e-book: Engines of Creation

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ENGINES of CREATION | Chapter 4: Engines of Abundance

February 21, 2001
Author:
K. Eric Drexler

If every tool, when ordered, or even of its own accord, could do the work that befits it… then there would be no need either of apprentices for the master workers or of slaves for the lords.
- ARISTOTLE

ON MARCH 27, 1981, CBS radio news quoted a NASA scientist as saying that engineers will be able to build self-replicating robots within twenty years, for use in space or on Earth. These machines would build copies of themselves, and the copies would be directed to make useful products. He had no doubt of their possibility, only of when they will be built. He was quite right.

ENGINES of CREATION | Chapter 14: The Network of Knowledge

February 21, 2001
Author:
K. Eric Drexler

Computers … have penetrated our daily lives and are becoming society’s central nervous system.
- TOHRU MOTO-OKA

TO PREPARE for the assembler breakthrough, society must learn to learn faster. Fact forums will help, but new technologies may help even more. With them, we will be able to spread, refine, and combine our information far faster than ever before.

ENGINES of CREATION | Chapter 3: Predicting and Projecting

February 21, 2001
Author:
K. Eric Drexler

The critical attitude may be described as the conscious attempt to make our theories, our conjectures, suffer in our stead in the struggle for the survival of the fittest. It gives us a chance to survive the elimination of an inadequate hypothesis – when a more dogmatic attitude would eliminate it by eliminating us.
- Sir KARL POPPER

AS WE LOOK FORWARD to see where the technology race leads, we should ask three questions. What is possible, what is achievable, and what is desirable?

ENGINES of CREATION | Chapter 13: Finding the Facts

February 21, 2001
Author:
K. Eric Drexler

Fear cannot be banished, but it can be calm and without panic; and it can be mitigated by reason and evaluation.
- VANNEVAR BUSH

SOCIETY NEEDS BETTER WAYS to understand technology – this has long been obvious. The challenges ahead simply make our need more urgent.

ENGINES of CREATION | Chapter 12: Strategies and Survival

February 21, 2001
Author:
K. Eric Drexler

He that will not apply new remedies must expect new evils; for time is the greatest innovator.
- FRANCIS BACON

IN EARLIER CHAPTERS I have stuck close to the firm ground of technological possibility. Here, however, I must venture further into the realm of politics and human action. This ground is softer, but technological facts and evolutionary principles still provide firm points on which to stand and survey the territory.

ENGINES of CREATION | Chapter 11: The Engines of Destruction

February 21, 2001
Author:
K. Eric Drexler

Nor do I doubt if the most formidable armies ever heere upon earth is a sort of soldiers who for their smallness are not visible.
- Sir WILLIAM PERRY, on microbes, 1640

REPLICATING assemblers and thinking machines pose basic threats to people and to life on Earth. Today’s organisms have abilities far from the limits of the possible, and our machines are evolving faster than we are. Within a few decades they seem likely to surpass us. Unless we learn to live with them in safety, our future will likely be both exciting and short. We cannot hope to foresee all the problems ahead, yet by paying attention to the big, basic issues, we can perhaps foresee the greatest challenges and get some idea of how to deal with them.

ENGINES of CREATION | Chapter 10: The Limits to Growth

February 21, 2001
Author:
K. Eric Drexler

The chess board is the world, the pieces are the phenomena of the universe, the rules of the game are what we call the laws of nature.
- T. H. HUXLEY

IN THE LAST CENTURY we have developed aircraft, spacecraft, nuclear power, and computers. In the next we will develop assemblers, replicators, automated engineering, cheap spaceflight, cell repair machines, and much more. This series of breakthroughs may suggest that the technology race will advance without limit. In this view, we will break through all conceivable barriers, rushing off into the infinite unknown – but this view seems false.

ENGINES of CREATION | Acknowledgements

February 21, 2001
Author:
K. Eric Drexler

The ideas in this book have been shaped by many minds. All authors bear an incalculable debt to earlier writers and thinkers, and the Notes and References section provides a partial acknowledgment of my debt. But other people have had a more immediate influence by reading and criticizing all or part of the several papers, articles, and draft manuscripts ancestral to the present version of this book. Their contributions have ranged from brief letters to extensive, detailed criticisms, suggestions, and revisions; they deserve much of the credit for the evolution of the manuscript toward its present form and content. I do, however, claim all blame for its remaining failings.  

ENGINES of CREATION | Notes and References

February 21, 2001
Author:
K. Eric Drexler

References for Chapter 1

… Engines of Construction* … The ideas in this chapter rest on technical arguments presented in my paper “Molecular Engineering: An Approach to the Development of General Capabilities for Molecular Manipulation” (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (USA), Vol. 78, pp. 5275-78, 1981), which presents a case for the feasibility of designing protein molecules and developing general-purpose systems for directing molecular assembly.

ENGINES of CREATION | Chapter 7: Engines of Healing

February 21, 2001
Author:
K. Eric Drexler

One of the things which distinguishes ours from all earlier generations is this, that we have seen our atoms.
- KARL K. DARROW, The Renaissance of Physics

WE WILL USE molecular technology to bring health because the human body is made of molecules. The ill, the old, and the injured all suffer from mis-arranged patterns of atoms, whether mis-arranged by invading viruses, passing time, or swerving cars. Devices able to rearrange atoms will be able to set them right. Nanotechnology will bring a fundamental breakthrough in medicine.

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