Nanobots Not Needed, declares the Center for Responsible Nanotechnology.
- The popular idea of so-called nanobots, powerful and at risk of running wild, is not part of modern plans for building things “atom-by-atom” by molecular manufacturing. Studies indicate that most people don't know the difference between molecular manufacturing, nanoscale technology, and nanobots. Confusion about terms, fueled by science fiction, has distorted the truth about advanced nanotechnology. Nanobots are not needed for manufacturing, but continued misunderstanding may hinder research into highly beneficial technologies and discussion of the real dangers. More here
Let me raise a couple of points. Does CRN believe the general public is really concerned with these distinctions?
To whom is their clarification aimed? Journalists who write about nanotechnology? Or those in government and business who have narrowed nanotechnology's definition to fit neatly into their own commercial and research goals?
The word "nanobot" is often used as a term of derision by those who now set the agenda, but CRN needs to get a bit of perspective and stop hanging around those who only speak nanotech-ese. It's a habit journalists get into, also -- a kind of Stockholm Syndrome, where they speak the language of those they cover and come into contact with, forgetting that there's a much-larger audience out there waiting to be informed.
The Center for Responsible Nanotechnology should know -- perhaps better than most groups -- that what is tossed aside as silly in one political season can be embraced in another. So, I hope it's not the derision that CRN is reacting to. And if they have truth on their side, they'll eventually be brought in from the cold.
To me, fighting against a word like "nanobot" -- a word that has been adopted by the general public and infused into the culture -- is akin to Eric Drexler's failed attempt to rename his vision of nanotechnology "zettatechnology." They're spitting into the wind. Why would they want to take a simple word that has captured the public imagination and muck it up with distinctions that mean little to the public at large? Nanobot is a cool word (if I do say so myself), and it should be embraced when speaking to the general public. It's only in our own closed circle that it takes on political or derisive meanings.
CRN should make those distinctions when they're at a nanotech conference, speaking to a bunch of other folks in our little world. But when it comes to making a connection with the people who really count -- those who will ultimately accept or reject a technology or technological direction -- I'm sticking with NanoBot.