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The Almighty Buck

Nanotech Goes To Capitol Hill 59

akb writes "The Tech Law Journal has the rundown on a panel held on Capitol Hill by the Nanotech Business Alliance and the Progressive Policy Institute. The panel was intended to educate legislators and government agencies about nanotech and (of course) to drum up money to support research."
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Nanotech Goes To Capitol Hill

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  • by corebreech ( 469871 ) on Sunday December 16, 2001 @03:14PM (#2711617) Journal
    Who better to understand this new technology?
  • Honestly, people. Nanotech is decades off. This whole thing was completley blown out of proportion. Let's keep it in reality, please. What's the point of even having a business alliance for a non-existant business? "MARTIAN MINING BUSINESS COALITON" would be equally useful. It's possible, but still years off.
    • We find your lack of faith disturbing.

      To demonstrate our power, we will dispatch nanites already stationed in the Slashdot servers to transpose the eighth and ninth characters in the 11th word of your post. Since you describe our business as "non-existent," we'll probably make that word as incorrect as your assumption.

      As a final masterstroke, or nanites will change your post's subject heading so that it does not refer to the NanoBusiness Alliance at all.

      Do not cross us again.

      Sincerely yours,

      Tsar
      Supreme Leader
      The NanoBusiness Alliance

      O.................-"last one through, close that ASCII hole!"
    • by tim_maroney ( 239442 ) on Sunday December 16, 2001 @04:39PM (#2711857) Homepage
      Nanotech is decades off. This whole thing was completley blown out of proportion. Let's keep it in reality, please. What's the point of even having a business alliance for a non-existant business?

      I've been a critic of nanotechnology ever since reading Drexler's rather silly book in the 1980's, but I feel you are mistaken in the absolutism of your position. It has become clear from the mid-1990's to the present that nanotechnology is real, and that nanotechnology has very little to do with the crackpot speculations of the 1980's. The movement has differentiated into the real wing, represented by among others the inventors of buckminsterfullerene, and the remaining crackpot wing, still led by K. Eric Drexler and other quacks such as Ralph Merkle [zyvex.com].

      Which half of the movement is being represented here? Well, let's take a look at the overview of nanotechnology [nanobusiness.org] at the NanoBusiness Aliance web site. What ho, it's quite pragmatic. "Reporting, both from the popular press and respected business sources, all too often mixes up nanotechnologies that are just around the corner with those that are highly speculative or very long-term." Very true, and as polite a critique of the quack wing as one could hope for.

      Let's see what technology they're most interested in. Is it artificial intelligence? Resurrection of the dead? Medical nanobots? General-purpose assemblers? Smart mists? No, it's materials, electronics, and biochemistry, all of which have started to be affected by nanotechnology now. Interesting. Even more interesting, looking at their coming reports [nanobusiness.org] page, we see very plausible applications for the short term, and no bizarre science fantasy of any kind.

      So it looks like these are the people we would want talking to Congress. Let's give them a shot.

      Tim
      • No, [nanotechnology is] materials, electronics, and biochemistry, all of which have started to be affected by nanotechnology now.

        They haven't "started to be affected by nanotechnology" at all. What has happened is that these areas that have traditionally been working on an atomic scale have simply been claimed by nanotechnology after nanotechnology failed to deliver what it promised. It's a smart but cynical publicity move.

        Nanotechnology continues to be vaporware, failing to deliver on any of the promises that Drexler and other people made for it. The harm that these people will do to established disciplines remains to be seen, as less qualified, buzz-word spewing people get new funding and investments.

      • The movement has differentiated into the real wing, represented by among others the inventors of buckminsterfullerene...

        I hate to break it to you, but buckminsterfullerene was not "invented," it was discovered. Harold Kroto, Robert Curl, and Richard Smalley won the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 1996 for the discovery.

        Since no products have yet been created using C60 (or the related carbon "nanotubes"), I fail to see how that branch is any more "real" than the theoretical molecular-assembly branch.

        Have you actually read "Nanosystems" by Drexler? There's a lot more meat there than the speculation offered in "Engines of Creation," which I assume is the "rather silly" book you're referring to. In fact, even though "Engines" was speculative, it certainly took the lead in trying to foresee the consequences, both beneficial and threatening, of pursuing nanotech. I would call the speculation measured, rather than wild. It strikes me as prudent to explore the boundaries of what might become possible through these developments.

