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« Five Year Forecast | Main | Technology in Animation »

December 28, 2006


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Hal Finney

Greg Bear's Moving Mars has some nanotech based scenes, including an attack by nanotech based weaponry - actually not too different from some of the scenarios you guys play with. One of my favorite books.

I suspect that one reason we don't see so much nano in present-day sci-fi is because the Empire has Struck Back and most hard SF writers no longer see Drexlerian nanotech as a major component of future technology. For an example of post-Drexlerian nano see Charles Stross' Accelerando. Their nanotech does not rely on clumsy arms and mills; instead they set up a quantum superposition of wave functions, an atom-level hologram which congeals into whatever molecular arrangement is desired.


I suspect that a major problem is that it is hard to come up with a society that uses nanotech in every way possible. For example, for a plot point you might need nanobots swimming in someone's blood stream, but you do not want to think through the economic implications of a nanofactory. Of course, how could you make enough nanobots to have any use in the body if they are not mass-produced? You can't do that without a nanofactory, therefore a lot of authors will simply ignore nanotech rather that construct a society that uses nanotechnology unrealistically. It is very hard to conceive of a society with strong nanotechnology. The number of previous constants in human affairs that become variables is very large. Most SF tries to change only a small handful of variables.

Hal, the kind of manufacturing you referred to is an outgrowth of "atom optics". I think Stross used it to be provocative. As far as I know, only two scientists are working on it (atom holography manufacturing) Lute Maleki of JPL and Pierre Meystre of University of Arizona.

Neil Asher's "The Engineer" short story - bionano

Greg Bear's "Blood Music", altho' it may be considered a bit soft on the bio-side of the bio/nano interface

Chris Phoenix, CRN

As a story, I liked The Cassini Division better than Stone Canal. Also, I liked the (earlier) novella version of Blood Music a lot better than the novel.

David Marusek's We Were Out of Our Minds with Joy is probably top of my list. It appears in the Nanotech collection. A lot of the other stories in that collection just use nanotech as background, and tend to make it semi-magical or else poorly-defined and weakly applied. Marusek actually thought through what nanotech would mean to society, and did a good job of sticking to physics. And it's an excellent story, too.

Diamond Age has some annoying problems--physics contradictions, recycled subplots--it has lots of cool ideas, but I wouldn't rate it highly because I don't like science fiction authors who are careless with the science.

I think the reason nanotech fiction faded out is that humans can't write post-singularity stories.


Tom Mazanec

Has a fascinating attempt at post-singularity interstellar society.

Michael Martine

People can and do write post-singularity stories. Accelerando by Charles Stross is one such.

I highly recommend John C. Wright's Golden Age trilogy and Sean McMullen's "Calculor" series of books.

Michael Anissimov

Golden Age rules. Humans can't write post-Singularity stories, but we can write ultratechnological stories, with humanlike characters.

I like a lot of things from the mid to late 90s, because I grew up then. Most adults I know seem to be into the music, books, and art that were popular when they were young.

Have you read Asteroi? That's supposed to be good.

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