New readers of the more visionary writings on advanced nanotechnology could be forgiven for thinking that it’s the desires of the writers that come first. They want the material lifestyle of a billionaire, they want to travel in space, they want to live for ever – and advanced nanotechnology is invoked as a Deus ex Machina to make their wishes come true. Scientists are taught not to covet their own hypotheses – not to want to believe in their own theories so deeply that their critical judgement is clouded. This is a good principle, though one that’s difficult for fallible humans always to follow. Science has delivered huge improvements to the human condition, and nanotechnology has the potential to improve things much more. But, difficult as it is, we need to focus not on what we want, but what we can achieve, given the constraints of the universe we live in.
In the words of Sir Michael Jagger,
“You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometimes you just might find
You get what you need”.
With thanks to David Bott, and a Happy New Year to all my readers.