When the arch-skeptic's pronouncements are not only doubted but dismissed by mainstream commentators, it's a sign of major progress.
Howard Lovy, a longtime nano-watcher and former Small Times editor, recently wrote:
Most scientists do believe bottom-up molecular manufacturing is physically possible. It's not even a question, no matter what Nobel laureate Rick Smalley says. Smalley has reasons for his marginalization of another branch of his own science that may never be truly known.
Two years ago, when CRN was founded, we knew we'd have an uphill battle to build a case that molecular manufacturing was even plausible. At the time, almost no one was admitting it, or even talking about it. I wasn't expecting that public attitudes would shift so soon.
Now that molecular manufacturing is becoming widely accepted and even the most credentialed denialists can no longer control the discussion, we will be working on the harder part of our task: promoting discussion, formulation, and implementation of policy to maximize the benefits and minimize the problems.
This will take us pretty far afield from technology. Finding good answers will probably require input from psychology, sociology, economics, political science, and ecology. Today's institutions probably won't be able to handle the rate and scope of change or the new issues created by the new technologies. Something new needs to be conceived, developed, accepted, and implemented -- within the next few years.
For a small group to spark the creation of a novel and global-scale way of dealing with new and poorly understood problems in just a few years appears impossible. But that's what we have to do. We will be looking for partners and people we can quietly inspire. We will be analyzing the problems from every angle we can think of to look for leverage points to use or pitfalls to avoid. And we will be asking for advice and participation from many groups -- including everyone who's reading this.
One of our blog readers recently asked us to focus exclusively on nanotechnology. We have done that for the last two years. And although many share credit for the mainstream acceptance of molecular manufacturing, I'd like to think we've made a significant contribution. But now it's time to move beyond the technology. In a sense, we'll be reinventing ourselves over the next few months. Please bear with us, and advise us, as we do this. The stakes are too high to get it wrong.