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from the invitation-for-discussion dept.
JeremyTurner writes:
"October 26, 2001…
Dear Nanodot members and readers,
I was just wondering if the Nanotech initiative will eventually cover an arts/cultural wing? Some individuals such as myself eagerly await the creative benefits towards the Arts and Entertainment industries…In fact, K. Eric Drexler mentioned towards the end of his "Engines of Creation" book that the end-goal of an advanced nanotechnological civilization would be the proliferation of performance and interdisciplinary art. I am worried that due to the recent climate, most of the research will go towards defense and security and little towards health, strategic diplomacy, the environment and culture…Any thoughts on how our country will utilize this emerging technology to our creative benefit? I was also wondering if those outside the United States will benefit and how long would it take for a trickle down effect to occur once corporations such as the Texas-based Zyvex make that ultimate breakthrough?
Best regards,
Jeremy Turner"

[Editor's note: the mandate for the U.S. National Nanotechnology Initiative (currently) includes a component to examine the "societal implications" of nanotechnology. To date, the most significant result of this part of the initiative has been a NSF report issued early in 2001.]

4 Responses to “Nanoculture?”

  1. RobertBradbury Says:

    Arts a use but probably not soon

    Jeremy asked:

    I was just wondering if the Nanotech initiative will eventually cover an arts/cultural wing?

    Though the NNI has a component, like the Human Genome Project, directed at ethical and social issues, there isn't anything I believe directed at arts or culture. The cultural aspects are quite provocative as the end points are societies where people do not have to work to survive (meaning they could devote a lot of time to arts) and where many political and legal aspects of governments and nations are likely to significantly change (you can't tax people or pass laws they disagree with if they can move to their own country grown in the middle of the ocean).

    But given the complexity of developing nanosystems that would allow the full realization of the nanotechnology vision, it seems to me to be likely that at least 15-25 years will be required for these developments.

    There are people in the health field who do understand the full vision of nanotechnology and who are working to accelerate applications for areas such as health and the environment. NIH as a whole doesn't really have a clear vision yet of how to integrate biotechnology and nanotechnology but there are individuals such as myself who do.

    First, I think we will develop ever increasing rapid response capability to bioweapons. Then we should develop increasingly robust preventions and treatments for various diseases. Once robust (diamondoid) nanotechnology becomes available, we will develop augmentations that enhance human capacities and capabilities. Biotechnology is already being used for artistic purposes. Witness the glow-in-the-dark GFP rabbit developed by Eduardo Kac. Work being done by Joe Davis is another example (SciAm article here). As these technologies and those emerging become less expensive and more available, I think artists will find ways to apply them creatively. For example, engineering genomes to recreate animals similar to those that are now extinct or those that have only been imagined seems to be a probable application of biotechnology to the arts.

  2. JeremyTurner Says:

    Re:Arts a use but probably not soon

    Hey Robert, yes I think you have hit the mark with regards to approximate time frames for R&D before we can even begin to know how to directly apply the emerging technological advances towards those of the arts..seems that war and survival still take top-priority over the possible reason for existing in the first place. I really like what Kac is doing with Transgenic animals and I am very looking forward to a time (hopefully within my lifetime) where new organic or inorganic creatures could be invented. I missed the chance to see Kac lecture at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver…My loss. Well, even if it will take many years before the Arts finally gets its due from Nanotechnology, I think that a discussion group like the Foresight Insititute should exist now to provide some foresight into future art developments even before they are actualized. I am looking for like-minded individuals who may want to pursue such an aesthetic thinktank further…even if it is just for fun. I was even thinking of doing my own version of "Engines of Creation" but applying the hopes and principles of Nanotech towards the development of aesthetic forms..some of which can be experimented with now (Kac being a good example). I would not be able to undertake such an ambitious task by myself though and would love to contribute chapters to a much larger project written by like-minded individuals. If anyone could point me in the right direction, that would be ideal. Thank you for your insights Robert, I have taken them to heart. Keep in touch.

  3. WillDye Says:

    Probably indirectly more than directly

    I do not expect to see a lot of near-term U. S. federal funding directed specifically towards nanotech-related arts and culture. In addition to the "first things first" emphasis on getting the stuff to work without getting us all killed, art and culture tend to be difficult to define. Such vageries have been known to help keep existing programs from being cut, since the burden of proof tends to fall on the advocates of change. In the case of nanotech-related art, however, I expect that the difficulty of defining a measurable benefit will make it more difficult to justify new expenditures.

    Art advocates can take heart, however, in knowing that nanotech shows great promise for increasing the amount of free time and discretionary spending among the general population. There should be less need for taxpayer-funded art and culture, since so many more people should have the time and resources to produce their own art and culture without the overhead of lobbying for grants.

    Obviously, I'm glossing over some important factors that can lead to a very different outcome. In times of plenty, for example, new governmental expenditures may be easier to pass. All the same, I still suspect that the best bets regarding NNI funding will be on the bottom of Maslow's pyramid.

    Just another opinion,


  4. Patrick_Chu Says:

    Architecture and Industrial Design

    Not counting science fiction, nanotech and art will probably first intersect in areas where form and function must equally be taken into consideration–namely, architecture and industrial design. Erecting a nanotech building in the most cost- and time-efficient manner possible, without putting much thought into the aesthetic value of the final product, might result in some ugly and uniform skylines, hence the need for designers with strong artistic senses and a thorough understanding of the materials in their hands. (Of course, the pure efficiency method might become a style in and of itself because it screams "new, expedient technology," kind of like the plain, functional International Style found in much of 20th-century architecture; but that will likely be a phase that is replaced by more refined approaches.) Before we see nanotech in the fine arts, we will find it in furniture, appliances, houseware, and buildings.

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