27 December 2008

Eric Drexler Renounces Diamond, Takes Vow of Poverty, Praises Fool's Gold

Okay, the bit about Drexler taking a vow of poverty isn't exactly correct. But interestingly, the father of diamondoid nanosynthesis has publicly come out in opposition of the pursuit of diamond.
Contrary to popular opinion, diamond synthesis seems almost irrelevant to progress toward advanced nanosystems. At the current stage or research, it is both difficult and unnecessary. In a following post I’ll present some criteria and metrics for judging materials, praise cerium dioxide, and explain why humble fool’s gold is better than diamond.

...Considering the difficulties of diamond synthesis, why treat diamond mechanosynthesis as if it were a necessary first step toward molecular manufacturing? Building a tiny bit of diamond this way would of course be an impressive lab demo, but the plausible technologies for achieving this seem difficult to extend, and I doubt that they would be very useful in any general sense.

Indeed, a leading nanotechnology company, Zyvex, used computational modeling (density-functional based molecular dynamics) to study diamond mechanosynthesis and concluded that, although the physics would work, but the present-day laboratory practicalities would not. They’ve chosen instead to pursue mechanosynthesis of silicon-surface structures, using a clever approach termed “patterned atomic-layer epitaxy”, a method in which the only mechanically directed operation is the removal of hydrogen atoms from a hydrogen-passivated surface. _Metamodern
Drexler proceeds to explain that he has always seen diamond nanosynthesis as an extreme test case of his theories -- if they will work with diamond, they should work with almost anything. His public statement today simply clarifies the importance of going with what works now, for pragmatics' sake.

The author of Engines of Creation and Nanosystems no doubt stays in close contact with nanosynthesis researchers around the world. If anyone should know what works now and what doesn't, he would be the one. Eventually, diamond nanosynthesis may become the state of the art. But by that time, many other processes that are "just good enough" will probably be in widest use due to economics and ease of production.

Most humans are not yet accustomed to a "total cornucopia" of met desires and whims. Nanosynthesis promises the ultimate in a society of comforts and worldly pleasures. Good health should also come along in the bargain. What else would you need to create the Next Level? Quite a lot actually.

More later.


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Blogger Will Brown said...

In regards to your last point: "Most humans are not yet accustomed to a "total cornucopia" of met desires and whims. Nanosynthesis promises the ultimate in a society of comforts and worldly pleasures.", what do you think of this idea as a mechanism to furthering achievement of Drexler's (and others) vision of humanity's future?

Tuesday, 30 December, 2008  
Blogger al fin said...

Interesting scenario, Will. I am unsure of the degree to which TED is interested in solving problems as opposed to merely appearing fashionable and trendsetting.

I do believe that Drexler is focused on problem-solving. Merkel and Freitas are also very closely keyed to solving real world problems, although they seem to disagree with Drexler on the point of diamondoid nano-synthesis.

Sunday, 04 January, 2009  

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