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Feasibility of Molecular Manufacturing
 

Letter to the Editor of The New York Times

Published December 16, 2003

Background

Rice University Professor Richard Smalley responded to a longstanding challenge by Foresight Founder and Chairman Emeritus Eric Drexler to defend the controversial direction of U.S. policy in nanotechnology. Their four-part exchange is the cover story of the Dec. 1 2003 Chemical & Engineering News.
Press release
Foresight comments and FAQ
Full text of the exchange
Coverage of debate in Foresight Update

On Dec. 9, 2003 The New York Times carried a story on the debate: "Yes, They Can! No, They Can't: Charges Fly in Nanobot Debate". A week later, the Times published the following (edited) letter from Dr. Drexler.
http://www.nytimes.com/2003/12/16/science/16LETT.html (free registration required)

Published letter from Dr. Drexler

To the Editor:

Re "Yes, They Can! No, They Can't: Charges Fly in Nanobot Debate" (Dec. 9): The article says the nanotechnology debate is about "whether it is possible to build a nanobot." This ignores the central issue — the feasibility of molecular manufacturing — in which nanobots play no role.

The article neglects critical policy and security issues. Molecular machinery will increase manufacturing productivity a millionfold, yet our national nanotechnology effort now excludes work toward this goal. In a competitive world, continuing this policy would amount to unilateral disarmament.

Focusing on imaginary nanobots leaves the serious science and policy issues unexamined.

DR. K. ERIC DREXLER
Los Altos, Calif

Dr. Drexler's original letter (emphasis added)

To the Editor:

Re "Yes, They Can! No, They Can't," (Dec. 9): The article says the nanotechnology debate is about "whether it is possible to build a nanobot." This ignores the central issue — the feasibility of molecular manufacturing — in which nanobots play no role. Indeed, the article quotes my statement that nanofactories will use "no swarms of roaming, replicating nanobots."

The article neglects critical policy and security issues. Molecular machinery will increase manufacturing productivity a million-fold, yet our national nanotechnology effort now excludes work toward this goal. In a competitive world, continuing this policy would amount to unilateral disarmament.

Focusing on imaginary nanobots may appeal to a fraction of your readers, but it leaves the serious science and policy issues unexamined.

Dr. K. Eric Drexler
Los Altos, Calif.

Feasibility of Molecular Manufacturing

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