Philip Moriarty reports that the Nottingham Nanotechnology Debate can now be viewed on streaming video here. The debate, held last summer, featured two proponents of Drexler’s vision of molecular nanotechnology, Josh Storrs Hall and David Forrest, discussing the feasibility of these visions with a couple of more sceptical observers, myself and Saul Tendler, a bionanotechnologist from Nottingham University. The audience included many distinguished nanoscientists, and even with the video available, it’s worth reading the transcript of the debate, which can be downloaded from The Nottingham Nanoscience Group’s webpages, if only to identify the authors of the many perceptive questions.
The aftermath of the debate included these additional points from David Forrest, which attracted some discussion on Soft Machines here. For my part, I organised my thoughts on the problems which I think the MNT program needs to address and overcome in this post: Six Challenges for Molecular Nanotechnology.
So where does the debate go now? I can’t conceal my disappointment that the MNT community has reacted with complete indifference to this set of challenges, which I set out in as constructive and concrete way as possible. Nanodot, the blog of the Foresight Nanotech Institute, simply ignored it. The most vocal proponents of the MNT position are now to be found in the Centre for Responsible Nanotechnology, but rational discussion of MNT in that forum is hampered by the fact that its proprietors simply refuse to engage in debate with informed critics such as myself and Philip Moriarty, preferring simply to assert, in the absence of any evidence, that the MNT revolution comes ever nearer. The usual outcome of a refusal to engage with people outside one’s own circle of believers is, of course, complete marginalisation. I regret this situation, because even though I think many of the ideas underlying MNT are flawed, Drexler’s writings have been very valuable in highlighting the potential of radical nanotechnology, and the process of thinking through what might work and what won’t is likely to be a very productive way of establishing research directions.