Re: Clinton's National Nanotechnology Initiative

Date: Mon Feb 28 2000 - 15:19:22 MST

At 04:01 AM 28/02/00 -0800, 'gene wrote:
>Eliezer S. Yudkowsky writes:
> > Conclusion:
> > These people are deliberately avoiding all mention of diamondoid and
> > drextech. I'm not sure whether they're good guys or bad guys, but I
> > don't trust them.
>Never attribute to malice what can be adequately explained by ignorance.

The figure of merit for researchers is citations. Workers and papers
which are widely cited are by definition the most influential. They are
the ones which get the prestige and the credit.

I think it is fair to say that Drexler's work does not have much direct
connection to current research in nanotech. He got some credit (and
citations) for his proposal that the protein folding problem might be
easier to solve for engineered proteins. But his visions in Engines
and Nanosystems simply don't lend themselves to research that can be
done in the labs today.

He is more of a visionary, an evangelist. He points the way to the
promised land. But the people who will get the credit are those who do
the work that brings us there.

It's ironic, but it is entirely possible that in the end we will come to
a fully nanotech future, every bit as amazing as what Drexler envisions
- and he will be a forgotten figure. None of the credit will be his.
He will be like a Jules Verne or H.G. Wells, a visionary who caught
a glimpse of the future but doesn't get credit because he didn't do
the work. At best he might be a Leonardo, years ahead of his time,
but not considered the actual inventor of the technology he foresaw.

The Leonardo comparison is probably a good one, because I suspect that
by the time nanotech assembly systems are built, they will bear the
same resemblance to Drexler's quaint designs that our own airplanes do
to Leonardo's plans for flying machines.


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