Re: Clinton's National Nanotechnology Initiative

From: Zero Powers (
Date: Sat Mar 04 2000 - 10:47:49 MST

>These observations are consistent with my own. Although the word
>gets bandied about from time to time by historians and even contemporary
>political spin-doctors, the political process is pretty ruthless in weeding
>out imagination. In fact, the almost-universal career pattern for both
>elected politicians and government bureaucrats selects very heavily for
>conventional thinking. Since success in these fields is almost entirely a
>function of being allowed access to existing power structures by
>any sign of non-conformity is suppressed at a very early stage. By the
>someone has achieved a position of real power and influence, they have
>learned well the lesson that only small, incremental change is "possible".

That is the "problem" with our system of checks and balances. No one person
ever has enough "real power" to effect change without building a critical
mass consensus among other similarly limited power brokers. Don't get me
wrong, I whole-heartedly believe our checks and balances are a *good* thing.
  I don't trust any politician enough to give them monarchy power. But the
fact is that real change, even positive change, is laboriously
slow--especially when it comes to such little-understood subjects as
ultra-high technology.

>People who succeed in the political world over the span of a typical career
>have almost always internalized the pattern of suspicion of innovation.
>On top of this is the fact that the democratic process makes maintaining
>power a full-time job. People in positions of power in most institutions
>don't have the time or energy to really study new ideas. They depend on
>summaries and sound-bite outlines for "mastery" of even the most complex
>policy issues, with most of their personal resources being devoted to
>constantly "working the system" to stay in power.
>These factors make looking to the political process for leadership in the
>transhumanist agenda essentially hopeless. As a result, I've come to
>conclude that successful strategies for truly rapid progress toward
>transhumanist goals must look to means for cleverly side-stepping the
>power structure.

Well, as Drexler suggests in his writings, once the tech is sufficiently
close to achievement, public policy will have no choice but to deal with it.
  With regard to nanotech, again as Drexler postulates, there is no
practical means of bringing that ball to a stop once it starts rolling. So
the only policy question will be how to pursue the tech in the safest
possible manner. So essentially, all we need to do to effect such change is
to continue to pursue the science and technology needed to make our goals

That's why I was personally so thrilled with the NNI announcement. Not that
the few hundred mil it entails is going to get the job done, but because it
is the first step in putting nanotech on the global socio-political radar
screen. The US now has an official national initiative. As a result,
Europe and Japan will almost certainly increase their efforts, which will in
turn spur the US to further increase its own efforts. I foresee an imminent
nanotech-race similar to the cold war nuclear arms race. This could mean
some scary moments if some not-so-friendly nation makes the major
breakthroughs first. But I believe Japan and the US have what is pretty
close to an insurmountable head start, so I'm not too worried. I think the
coming nanotech race will be a good thing.

"Gentlemen, start your nanolabs!"

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