Thursday, June 09, 2005

You can trace time

Glenn Reynolds' Tech Central Station column on personal fabricators mentions Neil Gershenfeld's new book, FAB: The Coming Revolution on Your Desktop--From Personal Computers to Personal Fabrication. It reminded me of a fascinating news conference the director of MIT's Center for Bits and Atoms gave in late March. I was taking care of my son, with CSPAN on in the background, when I found myself enthralled by Gershenfeld's talk (there's a RealPlayer link here, but it's not working for me, for some reason.)

What really impressed me was what he said toward the end. This isn't an exact quote, but I quickly scribbled down the essence of what he said. The people who should be paying attention to his work are not the ones who read Science and Nature. Those publications were not written for those who ultimately will accept or reject new technological concepts.

This is the assumption I wake up with every day -- that there is a crucial need for as many people as possible to understand that we all, in our lifetimes, will experience vast technological changes that will forever alter the way we interact with our environment, with one another and with our own bodies. It will not be too long before we rub our eyes, look around and wonder what happened to the world in which we were born.

At times, I blog out of shear frustration over how inadequately I see these changes being covered by most of the science and technology publications and Web sites I read. They're either tailored toward a closed-in set of technogeeks who speak the same code understood by nobody, or written in language that parrots the scientists and oh so impresses themselves, yet is impenetrable to a broad audience.

At the end of Gershenfeld's talk, I blurted out "Yes!" And that's when my then-9-month-old son learned that his father was crazy. He was bound to find out eventually.

Related Story
The Dream Factory: (Wired, Dec. 2004)

The abstract 'public' is right here
The sounds (and videos) of science
Images of the possible
Remember, we know more than you do


Anonymous said...

Well, there's a third category, also, of people who can write in a way that seems accessible and exciting to the public, but who in reality have a pretty dim understanding of the actual science. I'm pretty skeptical of the value of this, too.

Howard Lovy said...

Why, Mr. or Ms. Anonymous: That sounds like a crime against humanity, as well. How should a publication aimed at a broad audience explain the science behind nanotech without losing the wide range of people it hopes to introduce to basic ideas.

Brian H said...

I hate to be too cutting, but "shear" is not the same as "sheer". Sheesh! Or is that "Sheash!"?


Howard Lovy said...

Well, Brian. This is a blog. I rarely go back and edit, and I'm horrified at times at the misspellings. But I'm usually doing a few hundred other things at the same time. There are many writers out there who can testify that I made them look good back in my careful copy editing days. Excuse me now. I've left my grill (grille?) unattended and my wife thinks I'm going to burn down the house.