CRN Director of Research Chris Phoenix presented his paper "Studying Molecular Manufacturing" at the IEEE Conference on Nanoscale Devices & System Integration today. Here he reports on the reception to his remarks:
At the start of the week, I was planning to soft-pedal the message, talking mainly about boring and conventional stuff. But after speaking with a variety of scientists about the technological possibilities, I realized two very important things. First, the idea of molecular manufacturing was plausible and sensible to most of them. And second, the disagreement between prominent scientists (e.g. Drexler/Smalley) was almost completely unimportant to these researchers. They didn't want to hear disclaimers or defenses; they didn't want to think about politics; they just wanted to hear about how the technology could work. If they even knew of the opinions of Smalley, they treated them as opinions--not disproofs. In short, they were willing to think for themselves.
So in the final revision of my presentation, I wrote in the full molecular manufacturing theory, including the tabletop self-contained nanofactory. And no one challenged me on the basis of thermal noise, quantum uncertainty, uncontrollability, or any other bogus "disproofs". Several people, including one of the conference organizers, told me they really liked the talk. It seems that molecular manufacturing is accepted, or at least acceptable, "in the trenches" of the research community.
The next question is: How can we build on this to promote responsible dialog, education, journalism, and policy discussion?