Re: The capture of Eric Drexler's nanotechnology memes.

From: Keith Henson (
Date: Wed 17 Dec 2003 - 14:39:00 GMT

  • Next message: Alan Patrick: "Re: The capture of Eric Drexler's nanotechnology memes."

    At 12:49 PM 17/12/03 +0000, Alan Patrick wrote:
    > > But he also seems drawn out of his element and outflanked by better-funded
    > > and far less scrupulous adversaries. Drexler's seniority in the field and
    > > the scientific logic of his position are unassailable, while that of his
    > > detractors is questionable.
    >As you said above

    The author. As a refugee, I can't get back to California for a conference without spending a year in a scientology controlled jail.

    >, its the money - this is the brightest new New Thing in
    >tech circles. Also, the book from Michael Crichton won't have helped the PR
    >of MNT a lot.

    >Drexler's problem is that he hasn't really done anything new since 1992, so
    >he's leaving himself open to new players.

    That's not actually true. Eric and related people like Ralph Merkle did a lot of molecular design work post 1992.

    >Also, if you look back at most
    >births of new things in science you will see the same unedifying spectacle -
    >very seldom is the guy credited in the history book the one who really did
    >the real thinking. Memes are not faithful in the way they hitch their
    >waggons to the next thing that advances their progress.
    > > By now, the military
    > > must have a black program to develop MNT before the Chinese or Arabs or
    > > Russians get it.
    >I would say the Russians and Chinese are already working on it, maybe with
    >western corporate funding. Add to that the Indians, all of Europe,
    >Australia, Japan, and the Science councils of a dozen emerging countries.
    >Nano is pretty old hat, most universities around the world are working on it
    >somewhere. For Crichton to write a book on it means its already hit tipping
    >point public perception.
    >What is more interesting is to think through just why teh NNI is going
    >after him now - the stable door is well open so what is the NNI's purpose so
    >late in the game . He is clearly perceived as a major threat by them, but

    Hard to say, but this is a kind of memetic capture example. Drexler testified before congress and had a lot of influence. So they fund
    "nanotechnology" because that's where the political (memetic) interest is, but they redefine it to include things several factors of ten larger than the molecular level and don't fund a dime on the molecular level controlled assembly Eric was actually talking about.

    I am not sure any government that understands molecular scale nanotechnology is going to want to develop it if they are not forced. The consequences get out of hand rather fast. That said, I expect a hot bed of development to be in eastern Europe from the number of papers and conferences that started coming out of that area some years ago. The major expense in nanotechnology is people, and you can get them for far less there.

    Keith Henson

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