nanotech in Diamond Age made for a ripping yarn, and
it played a crucial role in the plot of Virtual Light.
Now lately, nanotech's gone mainstream. USA Today and
Newsweek write about it. Venture capital companies invest
in it. Pundits mouth off about the wonderful future
that's in store. It's the Next Big Thing.
those who came late to the show, let me summarize
it for you. At some point some person with lots of
degrees got it in his head that molecule size robots
were going to clean out the cholesterol from your
USDA Choice-ridden innards, lower your taxes by reducing
the cost of space exploration, and restore the polluted
environment so we could pollute it with impunity.
A bunch of people got interested, they held conferences,
the military funded some stuff, and the thing went
the Internet bubble burst in April 2000. Investors
got depressed and hid under the covers for a year.
When they emerged, they didn't like what they saw.
Blue chip telecom companies teetering. No Hollywood
movies over broadband. No trillion dollars in e-commerce.
was no Next Big Thing so they manufactured one. They
did it by co-opting the word the futurist visionaries
had coined, not having day jobs some of them--nanotechnology.
As of now, the Official Future consists of nanotechnology-enabled
sensors, batteries, solar cells, and anything else
they have to say to get you to buy into the idea.
same mentality that fueled the Internet bubble is
fueling the nanotechnology bubble. The same "greater
fool theory", as in "I may be a fool to
invest in XXX but there's a greater fool somewhere
who'll buy it from me for more than I paid."
History shows that, yes there is always a greater
fool, until the day there isn't anymore.
mentality we're seeing again from back then--it is
so 90s--is the "moving the goalposts" theory.
Namely, when something flops you don't say it flops,
you say that the segment as a whole is a tremendous
success--so when mobile Web browsing is choked to
death by everyone concerned, and you're stuck there
with a bunch of loser investments, you brag about
haw many jillions of teenagers are sending text messages
to each other. (Regrettably, however, teenage allowances
aren't enough to rescue the telephone industry.)
when the nanorobots aren't showing up in your arteries,
you stand there with a straight face and say that
nanotechnology is going gangbusters. Stuff that didn't
used to be nanotech suddently becomes nanotech--like
cosmetics. Overnight, Revlon became the world's leader
in nanotechnology (their milling processes yields
particles sized in the right range to be called "nanotechnology"--a
few tens of billionths of an inch).
Buckyballs, those molecules of carbon shaped like
a geodesic dome? You might have read about them in
the 1980s. Yep, they're called nanotechnology now.
No robot surgeons, no restoring the environment...in
fact, some are worried that geodesic-inspired carbon
molecules are themselves a health and environmental
hazard. If you liked asbestos, you'll love carbon
fiber nanotubes in your lungs.
since carbon fiber nanotubes might prove useful in
making fuel cells--which are supposed to eventually
replace the batteries in your cell phone and notebook
PC, etc, promising dozens of hours of use before recharging--suddenly
nanotech will enable cell phones to rely on portable
fuel cells (which themselves look like another bubble
ready to burst, or at least explode...if you like
carrying around live hand grenades, you'll love keeping
a fuel cell in your pocket).
since some companies are improving their lithium-ion
batteries and calling +those+ fuel cells...and obviously,
since batteries are made of molecules, and molecules
are nano-sized, voila! Next year, expect batteries
that are 10% better than this years', and expect them
to be hailed as a nanotechnology breakthrough. Any
molecules in car paint? Dental fillings? Don't thank
me, thank nanotech.
tells a story (originally by Kierkegaard?) of certain
Danish clergymen who preach that a trek to the arctic
will revive their parishoners' spiritual well-being.
Later, realizing that not everyone is capable of travelling
in the arctic, they announce that some other cold
weather expedition will suffice. And eventually, they
decree that any journey--a Sunday ride in a horse-and-buggy,
perhaps--qualifies as the spiritual equivalent to
travelling in the arctic.
you don't get the point of that little homily...I
have a hot tip on a nanotech investment for you.
Courtesy of John Shirley from edge
to have your say...email Nano