Jack Uldrich, author of The Next Big Thing Is Really Small: How Nanotechnology Will Change the Future of Your Business, made some interesting comments on his blog regarding a recent Financial Times article...
The article discusses Steve Jurvetson's vision of nanotechnology and in it Jurvetson hits on an important theme. Today’s business leaders, he states, must take seriously "the embarrassing and futuristic." He is absolutely right. Unfortunately, embracing the future is easier said than done.
Uldrich suggests that "one of the most effective ways to get people to embrace 'embarrassing and futuristic' scenarios is to simply get them to consider history."
To illustrate the point, he mentions ENIAC, the world’s first computer...
When it was built in 1946, at a cost of $400,000, it was a technological marvel. It consisted of over 19,000 vacuum tubes, occupied 1500 square feet and was capable of performing 300 calculations a second.
Now imagine going back in time to the year 1946 and telling the scientists and technicians who designed and built ENIAC that in the future we would be able to produce a computer millions of time more powerful than ENIAC and that it would fit on your thumbnail and cost less than a penny. My guess it that they would have laughed you out of the room. But, as all of us know, this is precisely what happened.
Therefore, when experts in the field of nanotechnology tell us that in the not-so-distant future we may be able to grow computers (that is get nanoscopic components to self assemble themselves into a functioning device) which are a million times more powerful than today’s state-of-the-art technology, it doesn’t sound as preposterous—with the benefit of some historical perspective.
The conclusion Uldrich draws is that true leaders "must courageously facilitate and embrace [futuristic] visions. For if they do not, someone else will—and it will be those people who actually create our future."
We agree with this. And the historical lesson becomes even more pertinent when applied not only to self-assembly, but also to molecular manufacturing.
(NOTE: Jack's been out of the country for about a week, so his blog has not been updated. But he's supposed to resume soon, and it's a site well worth reading.)