Will amateurs be the first to invent general-purpose molecular manufacturing? Considering the hesitancy of most corporations today (with the possible exception of Zyvex) to openly pursue the goal, this does seem to be a possibility.
An intriguing new article in Fast Company magazine (thanks to alert blog reader Matt for pointing this out) highlights the "committed, networked amateurs working to professional standards" who "will help reshape society in the next two decades."
The 20th century was marked by the rise of professionals in medicine, science, education, and politics. In one field after another, amateurs and their ramshackle organizations were driven out by people who knew what they were doing and had certificates to prove it. Now that historic shift seems to be reversing. Even as large corporations extend their reach, we're witnessing the flowering of Pro-Am, bottom-up self-organization.
Most scenarios for the development of advanced nanotechnology depict a major government program in the United States, China, or Japan...or a giant multinational corporation...or a secret military project...or a collection of large university labs working together. But could non-affiliated amateurs get there first?
Professionals likely will scoff at such a notion. But as policy analysts and risk evaluators, we at CRN can't afford to dismiss any plausible hypothesis.