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No Atom Left Behind

Chrisphoenix_1The present speaker (it's about 11:15 a.m. on Saturday, day 2) is Chris Phoenix. He's an up-and-coming star in the nano-world, and a protégé of Eric Drexler (although it's likely that both of them would object to that characterization). He's the director of research for the Center for Responsible Nanotechnology, a nonprofit organization he co-founded last year. His talk this morning is about Clean Molecular Manufacturing (abstract here) and the subtitle is "No Atom Left Behind," a play on the "No Child Left Behind" educational legislation.

He began by arguing that nanomanufacturing is possible, and and he has now moved on to discussing applications. We could have ten-pound cars or yachts, he says, that could be folded up and carried around. We could replace fossil fuels with ultra-efficient solar energy, we could replace today's "dirty manufacturing" with ultra-clean manufacturing, we could protect the environment by using ultra-productive greenhouses. We could collect greenhouse gases. We could use nanotech to We could have cheap access to space. And we could use nanotechnology for pervasive and widespread monitoring of the environment -- so we would really know whether species are going extinct.

A very rosy scenario.

A few Q&As. One guy in the audience asked about the rise of nano-mercantilism -- that is, a decrease in trade, since we won't need to trade for things if we can make 'em ourselves. Phoenix's answer: It's possible that trade in physical goods will decrease, but "trade in intellectual property will likely increase."

Another question from the audience: what would nanotechnology affect employment? Phoenix's answer (which was not wholly coherent): "We would still have work, but it may not be in the form of jobs. Jobs are a fairly recent invention.... I'm not an economist, but I'm pretty skeptical that we will have enough jobs -- you know, nine-to-five, with a salary -- that we will have enough jobs for everyone. Hopefully that means there will be enough ways for people have to other ways to live.... Hopefully, the possibilty of abundance will outweigh the possibility of employment."

UPDATE: Incidentally, Chris Phoenix has his own blog -- actually, it belongs to the nonprofit he founded -- and he blogged a summary of Day One.

October 23, 2004 in Applications | Permalink

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