The New Atlantis looks at the debate between MNT advocates and mainstream nanotechnologists, like Richard Smalley and the NanoBusiness Alliance, who maintain that MNT "is bunk." They conclude that the government feasibility study of molecular manufacturing, which the NanoBusiness Alliance managed to have removed from last year's Nanotechnology Research and Development Act, should be reinstated. "The Nanotech Schism: High-Tech Pants or Molecular Revolution?"
The field of nanotechnology is divided between those who think it will simply improve our lives and those who think it will completely transform them. The former group thinks of nanotechnology as essentially a new branch of materials science. The latter group, inspired by nanotechnologist Eric Drexler, hews to a more ambitious vision in which molecular manufacturing, nanomedicine, and even nanoweapons will radically reshape the world. Many people in the former category think that Drexler's version of nanotechnology is bunk.
In recent months, the divide between the two groups has become more pronounced and bitter-and it couldn't have come at a worse time, as environmentalists, reporters, novelists, moviemakers, legislators, and regulators are beginning to pay attention to the potential risks of nanotechnology. …
Very few technologies have been as feared in advance as nanotechnology has been. If Mark Modzelewski and Richard Smalley really think Drexler's ideas are just frightening fantasies, then they should quit the name-calling and welcome the chance to disprove those ideas. The government's feasibility study of molecular manufacturing should be reinstated, and the matter should be put to rest once and for all. If Drexler's ideas can be proven definitively wrong, then we can relax in our comfortable nano-pants. But if Drexler is correct, there is much work to be done. If the stakes are as high as Drexler and his allies suggest, the world needs to get this right the first time, for there is very little room for mistakes.