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« The Design of the World | Main | Science is No Substitute »

September 29, 2006


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This does look promising. If I remember correctly, Philip Moriarty once wrote on this blog how SPMs would soon be able to build interesting structures in three dimensions by computer control, the main problem being how could you take that process and economically scale it up. If someone does create something useful by this pick-and-place method that has powerful implications for various technologies, and it can't be synthesized by any chemical method, it will be interesting to see how the establishment plans on mass producing them w/o molecular nanotechnology. It seems to me that if we get to that point, there will be at least one good effort to make an SPM-like device by the pick-and-place method that can make more of its own kind to start an exponential scale-up.

Jonathan Pugh

Freakin sweet.

Tom Craver

I could see this process getting bogged down and non-productive. "Nanotech" has devolved into 'believers vs atheists'.

The "believers" see MNT as a really cool idea, and *want* it to be true - but don't often understand the difficulties or arguments much deeper than "life is nanotech, so nanotech is possible". The believer's attitude is that there's such a huge range of pathways that "might work", that *something* is bound to work, if only experts would *try* to invent around the problems.

The "atheists" have all the real intellectual ammunition, understand the difficulties, and can easily pick apart proposals of approaches to MNT. But they're also stuck - they can't bring themselves to focus on inventing around the problems they see so clearly - because in the process they would get lumped in with the believers. They need only look at Drexler to see what could happen to their reputation among their peers, if the believers were allowed to latch onto them as "disciples of MNT".

And of course, Drexler and some others are stuck in the middle, trying to make some productive progress, burdened by the "amateur faithful", opposed by the "professional non-believers". I'll bet there are many days Drexler wishes he'd never written Engines of Creation...

(The above is not meant as criticism of any group. Not everyone can be an expert and amateurs have a right to be interested in "cool technology stuff". Experts do need to guard their reputations, and certainly aren't obligated to help fulfill the amateurs' wishes. All I'm saying is that it's an unfortunate bind.)

Chris Phoenix, CRN

Tom, see my response here.

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