Is Molecular Nanotechnology "Scientific"?

post by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2007-08-20T04:11:56.000Z · LW · GW · Legacy · 60 comments

Prerequisite / Read this first:  Scientific Evidence, Legal Evidence, Rational Evidence

Consider the statement "It is physically possible to construct diamondoid nanomachines which repair biological cells."  Some people will tell you that molecular nanotechnology is "pseudoscience" because it has not been verified by experiment - no one has ever seen a nanofactory, so how can believing in their possibility be scientific?

Drexler, I think, would reply that his extrapolations of diamondoid nanomachines are based on standard physics, which is to say, scientific generalizations. Therefore, if you say that nanomachines cannot work, you must be inventing new physics.  Or to put it more sharply:  If you say that a simulation of a molecular gear is inaccurate, if you claim that atoms thus configured would behave differently from depicted, then either you know a flaw in the simulation algorithm or you're inventing your own laws of physics.

My own sympathies, I confess, are with Drexler.  And not just because you could apply the same argument of "I've never seen it, therefore it can't happen" to my own field of Artificial Intelligence.

What about the Wright Brothers' attempt to build a non-biological heavier-than-air powered flying machine?  Was that "pseudoscience"?  No one had ever seen one before.  Wasn't "all flying machines crash" a generalization true over all previous observations?  Wouldn't it be scientific to extend this generalization to predict future experiments?

"Flying machines crash" is a qualitative, imprecise, verbal, surface-level generalization.  If you have a quantitative theory of aerodynamics which can calculate precisely how previous flying machines crashed, that same theory of aerodynamics would predict the Wright Flyer will fly (and how high, at what speed).  Deep quantitative generalizations take strict precedence over verbal surface generalizations.  Only deep laws possess the absolute universality and stability of physics.  Perhaps there are no new quarks under the Sun, but on higher levels of organization, new things happen all the time.

"No one has ever seen a non-biological nanomachine" is a verbalish surface-level generalization, which can hardly overrule the precise physical models used to simulate a molecular gear.

And yet... I still would not say that "It's possible to construct a nanofactory" is a scientific belief. This belief will not become scientific until someone actually constructs a nanofactory.  Just because something is the best extrapolation from present generalizations, doesn't make it true.  We have not done an atom-by-atom calculation for the synthesis and behavior of an entire nanofactory; the argument for nanofactories is based on qualitative, abstract reasoning.  Such reasoning, even from the best available current theories, sometimes goes wrong.  Not always, but sometimes.

The argument for "it's possible to construct a nanofactory" is based on the protected belief pool of science. But it does not, itself, meet the special strong standards required to ceremonially add a belief to the protected belief pool.

Yet if, on a whim, you decide to make a strong positive assertion that nanomachines are impossible, you are being irrational.  You are even being "unscientific".  An ungrounded whimsical assertion that tomorrow the Sun will not rise is "unscientific", because you have needlessly contradicted the best extrapolation from current scientific knowledge.

In the nanotechnology debate, we see once again the severe folly of thinking that everything which is not science is pseudoscience - as if Nature is prohibited from containing any truths except those already verified by surface observations of scientific experiments.  It is a fallacy of the excluded middle.

Of course you could try to criticize the feasibility of diamondoid nanotechnology from within the known laws of physics.  That could be argued.  It wouldn't have the just plain silly quality of "Nanotech is pseudoscience because no one's ever seen a nanotech."  Drexler used qualitative, abstract reasoning from known science; perhaps his argument has a hidden flaw according to known science.

For now, "diamondoid nanosystems are possible" is merely a best guess.  It is merely based on qualitative, abstract, approximate, potentially fallible reasoning from beliefs already in the protected belief pool of science.  Such a guess is not reliable enough itself to be added to the protected belief pool.  It is merely rational.

60 comments

Comments sorted by oldest first, as this post is from before comment nesting was available (around 2009-02-27).

comment by NE1 · 2007-08-20T15:30:49.000Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm not impressed. The burden of proving it is science lies with the claimant. Drexler's site appeals to physical scaling laws, which to me makes it pseudoscientific speculation, or perhaps scientific speculation (with a little more convincing). Thorne and Braginsky's massive LIGO paper is an example of one that progresses to scientific status. It follows curves already established experimentally, and so is much more believable.

It's not scientific to say "all flying machines crash"; the scientist must (and is usually more than willing) to provide physical laws and scaling suggestions that back up the assertion. Peter Woit had a good point these last few days--real science is hard work.

Drexler seems to be proposing a microscopic cooperation of molecules which has no precedent. I have no reason to believe his scaling is obeyed into this regime until he can show "curves already established experimentally" that extrapolate to his complex motors. Real successes in nanotech have been incredible: nanotube resonators, SETs, self assembling DNA--very real, and (except for the third) very useful.

