Re: NANO: Skeptical MIT Tech Review Interview

Doug Bailey (
Fri, 13 Nov 1998 12:00:35 -0500

Kathryn Aegis wrote:

> Why so quick to label any sort of critique of nanotech
> as uninformed skepticism? I think that a healthy dose of
> skepticism (and Whitesides seems to have quite a background
> to conduct such a critique) will help keep nano enthusiasts
> focused on just what can realistically be accomplished. I
> see nothing in the quotes you provided that indicates that
> Whitesides considers nano applications to be 'impossible'--
> I doubt that he would have expended so much time in reviewing
> a technology that had no hint of potential success.

I don't think "skeptic" is an inappropriate label for Whitesides. My concern is the dismissal of feasibility by many in the scientific community inhibits research and funding in areas that might directly contribute to molecular assemblers and replicators. I don't fault Whitesides for being skeptical but instead of implying Drexler's visions are "science fiction".

Whitesides obviously sees potential for nanotechnology but seems to believe there is a definite ceiling to its potential. Whitesides specifically refers to Drexler after his "science fiction" remark. Equating a scientist's work with science fiction is fairly contemptuous.

This is symptomatic of many scientists views of nanotechnology. Michio Kaku, in his book _Visions_, casts Drexler's notions aside with a rhetorical paragraph and then uses the polemic comments of the editor of a science fiction publication and another individual to berate Drexler's view of nanotechnology. I find this situation absurd.

Doug Bailey