        IBM showed that it was possible to manipulate atoms one by one, giving an actual physical demonstration. Feynman originally theorized it (Feynman!) and Drexler and Merkle have pursued the theoretical branch through modeling and simulation.

        It's not as if Drexler and Merkle are playing with this stuff in their garages. Drexler received his Ph.D in molecular nanotech, and it was awarded by MIT-- not exactly the Brooklyn School of Chemistry. Merkle has a Ph.D in electrical engineering, is a published researcher and is a member in good standing of ACM, ACS, APS, and IEEE.

        A healthy skepticism is certainly justified, but I think you're being far too harsh calling them "crackpots" and "quacks."

        - MFN

  • title>TLJ Daily E-Mail Alert No. 328, December 14, 2001./title>
    meta name="GENERATOR" content="Microsoft FrontPage 4.0">
    meta name="ProgId"
    content="FrontPage.Editor.Document">
    meta name="Microsoft Border" content="none">
    /head>

    I would connent on how bad their page layout [techlawjournal.com] is, but looking at the software [frontpage.com] they had on hand, I'll forgive them.
  • Nanotech for Nano AI (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Mentifex ( 187202 ) on Sunday December 16, 2001 @03:20PM (#2711642) Homepage Journal

    Nanotech isn't just for breakfast anymore, it's also for extremely miniature Artificial Intelligence. [nanomagazine.com]

    Of course, the AI Mind will have to migrate from public-domain Macro AI [sourceforge.net] down into nanotech-based molecular or even quantum AI, but the race is on to Technological Singularity! [caltech.edu]

    • Imagine a lot of tiny nanorobots with AI and the ability to reproduce via a reproduction machine on the wall or something.. Then imagine them evolving in a large room. Try to picture what would happen.

      Code of the Lifemaker (by James Hogan) anyone?

  • by A Commentor ( 459578 ) on Sunday December 16, 2001 @03:21PM (#2711644) Homepage
    So our tax dollars can go to technology that will end up killing us all...

    We have all seen on Star Trek, how easily these can get out of hand

    ;-)

  • What we need... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    ...is a way to position China as a fierce competitor in this area, so we can trigger a nano-race, ala the race to the moon in the 60's.
  • We, as (mostly) educated computer professionals, understand the importance of researching nanotechnology. Nanotechnology will inevitably help cure diseases, create "smart" materials like insulation and clothing, and generally wean us off our dependence on hard-to-produce, expensive natural resources like body tissues and cotton.

    Unfortunately, our current Congress and administration is not as fortunate as we are. Stuck in the 19th century, the successors of Newt have shown us that they are not interested in civil rights [plannedparenthood.org], advancements in medicine [stemcellresearchnews.com], or pretty much anything that doesn't involve increasing pork-barrel spending on defense. I would be surprised to find out that more than a handful of Republicans in Congress actually have college degrees. They don't need to think; everything is a matter of dollars and cents.

    Although this should come as no surprise to a nation that voted Republican for the past few years, our leaders' refusal to act like they are living in the 21st century is going to have a very negative impact on science, as their core constituencies [700club.com] have no interest in keeping the USA's status as the most advanced nation in the world.

    So, these nanotech lobbyists would be well advised to keep a low profile until Gore returns to the White House in 2004. Otherwise, they may be headed to Washington with their hands out and leaving Washington with their research banned. And that would not be good for science.

    df

    • I'll take a wild guess and say that you're a democrat. :) Seriously though, I agree with you. The vast majority of the true damage being done in this country is at the hands of the elected and is on-going. We as a country find ourselves focusing so much on our pain and how we will wipe out our cancer, never realizing that the cure itself may kill us.
    • Nanotechnology has potential for being beneficial, but I'm sure it will also have potential for being harmful. It isn't like some magical thing that will solve all our problems that the right wingers are keeping from us. Either way, it should be researched carefully and thoroughly.

      I think that a closer investigation of politics pretty much reveals that most members of both major parties are up for sale to the highest bidders.
      Just pull up the voting records for Dianne Feinstein (D-RIAA/MPAA...errr D-California) and
      you'll see what I mean. When they aren't whoring off votes for corporate cash, the two parties are
      fighting with eachother like little kids,
      pointing fingers at eachother whenever something
      goes wrong.

