Nanotech and Energy Efficiency
Ralph Merkle (see below) just spoke again, standing in for Steve Gillett, who co-wrote their presentation (abstract here). He went through several ways nanotechnology could meet our energy needs -- by making our energy extraction and transmission and use much more efficient. The core of his argument was this point: We aren't facing an energy crisis, but rather a "heat crisis." Too much of our fuel is wasted, and lost as heat. From this observation is derived the following principle: "The more spectacular a technology, the cruder it probably is. A truly mature technology will be as exciting as watching the grass grow." Thus, any technology that flames or spews smoke or shoots sparks or makes a lot of light is inefficient. (And of course the same goes for noisy technology; unintended sound is inefficient, too.)
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