I was drawn to science, in part because scientific knowledge is essential to understanding the potential of technologies that will help to shape the human future. During the 1970s, I learned from molecular biology of the discovery of a wide range of biomolecular machines and devices – flagellar motors, the actin/myosin system, ribosomes, and the like.
My background in engineering led me to ask how might we employ these systems and their principles to develop molecular machine systems, with expanded capabilities. My background in physics led me to ask what fundamental physical limits would constrain progress in this direction.
This line of thought persuaded me that progress in the molecular sciences would enable the development – given a focused effort – of molecular machine systems, able to build better molecular machine systems. It gradually became clear that progress along this path would enable the development of molecular manufacturing systems quite different from those found in biology, and with respect to some measures of engineering performance, far more capable.
I exposed these ideas to sceptical scientific audiences in a wide range of fields, responded to questions, and eventually concluded that the fundamental concepts were sound. Because this appeared to be a technology of great importance to the human future, it held my attention in subsequent years.
K Eric Drexler is author of Nanosystems: Molecular Machinery, Manufacturing and Computation (buy this book from Amazon (UK) or Amazon (USA)), and Engines of Creation: Nanotechnology - the Next Scientific Revolution (buy this book from Amazon (UK) or Amazon (USA)). See his website.