Monday, August 23, 2004

Georgia Tech's Ambassador of Nano

Daniel Moore, Georgia Tech nanotech Ph.D. candidate and blogger recently gave a successful talk to the Druid Hills Civitan Club. Judging from the prepared version (Word doc) of his talk, Moore did a masterful (or, even doctoral) job of balancing the long-term promises of nanotech with today's realities and touching on some of the ethical and societal concerns in the news these days.

Fearing my own upcoming adventure in public speaking, I asked him to tell me how the audience received his talk. Here's what Moore wrote:

    The talk went really well. After the first paragraph or so, I settled into it and just kept rolling. There were about 40-50 people there and they had a ton of questions afterwards (though none too tough) about nanoassemblers, the nanomedical technology, and even about the nanopants (I hope you don’t mind, but I borrowed your line saying that we need to work on the nanopants, but the cancer detection is pretty cool). And it is always fun to get away from the everyday nano-work and focus on big picture, almost nanoscifi type of stuff. The chorus of “wow” that I would get when I would describe some things helps to remind me why I’m actually doing this stuff.
Thank you for your work, Daniel, and happy 25th birthday! You've accomplished more at 25 than I have at "pushin' 40." When I was 25, I was covering school board and city council meetings for the Haverhill Gazette in Massachusetts. I did cover a NIMBY ("not in my backyard)" issue or two involving plans for a local trash incinerator. The issue? Risk from smokestack emissions. It was my first stab at coverage of issues involving the environment, risk and public fear. I hadn't realized then that it was a dress rehearsal for my nano-writing career.

NanoBot Backgrounder
Nanotech gets the keys to the lexicon
Web-Slinging, Stepford Nano
NanoFuture vs. NanoNow
Please send fear in lieu of facts
Britain balances science, economics, perception


Molly Webb said...

I appreciate Daniel's vision, but while we're being visionary, how about thinking even bigger. What about not needing soldiers? I thought we were getting robots to do our fighting? (or stopping war altogether, but I suppose even science fiction doesn't pretend that's possible). Cancer diagnosis is exciting, and maybe finally the shift in funding will go to prevention rather than the huge industry in treatment drugs. We aren't using current technology ethically for the most part (it's amazing that we allow as many people to die in car accidents as we do) so why should nanotechnology be any different? Honestly, are "upstream" public deliberation or interdisciplinary research going to allow us to direct this responsibly? My particular interest is environment, and the possibilities there for energy storage or non-polluting manufacturing are incredible. I don't think we should call a moratorium on nanotechnology, but I'm trying to prepare myself for the inevitable disappointment after all this promising hype; nanopants will live on, but our soldiers might not.

Daniel said...

Molly - I appreciated your comments about being even more visionary in our thinking on nanotech. I happen to be of the opinion that it is hard to be too enthusiastic about it (but, you know, I'm a little biased).