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Preview: Comments on: An open debate about radical nanotechnology

Comments on: An open debate about radical nanotechnology

Some personal views on nanotechnology, science and science policy from Richard Jones

Last Build Date: Mon, 15 Jan 2018 22:16:21 +0000


By: Richard Jones

Fri, 16 Sep 2005 16:04:31 +0000

Have a look at this post and the links in it for more about issues of public engagement in nanotechnology. For my part, I'm doing my best to keep the public informed through this blog (and my book)!

By: Joyce Hays

Fri, 16 Sep 2005 15:34:47 +0000

I thought there was a new field of nanobiology? I also thought that for every action, there is a reaction. I assume that the action of creating synthetic molecules will have a reaction. No? Like the technology of splitting an atom...for good or for no good? Nuclear medicine, nuclear energy or nuclear weapons? The question is, will the researchers be careful to keep the public informed of every aspect of the research, so that we/they can be equals in making decisions about the future.

By: Joyce Hays

Fri, 16 Sep 2005 15:29:03 +0000

I thought there was a new field of nanobiology?

By: Christine Peterson

Tue, 26 Jul 2005 22:28:31 +0000

The event aims to address this question: "Is nanotechnology based on scaled-down everyday engineering concepts viable or should we look to biology for insights into how to tame the nanoworld?" With the caveat that, obviously, the engineering concepts being scaled down must take into account the differences that crop up at the nanoscale, I would think the answer to this either/or style question is: Yes to both. Sorry I'll miss Philip's debate, sounds fun.--CP

By: Philip Moriarty

Mon, 25 Jul 2005 12:01:26 +0000

In their comments, Hal and Jim raise a number of important and well-argued points (as usual). (Apologies for the delay in responding but I've been on holiday). I'd first like to assure Hal that I agree that we need to move beyond previous bad feeling and I'm very hopeful that the debate will facilitate this. I also very much agree with his comment re. each side being allowed to state the position they are willing to defend. Indeed, this is how the debate will begin - each speaker will have a few minutes to outline their concept of nanotechnology. (I'm disappointed, however, that Hal felt that some of the topics I outlined for the debate were somehow meant to demonise the "opposition" - this was not my intent at all). The questions posed by Jim and Howard are very interesting and will certainly be put to the panel! In addition, please note that David Forrest has recently been confirmed as a member of the debate panel. Best wishes, Philip

By: Richard Jones

Sat, 23 Jul 2005 07:05:07 +0000

As it happens, one of my contacts/collaborators has recently written a review article about just this topic. I think it's in peer review right now. I"ll of course give a summary here when it's out.

By: Howard Salis

Sat, 23 Jul 2005 05:27:23 +0000

What about this open-ended question?: "What scientific evidence is available that demonstrates that mechanosynthesis (defined as the mechanical forcing of a reaction between two molecules) is possible?" Not in 10, 20, or 50 years..but possible at all. While people argue over this or that, I really haven't seen any peer-reviewed papers on the topic. That's how a constructive debate can be progressed: through hypothesis and experimentation. -Howard Salis

By: Richard Jones

Tue, 19 Jul 2005 09:29:11 +0000

Zelah, you are certainly right to say that there is going to be vigorous debate; one can't hide the fact that the areas of disagreement are substantial and important. But there's nonetheless wisdom in Hal's advice, and in particular his insistence that the debate ought to be conducted with an assumption of good faith on both sides.

By: Zelah

Mon, 18 Jul 2005 10:10:54 +0000

Hi everyone, In response to Hal comments, I know this will not be politically correct but... I actually am glad that there is vigourous debate about where things stand! I understand that there are two fears out their which are 1. Caution types: That Nanohype will lead to unrealistic expectations which will burst the bubble in say 2015! 2. Risk takers: That Nanotech if developed will lead to everybody carrying nuclear weapons in their pockets for self defence! The truth of these positions are of cause somewhere in the middle. The point I think is to find the truth! I believe that vigour debate is healthy as it leads to Popperian falsifiable claims. If Nanofactories are not built in say 2015, then the Drexlerians have been refuted! If, companies are still investing in Nanotech in 2025, then the caution types will also have been proven wrong! Let the arguements begin! An amateur mathematician.

By: Hal

Sun, 17 Jul 2005 18:56:27 +0000

One problem in the nanotech debates is the tendency for each side to try to position the other side into the most extreme and disadvantageous corner possible. Anti-Drexlerians argue as Phillip does that the issue is whether nanotech can build "virtually anything". Pro-Drexlerians argue that the other side is claiming that mechanosynthesis is impossible. So long as each side only chooses to argue against the most extreme claims of the other, they talk past each other and progress is impossible. I would prefer to see each side take a more courageous and objective stance and stop trying to demonize the opposition like this. Each side should be allowed to state the position that they are willing to defend. My guess is that if this is done, both sides will achieve 90% agreement right off the bat! Then they can productively discuss the areas where they disagree and where both of them agree that they disagree. I know that there are bad feelings on both sides, and each wants to make up for past hurts by attacking the most extreme and unreasonable statements they can find that the other side has ever made. But I hope that the debaters can put this history aside and join together in a good faith effort to identify areas of genuine disagreement, positions that both sides are willing to defend and which do not exaggerate or mischaracterize their beliefs.