Oxford Martin Program on the Impacts of Future Technology | Eric Drexler explores physical law and future of nanotech

February 9, 2012

Oxford Future of Humanity Institute | Dr. Eric Drexler speaks at the Inaugural Lecture of the Oxford Martin Program on the Impacts of Future Technology. Introduced by Professor Nick Bostrom: “Exploring a Timeless Landscape: Physical Law and the Future of Nanotechnology”

In the inaugural lecture of the Oxford Martin Programme on the Impacts of Future Technology, Eric Drexler explores the implications of physical law for the future potential of nanotechnology, then describes the prospects for productive technologies that can solve global problems on the scale of climate change.

Abstract | A methodology grounded in physics and engineering can answer a limited yet illuminating range of questions about the potential of physical technology. This line of inquiry leads to a crucial question: What can physics tell us about the potential of advanced nanotechnologies? Well-established physical principles show that this potential embraces productive nanotechnologies that have the potential to transform the material basis of civilization. This prospect calls for re-evaluating both research opportunities and broader choices with consequences for the human future.

Oxford Martin Program on the Impacts of Future Technology | The Oxford Martin Programme on the Impacts of Future Technology, launched in September 2011, is an interdisciplinary horizontal Programme within the Oxford Martin School in collaboration with the Faculty of Philosophy at Oxford University. The Program, which is directed by Professor Nick Bostrom, works closely with the Future of Humanity Institute; the Institute for the Future of Computing, the Oxford University Computing Laboratory (Professor Bill Roscoe) and the Oxford e-Research Centre (Professor Anne Trefethen); the Institute for Science and Ethics (Professor Julian Savulescu); and other Oxford Martin School Institutes. Professor David Deutsch (Department of Atomic and Laser Physics, Centre for Quantum Computation, Clarendon Laboratory) serves as a senior consultant.

The Oxford Martin Program on the Impacts of Future Technology analyzes possibilities related to long-range technological change and the potential social impacts of future transformative technologies. Research foci include issues related to the future of computing, existential risks, and methodology, including the following areas: Changing rates of change; Automation and complexity barriers; Machine intelligence capabilities and safety; Novel applications and unexpected societal impacts: Predictability horizons; and Existential risks and future technologies.

We are developing new research into the impact on societies of transformative technological change and the implications of the development of disruptive technologies, including extreme computing and the longer term implications of advances in the biosciences. Technological advancement has always been a major driver of social change. As our rate of technological innovation accelerates, it is vital to understand the nature of technological change, its directions and possible impacts for humanity.

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