Re: NIH Conference on Nanotech

From: Robert J. Bradbury (
Date: Mon Jun 26 2000 - 13:45:24 MDT

On Mon, 26 Jun 2000, Brian Atkins wrote:

> I think whatever influence Foresight had developed is rapidly fading. They
> helped bring things this far, but are going to be pushed out of the way
> and kept on the fringe. Reminds me of how Jodie Foster's character got
> treated in the movie Contact when her boss took all the credit for her work.

That in no way discounts the foundation that they have laid or the
vision they have that many of the senior associates find invaluable
in thinking about the future and/or charting their personal life courses.

How many American's go around every day saying "Thank you Columbus!"
(or Henry Ford or Andrew Carnegie, etc.) :-?

Hal (quoting Wired?) said:
> 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.

If I get ambitious, when he gets back to Stanford, I may contact him
and ask him to be specific about *exactly* what he thinks the agenda
is and what he claims is objectionable about it. You have to force
people hand-waving to back up what they say, or clearly label them
Scientific American-ites.

You have to ask him if he views the "distancing" from the "giggle factor"
as simple pragmatism because people cannot deal with the paradigm shifts
that are expected (and these folks 'rationally' want to get funded) or
whether he believes they will not occur. And if he believes they will
not occur you have to get him to explain *why*.

Finally, I wouldn't count the Foresight Inst. down-and-out quite yet.
At least one person at the NIH conference had papers at the FI conference
last year. So did someone from the "nano-pen" group that now had
the recent parallel nano-pens announcement. So, while they may be
"claiming" distance, they still submit papers to the FI conference!

Bottom line, there are people who cannot (or will not) connect the
dots. I suspect most of them have never written a line of code
in their lives where you generally start with nothing and get
something. People who do nothing every day but take stuff apart
that nature has put together are naturally going to think engineering
this stuff will be very hard. After all, nature hasn't really
designed an "obvious" or "simple" system.

Robert Bradbury

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