Eric Drexler’s Comment on the report
In its conclusion, the committee notes that it is difficult to analyze complex systems intended to build intricate, atomically precise, large-scale products, stating that “the eventually attainable range of chemical reaction cycles, error rates, speed of operation, and thermodynamic efficiencies of such bottom-up manufacturing systems cannot be reliably predicted at this time”, and that “the eventually attainable perfection and complexity of manufactured products, while they can be calculated in theory, cannot be predicted with confidence.”
To advance research from theoretical models to concrete accomplishments, the committee calls for “defining and focusing on basic experimental steps that are critical to advancing long-term goals” and for funding “experimental demonstrations that link to abstract models and guide long-term vision”.
This report, prepared in response to a congressional request, represents the first open, high-level, science-based evaluation of the concept of molecular manufacturing. Not surprisingly, this first evaluation led to the first recommendation that research be supported. For a decade or more, researchers eager to pursue this work have faced a closed door. That door now seems to be opening.
Hopefully the door is opening but the funds are still scarce for site-specific chemistry/molecular manufacturing.
The $3 million brainstorming project from the UK for the Software Control of Matter at the Atomic or Molecular Scale is one of the few funded projects.
The good news is that there is progress in protein engineering, DNA nanotechnology, synthetic biology, molecular manipulation tools and computing power. The advancing wave of technological improvement is making it easier and cheaper to work towards molecular manufacturing. It is just the actual targeted work which still has difficulty getting funding. It is similar to anti-aging research where most of the money must be raised for some other disease related benefit even if it might also treat or research the sources of aging.