Where's the Flying Car (airman) Wed 23 Jul 03 14:40
(having visited the site) At times the discussion reminded me of an Irish beer drinking contest with commentary between rounds. Bill, both you and Chris are certainly able combatants on paper at least. And I like the format of concessions, arguments and exchanges. Meanwhile, I think I'll pour me another beer and raise me mug in salute to you both for bringing out the best in each other.
William Illsey (Bill) Atkinson (wiatkinson) Thu 24 Jul 03 09:46
Hi Airman! Good to talk to you again!! The posted discussion with Chris does have a boozy flow to it, doesn't it? In a good way - warm-hearted, generous in allowing points, and all in all like two people pursuing the truth rather than smacking each other. It wasn't intentional, that's just how it evolved. Recent exchanges (not posted yet, should be soon) are even more interesting, as I continue to advise 'em on what to do if they want to be unlike R. Dangerfield and get more respect. It's sort of like FDR counselling a foreign enemy. "First off, Herr Hitler, lose the moustache, OK? It makes you a laughingstock. And the Holocaust thing, quite apart from its ethical connotations, is giving you a massive black eye in the international community..." I suppose this bar-discussion flavor is intentional, in the sense that its alternative was deliberately avoided: ie. formal, tit-for-tat, nyah-nyah-nyah debate. "My learned colleague inexplicably fails to recognize a fact that is intuitively obvious to the meanest intelligence..." That's just kids pissing on each other in the playground; academics do it all the time. You can also simulate this type of thing very accurately by setting up a colony of starving rats and watching 'em work. Interactions turn nasty when the rewards for losers are zero and the rewards for victors are nearly zero, as in your average university. Sociologically, college professors are like petty gangsters: everything in their lives depends on their rep. They let someone score points off 'em without a fight, and they're as good as dead. Anyway: Good to have you back. How was Nanofornia? Or should I say Telefornia?
Where's the Flying Car (airman) Thu 24 Jul 03 21:46
ACtually, I was in Pasafornia, the blackhole of LA freeways and host to the Rose Bowl. A combo heat wave with high humidity from some hurricane remnants strained and blew about half of the A/C units in places I had to be. That said... Nanotechnology deserves a good dose of reality given that the Dtcom stuff bombed taking dreams, visions and greed with it. Perhaps we have been given a second chance by higher powers to incorporate technology as a major change agent of civilization without bankrupting the populace. Ad hominem arguments, flames and other trash talk has it's place in a free fire zone usually with politics. While nanotechnology does have some natural politics to it, the discussions have been quite friendly as I have found most Drexlerians to be scientists at heart trying to bridge fantasy, the future and reality into one big bridge. However, your book certainly has caused a stir with a few original quakes while echoing the quakes of Smalley et al. Even so, Drexler is simply asking us to consider that once we have eliminated the impossible like Holmes, what is left - no matter how improbable - is the truth. I dare say that your discussions put to rest a lot of the dead ends and detours that one finds in the holy quest for the Nanoassembler. I would hope that many other useful tools are constructed in the meantime thanks to the likes of Richard Smalley mentoring new scientists in nanotech. However, the area certainly has room at the bottom for the dreamers and visionaries like Drexler. I am reminded of the playful Feynman who looked at chicken noodle soup and saw long chain molecules as part of the cure for the common cold. Quite often, we stare at something and really don't have a clue as to what we are looking at beyond one datapoint let alone a level of observation. I am also reminded of Einstein who despite his brilliance recognized when to get a tutor in an area of mathematics he didn't understand very well. Drexler may be laughed at for many things. But the list of scientists who were laughed at grows longer each year as does the addendum to those laugh at once and now find acceptance into the dogmatic scientific community. A fine example is the scientist who found that stomach problems were really the result of a bug which most people had, and that there was an easy cure, even a one time cure perhaps. THe problem was in that the community thought it too obvious and not discovered for decades. He prevailed in the end. So while you and Chris have a go at it. Keep in mind, both of you, that what might be foolish entertainment today just might become a reality tomorrow, and even if it doesn't, at least have fun climbing the mountains and documenting the right paths so that we don't have to repear your mistakes. By avoding old mistakes knowingly, we have time to make new ones.
William Illsey (Bill) Atkinson (wiatkinson) Tue 29 Jul 03 14:08
Wise words. As the Atkinson-Phoenix Debates are unfolding, Chris (a card-carrying nanobooster) and I (a card-carrying nanobuster) are admitting some key things to one another from the sanctity of our virtual barstools. He says: We nanoboosters have extrapolated too far, basing our predictions on an invention (the molecular assembler) that has yet to be made. We don't know that it can't be made; but equally we don't know that it can. For my part, I have had to admit that the scientific establishment can be utterly antithetical to change that's revolutionary as opposed to incremental and evolutionary. From this dialogue has emerged a respect for one another's opinions that is very healthy. After the last argument has been tabled, of course, the decision on who's right will have to be given to that ultimate referee, Father Time. We'll have to check in in a hundred years or so to see who's right today (and who will have been right seen from the future).
Where's the Flying Car (airman) Tue 29 Jul 03 22:15
The molecular assembler is simply a pedagogical exercise of shrinking the Armatron toy or one of the MIT robots. It is only one tool of many needed. For example, take a walk through Sears. Now, focus on screwdrivers. There are all sorts of sizes of screwdrivers. Did they all appear at once. No, they started out a convenient size and then larger and smaller ones were made as uses were found for them. Take a look a construction site. Is there a pick and place machine? Yep, but there is also a grader, a loader, a water truck, a regular truck, a backhoe, a front loader, a scraper, etc....and that is just to get the dirt graded and compacted before even the foundation is laid. Part of the issue with nanotechnology is getting there. Assume you have a nanoassembler, how do you get it to the actual site? A nanohauler? Or an injector with a nanoGPS guidance system? IMHO the failure of nanotechnology to advance quickly is the inability to deliver the same machine on the microscale. As luck would have it, the research is going full force at the MEMS level with excellent results in the areas of motors (0.1 to 1 hp) built of silicon which means we can produce them in great quantity and in the area of energy where we can fuel motor-generators in such a way to replace batteries. Which leads to the last point...what problem does a nanomachine solve? THe fantasy of the nanochozen wannabefrozen crowd is life extension. Many of them could extend their life simply by eating less and exercising more thna just pushing back from the computer to get something from the fridge. At the same time Drexler drove a stake in the ground and caused thinking so far inside the box that he was out of the scientific circle. Both of them (Drexler and the Scientific community) have behaved like school children at times. The high priests of science need funding to continue thier ivory tower work leading to the riches of entrepreneurial freedom albeit with a university license fee attached. So like miners, they need to tunnel down level by level to the sample drilling of Drexler who vacillates between Renaissance Man and Wildcatter. So keep up the chatter. Perhaps the discussion should be updated annually over a few beers.
William Illsey (Bill) Atkinson (wiatkinson) Thu 31 Jul 03 09:04
Airman, would you be one of my interviewees in the event there's a second edition? This is gold.
Where's the Flying Car (airman) Fri 1 Aug 03 22:28
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Fri 8 Aug 03 13:31
The virtual beer here is as good as virtual beer gets.
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