NIH Conference on Nanotech

From: hal@finney.org
Date: Mon Jun 26 2000 - 10:27:08 MDT


Wired news reports this morning about a conference at NIH on "Nanoscience
and Nanotechnology: Shaping Biomedical Research". The first substantive
talk, "What is Nanotechnology?", was by Steven Block, who wrote:

> Against the backdrop of much exciting technical and scientific
> development, there are legitimate expectations for breakthroughs in
> areas such as computing/electronics, biotechnology, materials, and so
> on. In many cases, these expectations seem realistic and appropriate,
> and therefore merit the attention and support of government agencies,
> academia, and the private sector.
>
> In others cases, the expectations seem na´ve and unrealistic: these are
> primarily being advanced by a vocal cult of futurists whose enthusiasm
> is beyond question, but whose agenda is not. I will argue that for the
> real science to proceed, nanotechnologists ought to distance themselves
> from the giggle factor and position themselves for the serious work of
> the 21st century.

The Wired article makes it clear that it is Drexler and his associates
whom Block is criticizing here. As nanotech goes mainstream I suspect
that we will see more of this kind of distancing.

Another point made by Block, echoed in the title of the conference,
is that there is real science still to be done at the nanoscale.
This contradicts the often-heard claim of nanotech advocates that all the
basic science has been done, and all that is needed is straightforward
engineering work to put the pieces together.

Hal



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