Wednesday, June 15, 2005

'Crain's-ing' my neck to see the hype

My old colleague Jeff Karoub, whom I had a hand in hiring about four years and a lifetime ago, must be making his presence felt at Crain's Detroit Business, where he is now managing editor. Crain's Detroit covered the 24th Annual Michigan Growth Capital Symposium in Ann Arbor, where panelists asked and answered the loaded question: “What’s Real and What’s Hype in Small Tech.” Nanofilm CEO Scott Rickert dusted off the "nano-robot" punching bag as an example of "hype" -- at least, that's the way the story made it appear.

    For example, Rickert said nano-robots aren’t much more than science fiction that exists in “someone’s imagination.” But others are real and provide solid opportunity for entrepreneurs and investors. More here
I'll ask the question again: Who exactly is hyping nanobots? And how exactly is the longer-term vision of molecular manufacturing -- the vision that truly gets the public excited about nanotech -- worth singling out as "hype" as opposed to, say, Scotchgard renamed nano, "energy" patches, questionable "nanofilters," muscle potions or over-the-top investment promotions? Just to name a few off the top of my head. I'm wondering whether they talked about some of the real hype in small tech.

Again to his credit, Ardesta CEO Rick Snyder (my former big boss for whom I retain a great deal of respect), cut through some of the garbage to mention one good thing about hype: "In many cases, it is spawning a responsible discussion of health and societal issues," he said.

And, of course, one of only a handful of news "organizations" that hosts this kind of discussion is ... well ... NanoBot.

Related News
Nanotech: "Hype or Reality?" (complexifly flickr)

NanoBot's discard pile
Nanobots: Possible only when convenient
Where is the hype?


AShalleck said...

Hey Howard ... it's not completely hype, smoke and mirrors. In bio there is stuff happening. For example, Kereos's mix of targeted ca designer molecules that both detect and attack the same ca cells. That's an elementary "nanobot" in theory. In the early stages of clinical trials. So there is some support in industry for the reality of the germinal "NanoBot." We're not there yet but some companies are more than inching along. And the FDA is beginning to talk about standards and licensing criteria. It's not black and white. Couldn't say this a year ago.

Alan Shalleck

Howard Lovy said...

Hi, Alan. You don't even need to use the "nanobot" word that much to convince me. I know there's some amazing work going on in nanobio, and much of the writing and consulting work I do outside this blog is related to this near-term research. However, my point still stands. If nanotech business interests are threatened by excessive "hype" -- and Rick Snyder is not the only entrepreneur who believes a little healthy hype is a good thing -- then why not shine the spotlight on some of the real hype and snake oil masquerading as nanotech. Nanobots are theory. They do not exist except in computer simulations, imaginations and tons of good and bad scifi. They're certainly not sucking up any government money, and no consumers are being duped into buying nanobots. However, nano snake oil is real, people are buying it and -- even worse for nano public relations -- it's creating the impression that "nanotechnology" has been hijacked by Mr. Haney.