      Most of the Democrats are voting along with Republicans in destroying our civil liberties in the wake of this current situation. Both parties have no regard for the Constitution. It seems that those on the left want to trash the 2nd. Amendment, and those on the right want to trash the 4th. Amendment. Either way we lose something.

      The whole "Christian" charade that the right wing puts on is getting old, I agree. Most of them forget fun Bible phrases such as, "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." They go on and on about homosexuals ruining everything, but I'm sure most of them have had their taste of Washington DC prostitutes.

      Of course, the left has a nice charade of being on the side of free expression, civil liberties.
      Also a barrel of lies in recent days, considering how most of them seem to support all these new, laws we've been seeing that are putting us on a nice course for becoming just another police state.

      Computers could have done a lot more than they have
      for our society than they have. Nanotech has the potential to do a lot more for our society than it will... partially thanks to the bonehead laws passed by politicians in favor of entities who would watch you bleed and die if it made them five bucks. It isn't just the Republicans. The Democrats are equally at fault. Really, I don't know why these jokers have stuck around since generally, nobody has much confidence in their abilities.
  • ...is how I can get a Feed line.
  • by cr0sh ( 43134 ) on Sunday December 16, 2001 @04:21PM (#2711814) Homepage
    Let me first start out by saying that I believe nanotech - ie, the real stuff: assemblers, etc - will come about some day - maybe not soon, but probably sooner than we think. I believe this because of simple reasoning - we (ie, the informed /. crowd) know that computers ARE software, and that software can act as a computer. This is a fact - software only needs a physical hardware form to produce results in a small amount of time - for software cares, rocks and buckets are sufficient. With this realization, it should come as no surprise that once you can create a computer based on nano-elements (that is, an atomic structure computer), then software will have come into "physical" form. At that point, quasi-"living" things can be built, via software.

    We see this in nature - it is called DNA and RNA - in fact, I wouldn't doubt that our first nanotech computers (ie, ones that are "general purpose" - yes I know about the parallel processing DNA "computers" that have been made in the lab), will in fact resemble DNA and RNA - and in fact may be based off of such natural structures, once we unravel the DNA "code" and how it works to assemble and disassemble the helical structure to form, well, "life".

    Once that is done - whole new realms open up - because software is then hardware - hardware which can be coded to replicate, mutate, infect - viral hardware, in essence. Think about that.

    Such a technology could be the "ultimate" weapon. It could be both the destroyer and the life giver. I believe we are on the cusp of having such great technology - but we, as a society, are immature babies - most of us are litterally unable and unready to wield the enormous power at hand (almost akin to another story we all know about, eh?).

    Such technology will ultimately destroy our current sociological and economical bases - all of them - in near a blink of an eye. At first, I am certain there will be bans on it, then companies will wield it, regardless of bans - because it would give them enormous power. They will try to keep a tight reign on it (mutatable hardware that is the embodiement of software - ie, IP? DMCA, etc - you see where that can head - is it alright to make a copy of that "nano-steak"?). However, just like life - it will escape.

    Likely, it will be one of us, or more likely, out progeny - who "crack" this code, and hopefully, release it to the world. This of course will open up the script kiddie floodgates of nanotech. I might have this backward - and these misuses will cause the ban. But it will escape nonetheless.

    However, we won't be ready for it - I have no idea how it will end or begin.

    But, I think it will begin with nanotech logic gates, assembled as a "blob" style computer - maybe deep in a packaged well on a computer chip. Watch for it. That, I believe, will be the beginning of the end - that will lead to a revolutionary new beginning. Whether humans will be human or alive for that new beginning I can only say is unknowable to me...

    They may get funding for this - only because Congress and the people as a whole are clueless when it comes to understanding what nanotech will ultimately bring. It is a pity that the same amount of funding (nay, much greater!) won't be made available to schools for math and science funding (as well as probably socialogical science funding, or whatnot)...
    • but we, as a society, are immature babies - most of us are litterally unable and unready to wield the enormous power at
      that was said about nuclear reactor, atomic weapons, biological research, but you know what?we are still here.
      More bad news
      Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) worked.
      • You bring up a valid point: such a thing was said (and is continued to be said) about all of these scientific pursuits.

        However, the very fact that society is still arguing about all of them, rather than coming up with sane and honest ways to work with the technology, proves my point.

