Excess nanotechnology conservatism is too radical

An opinion piece in IEEE Spectrum by Cientifica business development director Dexter Johnson is so conservative in its views that it crosses over into being truly radical. On designer materials:

In fact, we are so far from that goal it’s not clear whether we will ever be able to overcome all the obstacles.

Not ever? This is actually a very strong statement.

When talking about bulk chemicals and materials, it is nearly impossible to think about producing these atom by atom, because you can get to the same material by just following a hit-or-miss iterative process, and do so far more cheaply.

It’s not that hard to think about it. It’s harder to see why one would want to do it — unless one needs the product to be atomically-precise, or have atomic-scale control over the leftover molecules, which could possibly be useful. But needing a product in bulk does not mean that these properties might not be desirable, in bulk quantities.

The bottom line: material by design may elude us for centuries.

For centuries? This is quite a radical statement. Dexter has chutzpah.

It is a good thing to have pro-technology hype be balanced by realistic or even pessimistic perspectives, but it is possible to go too far in the latter direction also. —Christine

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