Reactions to “Rupturing the Nanotech Rapture”

It’s a couple of weeks since my article in the current edition of IEEE Spectrum magazine (the Singularity Special) – “Rupturing the Nanotech Rapture” – appeared, and it’s generated a certain amount of discussion on the nanotech blogs. Dexter Johnson, on Tech Talk (IEEE Spectrum’s own blog) observes that “In all it’s a deftly diplomatic piece, at once dispelling some of the myths surrounding the timeline for molecular nanotechnology contributing to the Singularity while both complementing and urging on the early pioneers of its concept.” I’m very happy with this characterisation.

On Nanodot, the blog of the Foresight Institute, the piece prompts the question: “Which way(s) to advanced nanotechnology?” The answer is diplomatic: “Certainly the “soft machines” approach to nanotechnology holds great promise for the near term, while the diamondoid mechanosynthesis approach is only in the very early stages of computer simulation.” This certainly captures the relatively slow progress to date of diamondoid mechanosynthesis, and attracts the scorn of nanobusinessman Tim Harper, who writes on TNTlog “Perhaps more roadkill than tortoise to nanoscience’s hare is diamondoid mechanosynthesis, beloved of the Drexlerians, which doesn’t seem to have made any progress whatsoever, and increasingly resembles a cross between a south sea cargo cult and Waiting for Godot.”

Over on the Center for Responsible Nanotechnology, the Nanodot piece prompts the question “Which way from here?” (though CRN doesn’t actually mention me or the Spectrum piece directly). The question isn’t answered – “CRN also remains agnostic about whether a top-down or bottom-up angle or a soft/wet or hard/dry approach will be more successful.” This doesn’t seem entirely consistent with their previous published positions but there we are.

The longest response comes from Michael Anissimov’s blog, Accelerating Future. This runs to several pages, and deserves a considered response, which is coming soon.