Failure to Communicate
Right now I'm working on four books – and that's a bad habit. I should start a book and finish it before taking up another. I end up getting the ideas from different books jumbled up together. Is it really true that President Taft broke the four minute mile? That just doesn't seem right. Anyway, the current books are:
All of these books are, so far, very interesting and I recommend them all. Oryx and Crake
is a very dark dystopian novel that's not for everyone. It's a weird and depressing cross between Frankenstein, Mad Max, and the book of Genesis.
is interesting combination of breathless anticipation of the future of nanotechnology and utter disdain for Drexler. At several points in the book the writer, William Atkinson, is not at all shy about expressing his low opinion of Eric Drexler.
I wanted to dislike Atkinson's book (he and Modzelewski
would probably get along great), but at the same time I got caught up in his enthusiasm for nanotech's possibilities. For example, Atkinson has no problem with the concept of molecular self-assembly. I found myself wondering why he dislikes Drexler's ideas so much.
I can't help but think that Atkinson would hate Drexler's ideas less if he understood them better. Atkinson's problem is that he envisions Drexler's nanobot as an atom-sized R2D2. If that is what Drexler really has in mind, I would agree. If you had to make R2D2 the size of an atom, what exactly would R2D2 be made of?
Drexler's vision of nano is not macroengineering made small. Perhaps part of the problem here is the term "nanobot." The "bot" suffix obviously is short for "robot." Nanobots, obviously, will not look like R2D2. They will be more like viruses, bacteria, or a protein.
A good example is the work being done at Sandia National Laboratories. (Newsweek
Called a motor protein, it has two little feet on one end and a tail that can grab things on the other. Once a special chemical is added to the solution in which it resides, the protein begins moving along strands of fiber that are one-fifth the width of a human hair, says Bruce Bunker, a Sandia researcher who's in charge of the project.
He's betting that his experiment could play a part in heralding the arrival of a new era in manufacturing…
…scientists recently have made so much headway in designing artificial molecules that self-assemble in a predictable pattern -- an outgrowth of steady increases in research funding for such projects worldwide.
About one-quarter of the 2,000 or so nanotechnology projects the National Science Foundation now sponsors involve self-assembly -- and funding for nanotechnology should grow about 20% year-over-year, to $305 million, in fiscal 2005, says Roco. Total federal nanotech funding through a program called the National Nanotechnology Initiative, which Roco helps coordinate, should reach nearly $1 billion next year.
…Even that figure is likely to be overshadowed by private funding.
The big dream of nanotech is to develop self-assembling molecules that work at our direction. This is what Drexler and Atkinson both envision. What we've got here is... failure to communicate
Posted by Stephen Gordon at April 23, 2004 01:47 PM