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Member since: Wed Oct 13, 2004, 05:42 PM
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Nanotechnology's lost history

Dr. K.Eric Drexler created the term nanotechnology to describe the concept of: "atomically precise machines building atomically precise products." This was before the concept was stolen by researchers who wanted to label their work as nanotechnology appropriated the term to describe "nanoscale particles, fibers, electronics, and the like." (Quotes are from Drexler's blog.)

Now, Eric Drexler's has a new book, to be released in May, and he has updated his blog, Metamodern, with a history of nanotech publications: Missing pieces: The lost history of how nanotechnology took hold in the world.

My new book, Radical Abundance, is now (at last!) nearing release. It reframes prospects for atomically precise manufacturing (APM), exploring timeless physical principles, surprising progress, and potential applications to global challenges that include economic development and climate change. Radical Abundance also looks back on the history of ideas that has shaped today’s perceptions of APM. Much of this history predates the rise of the web, however, and several key publications have been unavailable and hence effectively invisible.

To provide access to that 'lost history,' Drexler has posted PDF links for publications dating back to 1982 that introduced the concept of nanotechnology to audiences both popular and academic.

I've been following Eric Drexler's work on nanotechnology since hearing him discuss his work at a space development conference in 1986. Eric's interest in space predates his interest in nanotechnology; he worked with Dr. Gerard K.O'Neill in the 1970s, when Gerry O'Neill was first developing his space manufacturing concepts. He still holds patents on such space concepts as a high-performance light sail.

Obsolete Humans? Why Elites Want You to Fear the Robot.

When economic times are good, machines are celebrated as wonders of progress and prosperity that will improve our lives. But when times are tough, they become objects of fear. The unemployment crisis of the past four years was triggered by a Wall Street-driven financial crash, and exacerbated by policy makers who failed to do enough to stimulate the economy and to ensure that there’s enough demand for goods and services. But lately, a new argument for job insecurity has made a splash in the media: It’s the machines! Pundits predict the “end of labor,” and talk about armies of sleek robots taking over the workplace as a foregone conclusion. Dystopian fantasies worthy of a late-night sci-fi flick flood the airwaves.


Scary articles in the business section warn that any rise in wages will drive companies to save money by shedding workers and buying robots. Visions of increased efficiency and machines that can run 24/7 with no need for bathroom breaks have workers frantically trying to prove their value. Bosses warn that worker protests will only speed up automation. Don’t like the harsh conditions at Foxconn? Fine, a robot will do your job. The message: Keeping wages down and workers toiling until they drop is the only way to stave off a robot revolution.


The notion that technology is driving current unemployment doesn’t make much sense when you look at it closely. In 2007, there were reasonable, if not great, labor markets in the U.S. The giant leap in unemployment numbers dates from a very specific event, not from a long-run process that has been displacing workers over time. In 2007, the unemployment rate was 4.6. By 2009, it was 9.6, and remains very high. What happened wasn’t a sudden rush of robots onto the scene, but a financial catastrophe that nearly tanked the global economy.

Back in the 1990s, all kinds of technological changes were happening, as new users of the Internet will recall. Manufacturing productivity and some parts of service productivity went way up. People weren’t paranoid about machines because the economy was humming along. Technology was making humans more productive, the pundits said.

Read more here: http://www.alternet.org/economy/obsolete-humans-why-elites-want-you-fear-robot
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