There's a standard picture in a bunch of experimental presentations. It's a log plot that has an up-right diagonal line. Towards it, a line burrows to the bottom-right, until it curves upward, "repelled" by the line. This represents a scaling law which is eventually foiled by backaction, the tradeoff response. New techniques approach the line from a different height/width, or pass below the line before being repelled by another limit.

Warning signs here are: PhD 30 years ago. Not associated with a university. Lack of published progress. Any fool can tell you the consequences of such a technology, which is what he wastes most keystrokes on.

comment by Stuart_Armstrong · 2007-08-20T16:23:42.000Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Compare four situations: 1) Space flight in 1950, 2) Heavier than air flight in 1900, 3) Heavier than air flight in 1200, 4) Drexler nanotech today. Since the science was lacking - no one had ever built the relevant technology, we have to approach the question indirectly. The best questions to ask are:

A) Does something like X already exist? For 2) and 3) yes (birds flying using mechanical force), for 4) yes (enzymes doing similar roles). For 1), no.

B) If something like X exists, do we understand it? For 2), yes, for 4), partially, for the other, not at all.

C) Do current technologies exist that can approach X without new conceptual ideas? 1) yes, (rockets), 2) yes (lifting surfaces and models of gliders), 3) no, 4) probably (larger scale nano and medical manipulations of enzymes, proteins and retro-viruses).

So I'd put Drexler's nanotechnology in with flight in 1900 - the signs are that something like what he describes (certainly not exactly as he describes) will be coming in the forseable future.

(Unfortunately, I'd put AI down with flight in 1200 - intelligence exists, but we don't understand it to any real extent, and current technologies are not approaching proper intelligence; they need new conceptual ideas)

comment by David Althaus (wallowinmaya) · 2012-01-13T19:54:29.571Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

(Unfortunately, I'd put AI down with flight in 1200 - intelligence exists, but we don't understand it to any real extent, and current technologies are not approaching proper intelligence; they need new conceptual ideas)

Interesting. Do you still agree with Stuart_2007 on this?

comment by Stuart_Armstrong · 2012-01-13T23:18:41.053Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Less. My personal opinion hasn't changed much, but I know other people disagree, so my total opinion has moved quite a bit.

comment by VermillionStuka · 2020-07-07T08:45:04.876Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Do you still agree with Stuart_2012 on this?

comment by Stuart_Armstrong · 2020-07-07T12:04:14.663Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Nope! Part of my own research has made more optimistic about the possibilities of understanding and creating intelligence.

comment by Constant2 · 2007-08-20T19:51:07.000Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

From Google:

Your search - "nanotech is pseudoscience" - did not match any documents.

Again, I'm looking for examples. I have heard many criticisms of nanotech - specific, science-based criticisms. You can't be talking about those. But I'm not aware of others. Google was no help. (That wasn't my only search term BTW, the other ones I tried also failed, that particular search term simply makes the point.)

What I want to guard against is tarring valid criticisms of nanotech and nanotech advocates by associating them with a made-up, straw man attack.

comment by Shoga · 2010-08-30T17:50:04.284Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

STRAWMAN

http://searchcrm.techtarget.com/definition/strawman http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vVvC7bj26aU&feature=player_embedded

...STRAWBOSS: No one has ever proposed picking up individual atoms, and what can be done in nature to transfer groups of atoms from one molecule to another.

Fact: As written in my 1999 - 2000 emails and as written in my proposed event....... planned for 3-21-2006, at the 'African-American Research Library and Cultural Center', my research and development of my interface formula and 'Astral (Fractal) Analog Attractors Subatomic Reactors', is specific in it's expression of enabling "analog attractors" which are used to attract or pick up individual atoms (and act on) "subatomic reactors". This can only be encountered and performed by my interface formula "Energy =Motive x Force".

The 2006 event proposal stated quote, This study will be an advanced understanding of new scientific discoveries such as fractal geometry, attractors, and quantum physics, as visitors seek the connection between these new scientific discoveries and Ancient Egypt's Sacred Geometry. unquote. As myself being the presenter and instructor of this workshop, it is would be reasonable to think I should know more than what can be understood all at once. However I never proposed anything to anyone in any commercial industry nor the commercial industry itself. 2006 Proposal http://community-2.webtv.net/@HH!17!C8!0357B8537E1D/ITRC3/AARLCCITRC/

STRAWBOSS: original strawman drafted 3rd and 4th generation technology, Apps, Ipods, and all other new revolutionary forms of electronics that resulted in new interfaced operating systems since discovering the nano interface enabling nanotechnology since 2005.

Fact: When my copyrighted "analog attractors subatomic reactors" are added to my interface-formula "-/+Energy =Motive x Force" and both are interfaced and iterated it creates a new generation of technology. From my stolen and black marketed research is where all these ideas come from.

x369 x639 x999

STRAWBOSS: No one has ever proposed a macro to nano interface. Nanotechnology is a strawman.

