I Was Happy To Leave Them To It Until They Started Picking on Nanomedicine

Chris Phoenix has noted that attacks from mainstream nanotechnology business folk on molecular manufacturing (or "dry" nanotechnology) and Eric Drexler's work are starting to spill over into nanomedicine:

Just this week, a nano blog that used to be trustworthy and even-handed has gone down the same path. In response to Robert Freitas' recent publication of Nanomedicine Volume IIA: Biocompatibility, Cientifica posted an article containing such phrases as, "swarm of nanobots - more idle speculation," and "books of this ilk," and most dishonorably, "a hobby pursuit."

A book with six thousand references is not a hobby pursuit. I wonder why they are trying so hard to persuade people that it's not worth reading. What is their motivation?

I've been saying "they," but in fact, Paul Holister recently left Cientifica. It appears that Tim Harper is now free to vigorously -- and irresponsibly -- oppose the more advanced kinds of nanotechnology. I'm not usually so openly critical. But false claims that "Martian nanobots ... are equally feasible" should not go unchallenged. This is shabby journalism, and it damages the serious and ongoing discussion of the potential effects of advanced nanotechnology.

You may or may not be aware of the rather ugly, funding-fueled debate over the future of nanotechnology that has been taking place in recent months. Glenn Reynolds has been covering it well: for reasons connected to politics and money, portions of the nanotechnology industry have been attacking serious, well-respected work being done on much more advanced nano and molecular technologies.

I was happy sit on the sidelines of this particular dust up until they started in on nanomedicine. Now it seems I should join the fray. Nanomedicine ("wet" nanotechnology) is an important future technology for healthy life extension, taking up the slack where regenerative medicine will not be able to do the job. Just as for dry nanotechnology and molecular manufacturing, many smart people have spent a great deal of time working to lay the scientific foundation for this technology - while our understanding of materials science and biochemistry catches up to the point of being able to build it.

(You might be interested in reading a paper called "Accurately Describing a Technology That Does Not Yet Exist", which explains how the laws of physics and the scientific method can be used to, well, accurately describe a technology that doesn't yet exist).

What we don't need are a bunch of politically and financially motivated yahoos riding in without an ounce of scientific credibility to say that nanomedicine can't be done. You think it can't be done? Fine - get into the labs, write the treatises, do the necessary years of work, and try to prove your hypothesis. That's the way science is done in this town.


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