RE: Project Star Net

Tony Belding (
Fri, 24 Apr 1998 09:51:18 -0600

Yak Wax <> wrote:

YW> The reason they can convert matter to energy but somehow find it
YW> easier to transport the matter is because shows about networks of
YW> self-replicating seeds don't exactly hold the fish-like attention
YW> span of your average audience.

There are other reasons why TV tends to lag years (if not decades) behind SF
literature. It's hard to introduce new concepts on a TV show. You can't stop
and spend 10 minutes explaining something. So, SF concepts tend not to reach
TV until after they've already penetrated the cultural consciousness. You
can't do a show about alternate worlds until most people already understand
the concept of alternate worlds. That's why we haven't seen any shows
featuring nanotechnology in a meaningful way.

I've seen shows that /mention/ nanotechnology in passing, using it basically
as a buzzword. Most of them seem to think a nanomachine is some kind of
artificial virus. Ironically, the one TV show I've seen that was reasonably
accurate in depicting and explaining nanotechnology was an episode of
Gargoyles. Yes, Gargoyles! It's a children's animated series from Disney.
In this one episode a large part of the Australian outback was overrun by
gray goo, which rather resembled a self-replicating utility fog.

It's sort of like the 1920s when many people sneered at the idea of
spaceflight, or simply didn't understand it. Yet, there was the Buck Rogers
comic strip with surprisingly well thought-out depictions of how spaceflight
could work.

YW> questions, what's the current timeframe for nanotech and/or
YW> immortality, I remember Drexler had some figures for this (didn't
YW> he say that anyone under 40 has a good chance of immortality in
YW> _Engines of Creation_ back in the early 80's?) I'm currently
YW> feeling very sceptical about everything.

Well, the timeframe is the big question, isn't it? I will say this... I
think nanotechnology is at the same awkward stage that spaceflight was in the
1920s and 1930s. The technology doesn't exist yet, but it's visible on the
horizon to those few who are inclined to look. The basic principles are
understood. So the question is, when are we going to get the nanotech
equivalent of an A-4 rocket? Based on the historical pattern, I would guess
about 20 years. But there are so many variables...

I've known some people who said with a straight face that it would be more
like 200 years. I don't believe that, but I can't prove them wrong either.
After all, researchers have been saying commercially viable fusion energy is
"about forty years away" for decades now.

   Tony Belding