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« Not Nanotechnology | Main | First Day on the Job »

September 29, 2004


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Hal Finney

I would think that with your advocacy of "responsible" nanotechnology you would eschew this kind of simple boosterism. Nanotech proliferation into the hands of governments with a track record of oppression, intolerance and environmental destruction could bring disaster. Most developing countries lack the checks and balances of Western democracies which can guide technology development down responsible paths. How realistic is it that a country like China, let alone a third world dictatorship, will use this power to solve its environmental problems rather than to extend its millitary reach?

If Drexlerian nanotech works it will be a great power for both good and evil. No one today can accurately foresee whether its net effect will be positive or negative. Given these uncertainties I view it as irresponsible to press for rapid development without constant reminders about the perils we face if we choose that path.

Mike Treder, CRN

Hal, I agree with you. To me, it's a given that rapid development must be accompanied by stringent assessment of risk management options. I took for granted that this would be assumed.

With that caveat, however, we should press for the earliest possible safe development scenario, because the costs of delay are so appalling. And we also must realize that if Western democracies dawdle, other nations may race ahead, with, as you say, potentially disastrous consequences.


I think the whole concept of "stage managing" the development of nanotech by a single bureaucratic entity is laughable at best. If "dry" nanotech is possible (I am still skeptical of this), it will most certainly be developed by many parties, in many places, at once. China would certainly be one of the places that it would be developed. As you point out, they certainly have the environmental and economic motivation to develop it.

The Chinese are planning to build at least 30 one-gigawatt nuclear plants by 2020. They expect to build at least 300 such plants by 2050. The current design of plant they are building is similar to (but not the same as) the integral fast reactor technology that was developed during the late 80s and 90s in the U.S. They will also start building many of the "pebble-bed" reactors that they are currently developing. One of the advantages of pebble-bed technology is that it is modular and that they can be mass-produced (just like cars) in an assembly line.

I would really like to see the Chinese drag out the old L5 space power and space colonization scheme and implement it using nanotechnology and nuclear power. They've got lots of desert (in the middle and western parts) for building the receiving antenna farms.

The current issue of Fortune is all about China. Make no mistake about it. The Chinese are serious about becoming a "developed" country.

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