A new introduction
“APM in brief” (see the column to the right) outlines the importance of atomically precise manufacturing and the current state of progress.
“The Physical Basis of High-Throughput Atomically Precise Manufacturing” (see link at the end) is a new page on the technology itself.
I hope that these items help to clarify the topic, especially for new readers. I welcome your comments and questions.
It’s reassuring when a reviewer gets the message the author intended, and even better when Kirkus gives the book a star recommendation:
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I will be speaking in London on Thursday, May 30th, 7pm to 9pm, at the University College London; a book signing will follow. For more details see the event page. My thanks to David W. Wood, Chair of the London Futurists, for arranging this event; note that attendance requires a fee of £4 if paid in advance, or £5 at the door if seats are available.
The BBC describes an unprecedented surge of interest from state-owned and private mining companies in scraping the Pacific seabed to recover manganese nodules, mineral-rich lumps that grow at rates on the order of 1 cm per million years:
Millions of years
in the making
The chemical composition of nodules varies… Those of greatest economic interest contain manganese (27-30%), nickel (1.25-1.5 %), copper (1-1.4 %) and cobalt (0.2-0.25 %).
[“Manganese nodule”, Wikipedia]
But will there be much use for these metals in an APM-technology world? As I note in Radical Abundance:
Carbon nanotubes [of particular kinds]…can outperform and replace scarce copper as an electrical conductor….
[Several] scarce metals (including manganese, chromium, nickel, and cobalt) are used chiefly to make steel alloys that become obsolete when steel is replaced [by stronger, lighter, non-metallic structural materials].
The same is true of most of the other uses of these metals (in nonferrous alloys, for example) that are mentioned in the links above; indeed, it seems that APM-based technologies will drain most of today’s scarce minerals of most of their value.
What’s more, practical effects of this transition in technology will precede APM, because anticipation of later direct economic effects will, at the margin, shift plans and patterns of investment, and not toward seabed mining technologies (or new coal-fired power plants, or new dams, or…). And the earlier the anticipation, the earlier the effect.
Understanding the potential of APM-based technologies is of more than academic interest, and some might even see this understanding as urgent.
A good paragraph in Nature:
By Stephanie Corchnoy, Ph.D.
Seattle, May 9, 2013 (announcement)
Well over 100 attendees, many with a copy of Radical Abundance already in hand, turned out to hear Drexler speak at Town Hall in Seattle on the evening of May 9th. Ranging in age from grad student to senior citizen, some attendees sported badges from Microsoft or Amazon, while others were non-technical parents who brought their kids along for exposure to a discussion of advanced technologies that may shape their future.
Drexler began and ended his talk by reading select passages from the book. His emphasis was clear — digital control of matter is coming, and with it a radical abundance that will impact civilization on a global scale.
The audience was silent and attentive throughout the forty-minute talk, after which a dozen or so people lined up at microphones in the aisles to ask questions. Some asked technical questions, such as what kinds of tools would be used. Others asked more speculative questions, such as the infamous “When?”, to which Drexler replied, “I think it will arrive sooner than I expect.” Drexler cited the solid and rapidly growing foundations for atomically precise fabrication in laboratories across the globe, and pointed out that the greatest uncertainty with respect to timing is the emergence of a well-focused research program in molecular systems engineering. The pieces of next-stage technologies are in place, but they’re scattered, and must be put together.
The stream of questions and discussion was eventually halted by Town Hall staff, who may not have expected the room to remain quite so full for quite so long (they had to add more chairs at the beginning). As people began to disperse — some lining up for book signing, some forming spontaneous conversational groups, some slowly making their way to the exit — there was a sense of energy that seemed to be shared by all: an energy from new perspectives on a revolutionary technology, from prospects for a different future, and from joining a conversation about both.