Summarizes hig Reaction And Interpretation of the NRC Report
Eric Drexler gives his official reaction and interpretation of the 2006 report, A Matter of Size: Triennial Review of the National Nanotechnology Initiative.
The committee examined the concept of advanced molecular manufacturing, and found that the analysis of its physical principles is based on accepted scientific knowledge, and that it addresses the major technical questions. However, in the committee’s view, theoretical calculations are insufficient: Only experimental research can reliably answer the critical questions and move the technology toward implementation. Research in this direction deserves support.
Note that the tone of the report is skeptical. I would expect this tone to strongly influence the impression left on casual readers, blunting the impact of what, in substance, amounts to a sharp rebuke to the conventional wisdom.
Highlights the Call for Research
The report closes with a call for research on pathways toward molecular manufacturing, quoted above, and an earlier section outlines some appropriate objectives.
Eric Drexler Notes The Responses and His View of Relevant Progress
Structural DNA nanotechnology - “DNA origami”. This technology opened the door to systematic, atomically precise engineering on a scale of hundreds of nanometers and millions of atoms.
Polypeptide foldamer nanotechnology - There’s also been rapid progress in design methodologies for complex, atomically precise nanoscale structures made from polypeptide foldamers (aka proteins). In recent years, protein engineering has achieved a functional milestone: systematically engineering devices that perform controlled molecular transformations
Framework-directed assembly of composite systems - Looking forward, promising next steps involve integrating structural DNA frameworks with polypeptide foldamers, other foldamers, and other organic and inorganic materials.
These capabilities could be exploited to pursue a spiral of improvement in materials, components, and molecular machine systems.
Each generation of tools can be expected to enable fabrication processes and products that are more robust, more susceptible to computational simulation, and better suited to established systems engineering design methodologies. This indicates the potential for an accelerating pace of development toward a technology platform that can support the implementation of high-throughput atomically precise fabrication.
This path is being followed today, but without coordination, and without a sense of mission and urgency that would reflect its potential to provide solutions to long-term yet urgent problems.