Why the DMS debate is a good thing for nanotech

Why the DMS debate is a good thing for nanotech

One of the main reasons that we are confident in the overall predictions of molecular manufacturing is that there are many pathways to it from current technology and using currently understood science. It is thus something of a milestone that we have arrived at a fork in the road about which there is room for disagreement about which path to take. The point at issue is diamondoid mechanosynthesis (DMS).

Eric Drexler has posted an essay in which he points out that he favors a pathway that leverages the capabilities of biochemistry and solution chemistry. He notes that he has always considered diamondoid mechanosynthesis a hard problem and a capability for advanced nanotech, not an early pathway.

Robert Freitas and Ralph Merkle are championing the direct DMS route. To extend the roadmap analogy, one could say that the solution-chemistry path is the long, winding river road and the DMS approach is the shortcut through the treacherous mountain passes.

Which is right? My own opinion is that this is the wrong question. There are many paths to productive nanosystems, and trying all of them is none too big an investment in our future. In the meantime, the more of a debate that develops between alternatives, the more the technical issues will be discussed and the more hitherto un-thought-of alternative pathways will be explored.

The first stage of the public conversation about a new technology, the debate is over whether heavier-than-air machines can fly. In the second stage, it’s over things like biplanes vs monoplanes.

Welcome to the second stage.

(Hat-tip to Next Big Future)

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  1. Anonymous December 31, 2008 at 2:52 am - Reply

    If Robert Freitas and Ralph Merkle are confident they can achieve DMS in 5 years, then I think DMS is obviously not too hard or too advanced a path to atomically precise manufacturing. They’ve done studies and simulations and reference many papers that support the DMS route, that’s enough for me. Drexler should join them instead of being a doubting tom.

  2. Anonymous January 2, 2009 at 3:09 pm - Reply

    The more the merrier. You take the high road, you there take the middle road, and I’ll take the low road to the left. See who gets to Scotland first, shall we?

    Biological nanosynthesis uses protein catalysts and aqueous solution. That is a working model which can be followed. Diamondoid synthesis requires making up the rules as you go and testing every aspect.

    If Eric D. can facilitate and illuminate middle paths that might be quicker to the prize, fantastic!

    A depressed world wide economy needs a “next big thing” to build a new boom bubble. Biotech and synthetic biology was supposed to have been that thing, but if nanosynthesis can exceed biotech in commercial potential in the next few years, we may have a half-century long boom on our hands, blending into Kurzweil-world.

    Alice Finkel

  3. Anonymous January 6, 2009 at 5:00 am - Reply

    I imagine there are some promising university students who are quietly working on the answer in their labs. Is anyone aware of who the next prodigies might be?

  4. Anonymous January 9, 2009 at 10:35 pm - Reply

    here i am

  5. Anonymous January 9, 2009 at 10:36 pm - Reply

    im working on wet synthesis but attentivelyu watching merkle, grad school coulod offer some fun experiences at this rate 🙂

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