My opinion of the post is that is confuses Drexlerian nanotech with nanotechnology “in general”, and makes many major errors, including denying the existence of micromachines and nano-sized elements that drive larger systems.
The article is also wrong because it claims that, in his book, Eric Drexler is just porting macroscale designs to the nano-world, but the entire work (Nanosystems) takes great pains to analyze the differences between the nanoscale and macroscale and introduce engineering innovations that could be a good starting point for true molecular manufacturing. Another error the article makes is suggesting that Drexler dismisses using biology as tools for nanomachines, which is ironic considering that Drexler advocates “molecular and biomolecular design and self-assembly” approaches to molecular nanotechnology, and often discusses the protein folding path on his blog.
Drexler posted a response to Locklin in the comments section:
In my view, molecular and biomolecular design and self-assembly are the most promising directions for lab research in atomically precise nanotechnology. There’s been enormous progress — complex, million-atom atomically-precise frameworks, etc. — but much of the work isn’t called “nanotechnology,” and this leaves many observers of the field confused about where it stands. I follow this topic in my blog, Metamodern.com.
Regarding the longer-term prospects for this branch of nanotechnology, there’s a publication that offers good starting point for serious discussion.
The technical analysis that I presented in my book Nanosystems: Molecular Machinery, Manufacturing, and Computation, (it’s based on my MIT dissertation) was examined in a report issued by the National Academy of Sciences, on “The Technical Feasibility of Site-Specific Chemistry for Large-Scale Manufacturing”. The report finds no show-stoppers. It notes uncertainties regarding potential system performance and “optimum research paths”, however, and closes with a call for funding experimental research.
This report was prepared by a scientific committee convened by the U.S. National Research Council in response to a request from Congress. It is based on the scientific literature, and on an NRC committee workshop with a range of invited experts and extensive follow-on discussion and evaluation.
I think that this report (and the Battelle/National Labs technology roadmap) deserves more attention from serious thinkers. It deflates a lot of mythology about a topic that just might be real and important.
If either of these publications has been mentioned above, I missed it.
In general, I think Locklin’s post is a very well-designed piece of flamebait, and I commend him for drawing attention to his post. Some group of people really love talking about nanotechnology, and they need some outlet, and this is a fine outlet of the week. Locklin is right that a lot of nanotechnology is just chemistry or materials science with a cool name slapped onto it, but certainly not all of it.
Funny quote from the comments thread: “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from a rigged demo”.