Wednesday, December 10, 2003

NanoPrizes, NanoCommerce and NanoCreationism

Some of the winners of the 2003 Small Times Magazine Best of Small Tech Award claiming
their prize at NanoCommerce 2003 include, from left: Mel Melsheimer, president of nanotech
VC firm Harris & Harris; David Soane,
founder of Nano-Tex; Wayne Kubinski of NEC, who
accepted on behalf of nanotube pioneer Sumio Iijima; Patrick Lundstrom of Obducat; Ray
McLaughlin, CFO of Carbon Nanotechnologies Inc., accepting
on behalf of Rick Smalley;
Small Times features editor Candace Stuart; Lewis
Gruber of Arryx; and Small Times publisher
and fearless leader Steve Crosby. Below,
Crosby hands Nano-Tex  (the"nanopants" people)
 founder David Soan
his Company of the Year Award, as Stuart applauds.

Here's some more of my crude attempts at photoblogging. I'm an old-school "film" guy, so digital cameras are kind of a mystery to me. The photos aren't the best quality. I have more, but here was the main event at NanoCommerce 2003 yesterday, when Small Times Magazine presented its Best of Small Tech Awards.

Nanotechnology Now editor Rocky Rawstern wrote me with some initial reaction to Undersecretary Phil Bond's keynote yesterday. He says that Bond's comments about separating science from science fiction "leads me to believe that the door may be open with regards to approaching Mr. Bond on the nanotech act and MNT (molecular nanotechnology) ... Maybe he'll talk to you about why MNT was left out."

Sorry, Rocky. I wasn't quick enough and he left the building before I could grab him. I suspect, though, that the "science fiction" reference was in fact a message that the government has already decided in which category MNT belongs.

Without really making a conscious attempt at it (I just went where I thought the news took me), my blog has given believers in molecular self-replication an increasingly wider-circulated instrument by which their views can be heard. I'm very proud to have helped given voice to the "minority opinion" on this issue. As I've indicated before, all this science I don't understand -- it's just my job five days a week -- but I do believe that this particular minority, those who still gather inspiration from nanotechnology's original vision as defined by Feynman and Drexler, should have been given this relatively inexpensive item.

Having also covered the Foresight Institute conference in October, I can see now the extent of the contrast between these competing visions. I have not taken any kind of scientific poll, but judging from the conversations I've had with many of the people here, I can safely confirm for the MNT believers something they likely already knew: They are indeed being marginalized by those who speak for the nanotech business community, and proudly so. I used the term "believers" on purpose because one source told me that arguing with a Drexlerian is akin to debating a Creationist: There's simply no winning, since they take their beliefs on faith. I countered that most Creationists do not desire or seek proof -- the very definition of faith -- whereas MNT proponents are actively pursuing proof.

I don't want to talk about who said what to me and when, yet, since my interviews are not yet complete and I don't want to help launch another round of name-calling, but one of my sources brought up what I feel is a valid criticism of Foresight, the Center for Responsible Nanotechnology and others: The more they launch public attacks against those who disagree with them, the less inclined the nanotech business leadership will be to even invite them to the table, for fear their words will be used against them.


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