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« "Molecular Nanotechnology" Talk in London | Main | Extreme Robots »

August 08, 2007


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Nato Welch

Is this a rehash of nature/nurture? I suspect the answer to the chicken/egg question will be about as useful - although the results of //reaching// answers sound very fruitful.

I'm pretty strong about advocating public access to technology, but I also realize that the majority of people are either not equipped to, or not interested in, exercising the freedoms such access provides. A lot of people don't care about freedom when it comes to software, for example, because they just don't care to put in the time to learn the complex things needed to fully exploit it, especially when "mere choice" can do the job for them (not that it always does).

So, when technologies lift the lid of off limitations people have grown accustomed to for generations, there can be a very small minority of people exploring the new space, and it's those pioneers that end up taking a long time to show people what's really possible.

Tristan Hambling

Mike not sure if you read http://reason.com , however some recent articles are worthy of a skim. eg..
Our Intangible Riches http://reason.com/news/show/120764.html

Peace and Prosperity Through Productivity,
Can economic growth solve all the problems in the world?

Mike Treder, CRN

Thanks, Tristan, for pointing out those interesting articles. "Our Intangible Riches" seems particularly relevant to the this thread...my initial reaction is that it seems to support Gregory Clark's theories about the impact of human attitudes on the growth prospects for a given society.


As Nato commented here, it would be a small group of people who experiment and explore new ideas and bring in new technologies to solve problems which were existing for millenia.
Once the technology is developed, we then see that it solves our problems and we start using it and gradually the society is transformed. It is quite possible that the society takes some time to realise the potential of a technology and start using it.

(BTW chicken or egg problem is solved. It is the EGG :-). Here is the link. )

Jan-Willem Bats

I see people around me changing pretty quickly. Every next generation seems to be more progressive.

Technological change and changes in human nature are intertwined in today's society, I think.

John B

Nato Welch - your comments regarding the popular comprehension of novel technologies for another limitation on adoption time are well put. Thanks for that.

Great articles, Tristan - thank you for the pointer. I need to remember to keep Reason on the reading list. For some reason, it keeps slipping off. *mutter* Silly me.

Mike - You seem to be missing an IMO critical point - change takes time. You state that "the entire revolution compressed into a matter of a few years instead of half a century". Isn't that really a misnomer, as the concept of nanotechnology has been around for quite some time, hasn't it? All the way back to the 1959 "All the way to the bottom" talk by Feynman at least. (Hrmm... getting close to that half-century mark you reference for a lower-bound on a 'revolution'... *grin*)

The nanotech revolution *does* have some unusual aspects, in that there's been a lot of groundwork done and we've seen relatively few major breakthroughs. Sure, some interesting materials have come into being via nanotech research (buckytubes for instance), but they're relatively scarce at this point. Their repercussions are miniscule compared to what nanofacture could do (assuming nanofacture ends up being practical, 'course.)

How that ends up coming out remains to be seen - is it possible all we'll get out of nanotech is a few new materials? Yep. Is it possible that we'll be hip deep in replicators tomorrow? Also yep. The difficulty as always is in determining the probable. As we've discussed before, I don't agree with CRNano's aggressive/optimistic timeline for mass nanofacture, nor do I have many optimistic thoughts on the transition period if nanofacture becomes popularly available.

-John B

Mike Treder, CRN

Mike - You seem to be missing an IMO critical point - change takes time.

Quite right, John. You've identified a key point in the evolution :) of CRN's thinking.

In 2005, I wrote:

It is not exaggeration or hype to say that the combined impacts of nanotechnology will equal all the industrial revolutions of the last two centuries -- but with all that change compressed into just a few years.

However, a few months ago, I said:

It's also useful, though, to consider ways in which the conceivably disruptive impacts of nanotech might be blunted. One of the biggest bottlenecks to lightning-fast expansion of any new endeavor is the human factor -- the politics, economics, and social inertia of dealing with people and societies.

Although it seems probable that the nanotech/MM revolution will occur, it's not certain how rapidly its effects will be felt. More research is needed!

John B

*grin* Touche, Mike. And agreed, research needs to continue!


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