably the impacts of nanotechnology will be much more important and far-reaching in areas like information processing, energy storage and transduction, and medicine, where the benefits of diamond as a structural material will be much less relevant...
If the diamondoid-based nanotechnology proposed in Nanosystems proves to be impossible or impractical to implement, does that mean that nanotechnology will have only marginal impacts on the economy and society?
Not necessarily...Even if Drexler is wrong, nanotechnology will have far-reaching impacts...

Full disclosure. I cherrypicked the above quotes and trimmed to fit. Doubtless, you'll want to dive right in and read the whole thing, bypassing my gatekeeper's agenda. Feel free. If you've gotten this far, you will probably also enjoy this and this. I regret to say, some pdf is present.

posted by Justin on 02.09.05 at 07:33 PM










Comments

Kim Eric Drexler! He was one of our best friends in Central High School, the smartest kid in the school, obviously. We first met him, he first moved to Monmouth in 1969, in our last year of junior high school. He and my brother Dave (who is a lot smarter than I am) used to hang out together and look through Dave's telescope. We both used to visit Kim and his mother at their house. After that, he went the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and wrote a number of articles on space colonization. Then, in the early 1980s, he began developing nanotechnology, a word I had never heard before but which, thanks largely to him, I'm hearing all the time now, including on this blog. We read his books "Engines of Creation" and "Unbounding the Future", and Dave used to attend conferences of Drexler's Foresight Institute.

We knew him as Kim in our school days, but he later began calling himself Eric. I was the first to find out that his middle name was Eric. I was always interested in people's middle names, and, while he and I were taking a walk while on a camping trip, I asked him about it and he told me. I've always liked that name Eric. A very masculine name, a Viking name, and one that connotes great intelligence to me. A couple of the characters in my stories are named Eric.

Justin is an excellent name, too, and I most certainly like Justin Case.

The nanotech stuff does not interest me. Whether here or at instapundit: yaaaaaaaawwwwwwnnnn.

But, what I like about most of the blogs I like (including this and including Insta) is the eclectic nature of the bloggers' interests. No rule that says just because I like to read a particular blogger, I've got to read each and every thing that he writes (except, of course, Lileks, and I will read anything that comes out of that man's keyboard).

So, go ahead, talk all the nano you want. I'll still be here. Hanging out in the political posts or the architectural critiques.

retrofuturistic   ·  February 10, 2005 12:08 AM

Retrofuturistic:

Excellent! I have to confess thatm not being of a scientific mind myself, nanotechnology wouldn't interest me half so much if I hadn't known K. Eric Drexler as I did back then.

There was yet another typo there, I see. I must clarify: When I said "Excellent!" to his comment, I was referring to what he said about how good it is that we have such different interests.

I am so glad you both like Justin's stuff. I like to think that our different tastes complement each other and the blog -- which is why I have used every artifice to drag Justin in as a writer.

Eric Scheie   ·  February 10, 2005 1:11 AM

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