        Mutually Assured Destruction forms an apt acronym, if you ask me. IMO, mankind should be at the point today where war shouldn't be contemplated - we should be helping each other, of all races, religions, nationalities and creeds - to become better, to strive for something more, and to become independent of our planet.

        We have the technology, today, to reach our outer planets, and with time, the stars - in reasonable amounts of time (ie, nuclear propulsion). But instead, NIMBYism is practiced, and the idea of a nuclear rocket being launched in space fills people with an irrational fear that fallout will land on them (which is a sad account on the level of our science education - the common man should know that the levels of radiation in space are far higher than what would be added by a nuclear rocket).

        We have the ability to create/modify extremely hardy plants and animals, create new medicines, etc - with our knowledge of biological processes (which I agree, is far from complete, if it ever will be) - such plants, animals and medicines could help people worldwide, if given the chance. Instead, plants are engineered with killer genes to cause farmers to keep paying for the seed, and IP laws keep vaccines and other medicines out of the hands of countries who need them most. All because of mainly greed and power.

        Now, we are on the edge of creating something so fundamental - atomic element electronics and logic - which will have the infinite flexibility of code, with the "hardiness" of true hardware. Such a device has never been seen before, only hinted at. Hinted at mainly in the way software viruses work (and don't work). Hinted at by software that works one minute, and dies the next. Hinted at in the way software has been both used for good and for evil.

        I know it is only a tool - and any tool can be used for good or bad purposes. But this tool may prove to be the "ultimate" tool (probably only limited by available atomic resources and energy input - I can imagine a nanosystem capable of using the energy of the sun to slowly deconstruct the asteroid belt and assemble a rocky "planet", given a long period of time). It could be a tool that reshapes mankind, and the way society looks at everything.
  • by mj6798 ( 514047 ) on Sunday December 16, 2001 @09:23PM (#2712785)
    If you go to the NanoBusiness web site and look at what they promise [nanobusiness.org], it has nothing to do with "nanotechnology". Sensors, carbon nanotubes, microscopes, etc. belong to the established disciplines of material science, chemistry, biology, polymer science, molecular biology, micromechanical systems, and many other established areas of research and technology.

    Nanotechnology is distinguished from these existing fields by promising molecular assemblers, self-replicating machines, and all that. Making carbon "nano"-tubes or buckyballs from soot and getting them to stick together in particular ways in bulk is not nanotechnology, it's still (bulk) chemistry. Nanotechnology has failed completely to deliver on those promises so far, and it doesn't look like it will deliver any time soon.

    Rebranding the successes of other disciplines as successes of "nanotechnology" seems rather dishonest to me. Given that these people are now going to Capitol Hill with outstretched hands, it seems like the same thing we had with "e-this" and "i-that" over the last few years. Since this silliness cannot be stopped, let's hope the traditional disciplines will wise up quickly and put a "nano" into their names temporarily so that there is a level playing field.

    • I dunno. I think those Texas Instruments mirrors represent real nanotechnology, as do the microarrays being used for DNA/protein analyses.
    • Since all the siences in the field have call buckmiesterfullerens nano technology sine it was first thought of, I would say you're wrong. I would also so you need to get more information about nano-technolgy from someone other the niel stephenson.

      nanotechnology

      /nan'-oh-tek-no"l*-jee/ A hypothetical fabrication technology in which objects are designed and built with the individual specification and placement of each separate atom. The first unequivocal nanofabrication experiments took place in 1990, for example with the deposition of individual xenon atoms on a nickel substrate to spell the logo of a certain very large computer company. Nanotechnology has been a hot topic in the hacker subculture ever since the term was coined by K. Eric Drexler in his book "Engines of Creation", where he predicted that nanotechnology could give rise to replicating assemblers, permitting an exponential growth of productivity and personal wealth.

      from that definition:
      nanotechnology could give rise to replicating assemblers, could give rise to, not is.
  • its here now. Sure its just begining, but the impact of nanotechnolgy in the next 60 year will be just like the impact of plastic in the last 60 years(or so).
    Unfortunatly it is incredible expensive to do research on, which is why there going to the government for money.

    I want to see material 100 time stronger then steel, at 1/6 the wait.
    OTOH I do NOT want to see a space elevator.

    nanobots (mahine made with nanotechnology) will change a lot, but probably only have the impact as robotics has have. not to say robotics are helping, there just not where everyone thought they would be 50 years ago.

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