Molecular Manufacturing

Not that anybody who reads this really cares, but I’ve decided to stop using the word “nanotechnology.” 2003, some might even say that 2002, could be thought of as the year that nanotechnology broke into the mainstream. 2003 could also be the year that nanotechnology got continuously redefined into meaninglessness. The informed, of which I can safely count myself as one, know that which is being used to sell pants is not the same sort of thing that Feynman, Drexler, Merkle and many others described back in the 1980’s and earlier. The stuff that’s being touted as nanotechnology these days is actually better described as the use of nanoscale particles, in other words, mere refinement of ordinary materials science. The stuff that the some environmentalists have expressed concerns over last year isn’t really that much different from asbestos or PCB’s–they may be nanoscopic particles, they may be molecules hitherto unseen in nature, but it’s still, mostly, ordinary bulk materials and ordinary chemistry.

This isn’t what I’m talking about. What I am talking about, and what I plan to label as such from now on, is mechanosynthesis. This is what Feynman was talking about in his 1959 lecture. It’s molecular manufacturing and people still don’t believe it’s feasible despite all this hype about nanotechnology. So that’s why I’m no longer using the word nanotechnology, I don’t know what that word means anymore. All I know is that it’s not what I am talking about. In a sense, and perhaps this is a matter of some success, we’ve arrived at the same point as artificial intelligence back in the 1980’s: artificial intelligence is that which hasn’t been done yet–making machines conscious.

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