April 28, 2004



Here Comes the Drain Again

I finished reading Atkinson's Nanocosm last night. It is a great read for anybody who has an interest in the state of the art (well, last year's state of the art – this industry moves quickly) in nanotechnology.

I'm even beginning to understand some of Atkinson's criticisms of Drexler. He saved his best anti-Drexler bombshell for the last chapter, "Nano-Pitfalls." Still, my one criticism of the book is the repetitive and tiresome attacks on Drexler:
K. Eric Drex, K. Eric Drex / The man who dispensed with reality checks
I'm not kidding. That's an actual quote from page 145. I can just imagine Drexler responding, "Oh yeah? I'm rubber and you're glue…"

Any good book needs both protagonists and antagonists. Atkinson's book is filled with worthy protagonists from around the world, but he settled for just the one antagonist. There were better choices. He came close to finding one in this conversation with Dr. Tsunenori Sakamoto, "deputy director of international affairs for AIST, Japan's National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology":
"[Japanese] revenue from semiconductor chips peaked in 1987, when Japan had 50 percent of theworld market and the U.S. had 35 percent or so…since then the U.S. has had a steady gain and Japan a study decline. Our latest figures show the U.S. with 57 percent of the world market, more than we had fifteen years ago. Japan's share is down to 29 percent and apparently, still falling… [said Sakamoto]"

…I strongly suspect that the sales curves he's showing me are capital-investment curves, shifted five years to the right… I ask him about this…

"What is there to say? In the 1970's, when money was much more scarce, Japan somehow found nearly $600 million U.S. to capitalize its semiconductor R&D. That subsequently paid off twenty times over. But we got complacent…

[From page 221]
Atkinson should have targeted as antagonists (as Phil did yesterday) those who have become complacent about R&D spending in the U.S. and elsewhere. We are cutting back in many areas of research and simultaneously making it more difficult for foreign brainpower to come to our country. I understand our need for defense in this dangerous time, but this doesn't bode well for the U.S. in the next five to ten years.

And what are Japan's goals?
Dr. Tsunenori Sakamoto showed me an AIST chart that divided nanotechnology into various areas-electronics, smart structures, materials, pharmaceuticals. Each area fell into one of three categories. The first was Japan Dominates in Three Years. The second was Japan Dominates in Ten Years. The third was Japan Dominates in Twenty Years. No area whatsoever was allotted a category for second place.

[from page 254]
Posted by Stephen Gordon at April 28, 2004 10:17 AM | TrackBack
Comments

I can just imagine Drexler responding, "Oh yeah? I'm rubber and you're glue…"

I can't picture that at all. Mr Spock, maybe, but not Eric Drexler!

Posted by: Phil at April 28, 2004 10:40 AM

Does this have anything to do with the Singularity? We can't predict what Japan will do, can we? Can we even do anything about the U.S.'s R&D priorities? I'm not normally pessimistic, but I think we're in for a tough decade or so.

Posted by: Kathy at April 28, 2004 05:32 PM

I think one of Japan's priorities is pretty obvious. It needs to raise the productivity of the workers in its export industries in order to handle the needs of its aged population and to compete with cheap foreign labor. They won't permit serious immigration so technological development is the other good avenue for them.

Posted by: Karl Hallowell at April 28, 2004 06:01 PM

Join the Linux community. Linuxwaves.net

Posted by: Alexander at July 6, 2004 01:04 AM
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