Fact: The formula that enables the interface that enables the nano interface that enables nanotechnology is my 1999 - 2000 copyrighted "-/+Energy =Motive x Force". Every aspect of the new revolutionary discoveries in the behavioral characteristics of the nano scale since 2005 are included in my copyright.

Message from the StrawMan http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GVVAAk5EE2A&feature=player_embedded

Before 2005 no new nanotechnology product ever existed or was ever heard of. And as you know that since 2000 I have had emails that proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am the sole owner, author & designer of the formula th...at enables the interface that enables the nano interface that enables nanotechnology & my research & development of astral fractal analog attractors subatomic reactors that enables 3G, 4G, Wii, Apps. etc.

So-called nanotechnology actually takes my formula out of context since my technology is not limited to just the nano scale.

However, as explained in my 2000 copyright & recently discovered since 2005, on the nano scale "force" is equal to "distance & time" instead of "acceleration" as shown in the video below.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S4CjZ-OkGDs

If left to a free world market my formula will destroy all mankind.http://www.logictivity.com/blog/nano-weapons-of-the-future/

My formula & research belongs to the Kings ministry & since 1997 has remained under the guidance of the governance of the Parliament of World Religions: Declaration Towards A Global Ethic as signed by my uncle H.H. King Oseijeman Adefunmi I. http://www.urbandharma.org/udharma/globalethic.html

In 2005 while planning my event at the 'African-American Research Library&Cultural Center' with Alicia Keys as the host, to promote my research, my i-formula was discovered & "hijacked" & black marketed by "Star", Troi Torain, host of 'Clear Channel Communications' 103.5 The Beat, 'Star&Bucwild Show' radio spy show scandal. This quickly became a conspiracy to black mail and frame me to steal my interface-formula.

The event included children workshop that explains my research & development of my formula for 'astral fractal analog attractors' & to inspire it's progress on the nano scale. http://community-2.webtv.net/@HH!17!C8!0357B8537E1D/ITRC3/AARLCCITRC/

Unlike E=MC, my interface formula is the first formula that doesn't break down on the quantum level. My interface is the "Unified Field Theory" UFT Einstein looked for but never found.

in 2006 Jay-Z suddenly became a humanitarian & went on a MTV Documentary as the leader of a United Nations campaign to use new nanotechnology products to bring clean drinking water pumps to poor people in Africa.

This was in response to us & my formula. In response to the c.d. 'Diary of Alicia Keys'&'Tears For Water', Jay-Z titles his MTV United Nations Campaign 'Diary of Jay-Z, Water For Life'.

Diary of Alicia Keys, Tears For Water http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9s5qXTKTGvk

Diary of Jay-Z, Water For Life http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bbgz_mfj_0g

UN Watch Dog Report On Jay-Z Water For Life Campaign questions his motives & why he's suddenly posing himself as a humanitarian in what seems to be a scam,black mail,& corporate world corruption. http://www.innercitypress.com/unhq080906.html

In the clip below the ABC News Nightline reporter expresses doubt in Jay-Z's sudden amazing rise from Jay-Z To Mr. UN advisor on water. Jay-Z claims he chose water basically for the hell of it, but failed to explain anything else. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Gzm15nFdi0

5-3-06 Shawn Carter BKA Jay-Z, black markets my research by introducing himself to Bill Gates. Even the blog writer senses something odd. http://blog.seattlepi.com/microsoft/archives/103195.asp

5- 06 My mother tried to give me a letter she reiceved. It was a "thank you letter" that said 'thank you for being a great benefit & service to your community' I had not done anything to receive such a letter. The event I had planned never got off the ground. I've been harassed by the world ever since.

5-12-06 Star is arrested in NY for offering his radio audience $500 to stalk & scandalize 4yr old daughter of a rival DJ & endangering her life. This also happened to me. http://mirroronamerica.blogspot.com/2007/12/hey-black-america-where-is-your-outrage.html

6-8-06: Jay-Z's introduced to HP & land an HP commercial http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XyI5OnECBoM

11-16-06: Jay-Z's introduced to Dr.Peter Gleick,Co-Founder of Pacific Institute&worlds water editor. http://www.pacinst.org/publications/online_update/dec_2006_online_update.html#headlines

Jay-Z Underworld alibis ain't matchin up BS catchin up http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n9eDdWCw2FE&feature=related

I CHALLENGE ALL THAT DISPUTE THESE FACTS.

comment by Shoga · 2010-08-30T17:53:34.789Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

NANOTECHNOLOGY IS A STRAWMAN AND A U.N. RACKET.

STRAWMAN

http://searchcrm.techtarget.com/definition/strawman http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vVvC7bj26aU&feature=player_embedded

...STRAWBOSS: No one has ever proposed picking up individual atoms, and what can be done in nature to transfer groups of atoms from one molecule to another.

