Friday, December 31, 2004

2004 was blowin' in the wind

Last year at this time, I declared 2003 the "Year of the Straw Nanoman" because I discovered, to this naive writer's shock, that even the most brilliant of minds is not above the ancient political tactic of first stuffing your opponent full of beliefs that you can easily attack, then making a show of striking the first match.

This time around, I'll make it a bit more personal, since 2004 was a key year in my own personal and professional development. I allowed myself to become a kind of straw man, blowing from one end of nanotechnology theory and practice to another in a personal journey along the Yellow Brick Road. Yes, I was in search of a brain – or, at least I was looking to fill my existing one with as many different perspectives as possible. I've chosen to make a living writing about all aspects of this fascinating science, idea, scheme, philosophy of nanotechnology and I was not about to limit myself to only one stream of thought. I can't help it. It's what I do. I spent more than three years running a newsdesk that covered nanotech as purely a business – and there is still much more to be covered there – but ultimately found that boundary frustratingly limited.

It is, I hope, a testament to my ability to accurately portray other schools of thought that I am sometimes handed the burden of being identified as an adherent to them. At times, it's painted me into a corner and has forced some doors shut on me. It can be disheartening, but then I think about my core mission as a journalist and try to remember that my goal is not to please my readers, but to inform them and challenge them. I hope I've done a little bit of both.

In 2004, I've gone from low to high, from heaven to hell, from socks to pants to … well … no socks and no pants, from art to business, from politics to pixels, from memory to sight, from environment to environment.

And I'm only beginning.

Tonight, my family and I will build a bonfire up here in the woods of Northern Michigan, and we'll write on slips of paper either our regrets for the previous year or hopes for the new one – and then throw them into the flames. Last year, I wrote a hope: "Integrity." Tonight, I'll write a hope as well, rather than look back in anger.

Like the poet says:

    Don't have the inclination to look back on any mistake
    like Cain I now behold this chain of events that I must break
    In the fury of the moment I can see the master's hand
    In every leaf that trembles, in every grain of sand

1 comment:

Philip Moriarty said...

Hi Howard,

First, have a wonderful New Year's Eve party and enjoy the bonfire (sounds like a lot of fun!). As regards "straw men", you might be interested in the follow-up comments under:

"Is mechanosynthesis feasible? The debate moves up a gear"(

on Richard Jones’ “Soft Machines” blog.

Comments #9, 16, 17, 21 and 24 are particularly relevant to Drexler’s oft-used “straw man” argument...

Best wishes and have a great 2005!