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Posted: January 19, 2008
Nanotechnology guru turns back on goo
(Nanowerk News) The BBC has an article on how Eric Drexler has backed away from his famous claim that nanomachines could turn the planet into 'grey goo'.
Eric Drexler now says nanomachines that self-replicate exponentially are unlikely ever to enter widespread use.
In the journal Nanotechnology, he stresses that tiny machines would need close control in order to be efficient.
Dr Drexler says when he made the statement in the 80s, he underestimated the impact it would have on the field.
Nanotechnology is an umbrella discipline concerned with engineering objects and working devices from individual atoms and molecules.
"What I did not expect was that efforts to quiet concerns over grey goo would lead to false scientific denials of feasible technologies," Dr Drexler, chairman emeritus of the Foresight Institute in Palo Alto, US, told BBC News Online.
"I also underestimated the popularity of depictions of swarms of tiny nanobugs in science fiction and popular culture."
Dr Drexler originally floated the grey goo idea in his book Engines Of Creation, published in 1986.
He described a hypothetical scenario in which self-replicating nanomachines able to break down biological material could run amok, replicating exponentially and turning terrestrial life into mush.
Drexler explains that, at the time, he was concerned the excitement at the potential benefits of nanotechnology would overshadow the inherent risks and dangers.