February 21, 2001
- K. Eric Drexler
This glossary contains terms used in describing matters related to advanced technology. It was compiled by the MIT Nanotechnology Study Group, with special help from David Darrow of Indiana University.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.