(This is followup to my brief post from Moscow.)
Because I’m primarily known for the concept of an advanced, atomically precise nanotechnology, the enthusiastic welcome I received in Moscow at Rusnanotech 2011 indicates how the idea is received in Russia. With that in mind, here are some markers of Russian interest in the concept:
Remarks on nanotechnology
by the President of Russia
Rusnanotech is billed as Europe’s largest nanotechnology conference. As I mentioned in my post from Moscow, I’d been invited to give the closing speech at the opening plenary, outlining prospects for the future of nanotechnology. My remarks were followed by an unannounced speech by Dmitry Medvedev, the President of the Russian Federation. The pleasantly surprising opening of his talk suggests the impact of the concept of atomically precise manufacturing in Russia:
Good afternoon, colleagues,
It is hard to speak after Mr Drexler, who is such a legend, and I will probably have to make a few adjustments to my speech now, given what has already been said…. [Full transcript in translation here]
President Medvedev is widely known as technophile, and I’m told that he has read my first book, Engines of Creation. He paused to shake my hand on the way out.
A roadmap project led by
the Russian Academy of Sciences
As many of you know, I was the leader of the technical side of the 2007 Battelle / National Labs roadmap for productive nanosystems, which explores paths toward the development of high-throughput atomically precise manufacturing. This effort involved some 200 researchers and engineers from academia, industry, and the hosting National Labs. There’s now a Russian translation from the Russian Academy of Sciences.
At Rusnanotech, I learned more about a current international roadmap project, led by the Russian Academy of Sciences and centered on technological directions and market opportunities. During a followup meeting with a Rusnano representative visiting Oxford, I had an opportunity to review a draft overview of this remarkably systematic and detailed study.
A technical talk for a university audience
In the afternoon of the first day, I spoke to a predominantly young audience drawn from Moscow technical universities. In this talk (held at the venerable Polytechnical Museum) I discussed the physical and engineering principles of atomically precise fabrication. The audience response after the talk was warm (even uncomfortably warm), but I eventually escaped from a crush of questions and requests for name-cards, autographs, and photo ops. Russian culture evidently holds science and technology in high regard.
Again, please read this as an indication of Russian attitudes toward the technological vision, though I suppose that the talk itself must have been OK.
[Update: See video here.]
Pressed to exhaustion
The Rusnanotech media staff set up a press conference for the first day, and on the second day organized my schedule to include six, then seven, then eight requests for interviews, after which I balked. Six of these were for television, including the main Moscow station.
Remarkably, to the best of my recollection only one interviewer asked the question, “What is nanotechnology?” The exception was an (apparently) American interviewer calling from Washington for the Voice of Russia — the Russian interviewers apparently expected their audiences to have some general knowledge of the subject. (For comparison, imagine an interviewer asking a planetary scientist, “What is spaceflight?”)
Part of the trade-show floor (science & business tracks elsewhere)
The annual Rusnanotech meetings are organized by Rusnano, a state-sponsored corporation established with a mandate to accelerate Russian progress in nanotechnology. Although this was my first trip to Moscow, discussions at Rusnanotech and afterward suggest that I may find reasons to return in the near future.