chapter  3
10 Pages

Nanotechnology: From Feynman to Funding

ByK. Eric Drexler

The revolutionary Feynman vision of a powerful and general nanotechnology – based on nanomachines that build with atom-by-atom control – promises great opportunities and, if abused, great dangers. This vision made ‘nanotechnology’ a buzzword and launched the global nanotechnology race. Along the way, however, the meaning of the word had shifted. A vastly broadened definition of ‘nanotechnology’ (including any technology with nanoscale features) enabled specialists from diverse fields to infuse unrelated research with the Feynman mystique. The resulting nanoscale-technology funding coalition has obscured the Feynman vision, misunderstanding its basis, distrusting its promise, and fearing that public concern regarding its dangers might interfere with research funding. In response, leaders of a funding coalition have attempted to narrow ‘nanotechnology’ to exclude one area of nanoscale technology – the Feynman vision itself. Their misdirected arguments against the Feynman vision have needlessly confused public discussion of the objectives and consequences of nanotechnology research.