ENGINES of CREATION | Introduction to the Web Version

February 21, 2001
K. Eric Drexler
Anchor (1987)

enginesThe ten years since Engines of Creation was first published have brought us far along the path to the development of molecular nanotechnology and molecular manufacturing. Advances have been faster than I had expected.

The basic concepts have also been more controversial than I had expected. Even now, after (for example) the U.S. Science Advisor has called for the development of molecular manufacturing, segments of the science establishment are still having difficulties with some quite simple ideas.

It seems obvious that gaining thorough control of matter at the molecular level will enable major technological advances, and our progress toward this ability is likewise obvious. The molecular machinery found in nature provides an existence proof for enormous capabilities. Research advances in building such machines are reported in journals every week. Perhaps the short time horizons common in US and European science provide the excuse for neglecting the consequences of what we already know to be possible.

Engines of Creation projected the development of hypertext publishing systems; now it is at last appearing on one. While the Web lacks several important features, it nonetheless provides many of the benefits described in Engines. It’s gratifying to see Engines made available in this new medium. My thanks to Russell Whitaker for putting it into html, and to Jim Lewis for scanning in the text for an earlier HyperCard version.

NOTE: A serious omission was made in an earlier version of the credits for the conversion work done on the original text. Additional acknowledgment should be made to John L. Quel, in cooperation with The Boeing Company and John Cramer, of the University of Washington, both of whom contributed an enormous effort several years ago, shortly after the first publication of the book, in scanning and OCRing the original text —┬áback when scanning was a major technical feat. Thanks to Dr. Jim Lewis for bringing this to our attention. — Russell

There’s not much I’d change in Engines if rewritten today (that is, I’d fiddle all the details and make it worse, but change little of the substance). The technological work keeps evolving and expanding in scope and analytical detail, but the basic concepts have survived critical examination, on the net and elsewhere.

To keep in touch with developments in nanotechnology, contact Foresight Institute or see Foresight’s Web site and the Institute for Molecular Manufacturing site now under development.

Eric Drexler, Research Fellow, Institute for Molecular Manufacturing