Can Nanotech Save Us?

I’ve said before that the only way I think we beat the civilization-killing mess we’re in is technology.  For one, tech in the last twenty years is the sort of tech that empowers the individual, from news to entertainment — the fields I know.
A commenter asked about nanotech — a field I don’t know — and M. Simon promised to write something about it. He did.

My only issue with it, is that I don’t recall saying that a financial crash can stop it — I think the financial crash that will stop all the new tech is so massive it will stop civilization too.  I’m hoping we don’t have that.  I’m very much hoping we don’t have that.  Sometimes I think it’s what the enemies of the future want, though.  They understand medieval.  It’s the future that scares them.

One other minor quibble is asking how much of this will come to a stop when (?) Lockheed Martin gets whacked by the fiscal cliff (that one seems fairly sure.)

This is what M. Simon has to say:

One thing holding back the use of nanotubes is that they are relatively expensive to make. Not a significant problem for computer chips, but if you want wires five times more conductive than copper, you are going to need kilograms and megatons of the material. Researchers at Rice University believe they have an answer to that problem. A Professor of Chemistry at Northwestern University (just North of Chicago) believes he has a better answer. He has started a company, Nanointegris, to explore the possibilities. Right now, they are focusing on carbon nanotube inks. They have also branched out into graphene. That has great potential for replacing the conductive indium tin oxide coating on touch screens. Indium is kind of rare, so this development has great possibilities. And they have actual products for sale.

Well Sarah (and commenter), I hope that has answered your question about the near future of nanotechnology. I think we are in a short pause between Kondratieff Waves. In my opinion, the time between waves is getting shorter, so we will not have too long to wait before the next wave takes off. My estimation is that we will see macro economic results in five to ten years. An eternity if the present economic cycle is causing you a lot of suffering but in historical terms a fraction of an eye blink.

Go read the whole thing.

20 responses to “Can Nanotech Save Us?

  1. Some times it seems like a race between advancing to the next technological plauteau or getting knocked down a few levels. I’m glad to hear about nano tech advances close to mainstreaming, as the air raid sirenes wail in the Middle East.

  2. Nanotech? What we need is a truth-detector. Not the current attempts at lie-detectors. Something that reads where the brain activity is going on, because memory and lying and even recalling false memories use different parts of the brain. One easy to use and cheap.

    Ah, well, I suppose people really would have the gumption to object to the notion of verifying the vote under a truth-detector — recursively through all the people working on it, as needed — but it’s a nice dream.

    • The basis for a working veridicator has been established by brain-imaging neuro-scientists who observed (IIRC – it was a while back and not exactly in my field of expertise) that different areas of the brain lighted up when the subject suppressed a truthful response to a query and substituted an alternate response.

      Politicians and defense attorneys have probably already acted to gut funding for this type of irresponsible crackpot research, diverting the funding to such important research as Anthroprogenic Global Warming and determining if Jesus Died For Klingons, Too ([SEARCHENGINE] it.)

    • That would only tell you if the person thought they were telling the truth.

      I’ve seen enough people convince themselves that something was true that wasn’t to not trust such things.

      • That’s where the recalling false memories bit comes in.

        At any rate, there’s enough bald-faced lying going about that it would help with. Like, say, purging the ranks of those who receive disability on false pretenses.

  3. Ah, this brings back the memories ;-) My thesis research involved buckyballs, and I attended the “Woodstock of Physics” where the first nanotubes were announced. Made some prototype devices, too. Acquainted (through my mom) with one of the guys who invented the method for mass production of C60. I’m not completely current but I can answer general fullerene questions. Oh! and I gave a talk on my C60 research at the Baltimore Worldcon in 1996 (aka Bucconeer) since C60 was the official con molecule ;-)

  4. I don’t understand nanotechnology as well as I ought to, being more comfortable with machines that can be manipulated with a jeweler’s screwdriver and a big mallet, but I am certain that even as we speak, scholarly papers are in preparation proving that this nano stuff sours cow’s milk and makes hens go off lay.

  5. While I admire the latest technical innovations, science unfortunately practices the same kind of “invested outcome” thinking that politics and media (ha ha, same thing) do.

  6. This is what I’m hoping for. Vernor Vinge and Ray Kurzweil are my heroes and I keep hoping they and their followers will rescue us.

  7. Real, Drexler style nanotech, the sort that could save us (or kill or enslave us all) has been just about indefinitely delayed by the scientific establishment. His first book, Engines of Creation, and all the excitement that followed it was used to get “nanotechnology” grants for essentially conventional chemistry, physics, etc. while too much of the establishment dishonestly attacked “real” nanotech as defined by Drexler. E.g. see Richard Smalley’s strawman attacks, falsifiable by anyone who’d read enough of Drexler’s works. (Be careful using Wikipedia to study this, the relevant articles have a historically strong bias against Drexler.)

    That’s not to say that there hasn’t been significant progress in all sorts of things that would be useful for eventually following this path, a point he made in his first book, since there are great unrelated payoffs to be had in advancing the state of the art in these areas. And there has been some directly relevant research done, but I gather not very much.

  8. I’m a little late to this party but I have seriously enjoyed all the nano-geeks. Especially “Bucky-girl”. Or would that be “Bucky-gurl”? I’m so behind the times.

    BTW Sarah. It is a time honored tradition. The Press (of which I’m now a paid member) never quite gets it right. Just upholding the tradition. And honored to be of service.