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« CRN Expenses | Main | CRN Around the World »

September 13, 2004


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Hal Finney

Part of the article doesn't make sense. "The real reason the government is willing to shell out for nanotech is because our leaders in Washington believe in the more revolutionary version of nanotech espoused by Drexler..." But then, it describes how the one part of the bill which would have explored Drexlerian nanotech was removed.

If the "real reason" for the bill was Drexler's ideas, then why would the government have removed the one (tiny) part of the bill which dealt with them? This inconsistency undercuts the article's claim that Drexler's vision of nanotech was the true motivation for the funding bill.

Brett Bellmore

Remember that such laws are the product of groups of people, and executed by other groups. Congress gets together in a group, and lays out some grand outline. Then they delegate all the detail work.

If they delegate to people who don't share the original goal, you get billions to study Drexlerian nanotech, and they produce a feasibility study on transparent zinc oxide sunscreen.

That sort of thing happens all the time. Look at the Armed Pilots program, it's a perfect example: They pass a law to train and arm as many airline pilots, as fast as possible, and it ends up headed by a rabid anti-gunner, who systematically sabotoges it.

Our government wasn't designed with efficiency in mind, it was designed to minimize the damage it might do.

Chris Phoenix, CRN

Hal, the inconsistency is in Congress, not the article. Do you think your average Congressperson will know the difference between molecular manufacturing and molecular self-assembly?

The NNI was founded, at least in part, because of the big promise of nanotech based on molecular manufacturing. I'd be willing to bet that molecular manufacturing-level technology is what most people in Congress think about when they think about nanotech.

By the time the bill came along, nanotech had become quite commercialized and near-term. But people (including Smalley) were still talking about direct control of matter, and how much you could do with that: basically, riding the reputation of molecular manufacturing. And a study directed at molecular manufacturing was put into the bill.

Then a short-sighted special-interest business group (now under new management) bent the ear of a few Senators and sabotaged the study. And all the people in Congress passed the new bill, not aware of the significance of the wording change. In fact, even Foresight didn't react to the change at first.

So there are four sets of ideas:
1) The ideas that motivated the NNI in the first place;
2) The ideas the bulk of Congress had when they voted on the bill;
3) The ideas of the people who put in the study;
4) The ideas of the people who took it out.

Only the fourth group was opposed to molecular manufacturing.


michael vassar

I just want to point out that while only the fourth group was opppsed to Molecular Manufacturing, the second group was probably very confused in its attitude, and was essentially looking for sf nanotech (Prey?), rather than real MNT. Still, I suppose sf nanotech is closer to MNT than it is to sunscreen.


I recently checked out NNI's News Update Page and found a link to an article "Foresight Institute Announces Feynman Prize Finalist," another clue that perhaps the NNI is becoming more favorable towards MNT. However, the recent report by the NSF confuses things a little. Does anyone have a suggestion?

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