Friday, December 26, 2008

Nanotech ain't living up to the hype!

Yep as IO9 puts it: Gray Goo Can't do all the things you say it can do. Science fiction authors give too much credit to nanotech, which hasn't achieved all that much in real life. But science fiction authors claim it can do everything, from destroying the world to turning you into a superhuman. Complains Santa Cruz SF writer Christopher Bradley:
  • Never before has a technology that's done so little gone so far in literature. We can basically do almost nothing useful with nanotechnology, but sci-fi writers dream up these magical scenarios where nanotechnology can do anything and everything. It can make people gods or destroy the world in a variety of gray goo scenarios.
Bradley's core observation and angst stems from the fact that there exists very little actual nano technology, but the very mention in a story and it adds weight and depth, which he says happens a lot in today's SF literature.

And that is what gave me pause in reading this article - my whole supposition rests on that very observation. A good author will see the science and technology of today and be able to extrapolate it into the future. Some authors have seen with amazing clarity! All I have to say is Arthur Clarke. Here is an author that envisioned geostationary orbits and telecommunications in an era where space travel was a pipe-dream and commercial utilization was pie in the sky. The reasoning was sound for arguing against Clarke's dream. Why spend fiendish amounts of money doing something that land lines, antennas and undersea cables was doing quite well. Today we think nothing of placing international phone calls by ourselves and we have come to expect television, phone and data served to us fast anywhere in the world from anywhere and we expect it instantly.

If someone can see possible tech from the nano research and extrapolate it....that to me is the heart of science fiction. Of course there are those authors that treat fringe tech as window dressing, not significantly adding to the work what so ever, then again it comes down to comfort ' expertise and expertise. An example here is Pern for one. Space travel, AI and advanced genetics are virtual window dressing in McCaffree's Dragon Riders...somebody has got to say so what here.... As her series progressed these elements were added to yes add some depth and believability but otherwise it means a world without Dragons....I am not ready for a world like that


S.M.D. said...

I wouldn't take much stock in this person's words. This is just what happens when relatively unintelligent people try to say things that sound like they know what they're talking about.
You're correct. Just because nanotech hasn't done anything useful thus far doesn't mean it won't. Saying that is like saying that because no good successes were made in the early space program for the first 10+ years then no successes would be made. And we know that's a load of bullcrap because we go to space all the dang time!
Plenty of technologies were stagnant for decades, but were played off in scifi stories as these grand, amazing things. Interstellar travel! We haven't done ANYTHING useful in that field in the last, what, 30+ years? Doesn't mean nothing will be done. Science fiction is about looking at the FUTURE. And the future has almost endless possibilities!

Dave Tackett said...

I'm going to have to strongly agree with you both here. And "[n]ever before has a technology that's done so little gone so far in literature" is completely untrue. It doesn't take much research to find hundreds of all powerful computers in classic SF, at a time when the most powerful computers in the world had less capacity than a typical cell phone today.

Shaun said...

"[n]ever before has a technology that's done so little gone so far in literature"

to add to Dave's list...time travel (but it's still fun to read about it, again and again)

Beam Me Up said...

Well said gentlemen, very well said indeed. I knew I smelled something odd with the comment and thought I was on the right track. You guys really focused the argument well.