Fact: As written in my 1999 - 2000 emails and as written in my proposed event....... planned for 3-21-2006, at the 'African-American Research Library and Cultural Center', my research and development of my interface formula and 'Astral (Fractal) Analog Attractors Subatomic Reactors', is specific in it's expression of enabling "analog attractors" which are used to attract or pick up individual atoms (and act on) "subatomic reactors". This can only be encountered and performed by my interface formula "Energy =Motive x Force".

The 2006 event proposal stated quote, This study will be an advanced understanding of new scientific discoveries such as fractal geometry, attractors, and quantum physics, as visitors seek the connection between these new scientific discoveries and Ancient Egypt's Sacred Geometry. unquote. As myself being the presenter and instructor of this workshop, it is would be reasonable to think I should know more than what can be understood all at once. However I never proposed anything to anyone in any commercial industry nor the commercial industry itself. 2006 Proposal http://community-2.webtv.net/@HH!17!C8!0357B8537E1D/ITRC3/AARLCCITRC/

STRAWBOSS: original strawman drafted 3rd and 4th generation technology, Apps, Ipods, and all other new revolutionary forms of electronics that resulted in new interfaced operating systems since discovering the nano interface enabling nanotechnology since 2005.

Fact: When my copyrighted "analog attractors subatomic reactors" are added to my interface-formula "-/+Energy =Motive x Force" and both are interfaced and iterated it creates a new generation of technology. From my stolen and black marketed research is where all these ideas come from.

STRAWBOSS: No one has ever proposed a macro to nano interface. Nanotechnology is a strawman.

Fact: The formula that enables the interface that enables the nano interface that enables nanotechnology is my 1999 - 2000 copyrighted "-/+Energy =Motive x Force". Every aspect of the new revolutionary discoveries in the behavioral characteristics of the nano scale since 2005 are included in my copyright.

Message from the StrawMan http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GVVAAk5EE2A&feature=player_embedded

Before 2005 no new nanotechnology product ever existed or was ever heard of. And as you know that since 2000 I have had emails that proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am the sole owner, author & designer of the formula th...at enables the interface that enables the nano interface that enables nanotechnology & my research & development of astral fractal analog attractors subatomic reactors that enables 3G, 4G, Wii, Apps. etc.

So-called nanotechnology actually takes my formula out of context since my technology is not limited to just the nano scale.

However, as explained in my 2000 copyright & recently discovered since 2005, on the nano scale "force" is equal to "distance & time" instead of "acceleration" as shown in the video below.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S4CjZ-OkGDs

If left to a free world market my formula will destroy all mankind.http://www.logictivity.com/blog/nano-weapons-of-the-future/

My formula & research belongs to the Kings ministry & since 1997 has remained under the guidance of the governance of the Parliament of World Religions: Declaration Towards A Global Ethic as signed by my uncle H.H. King Oseijeman Adefunmi I. http://www.urbandharma.org/udharma/globalethic.html

In 2005 while planning my event at the 'African-American Research Library&Cultural Center' with Alicia Keys as the host, to promote my research, my i-formula was discovered & "hijacked" & black marketed by "Star", Troi Torain, host of 'Clear Channel Communications' 103.5 The Beat, 'Star&Bucwild Show' radio spy show scandal. This quickly became a conspiracy to black mail and frame me to steal my interface-formula.

The event included children workshop that explains my research & development of my formula for 'astral fractal analog attractors' & to inspire it's progress on the nano scale. http://community-2.webtv.net/@HH!17!C8!0357B8537E1D/ITRC3/AARLCCITRC/

Unlike E=MC, my interface formula is the first formula that doesn't break down on the quantum level. My interface is the "Unified Field Theory" UFT Einstein looked for but never found.

in 2006 Jay-Z suddenly became a humanitarian & went on a MTV Documentary as the leader of a United Nations campaign to use new nanotechnology products to bring clean drinking water pumps to poor people in Africa.

This was in response to us & my formula. In response to the c.d. 'Diary of Alicia Keys'&'Tears For Water', Jay-Z titles his MTV United Nations Campaign 'Diary of Jay-Z, Water For Life'.

Diary of Alicia Keys, Tears For Water http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9s5qXTKTGvk

Diary of Jay-Z, Water For Life http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bbgz_mfj_0g

UN Watch Dog Report On Jay-Z Water For Life Campaign questions his motives & why he's suddenly posing himself as a humanitarian in what seems to be a scam,black mail,& corporate world corruption. http://www.innercitypress.com/unhq080906.html

In the clip below the ABC News Nightline reporter expresses doubt in Jay-Z's sudden amazing rise from Jay-Z To Mr. UN advisor on water. Jay-Z claims he chose water basically for the hell of it, but failed to explain anything else. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Gzm15nFdi0

5-3-06 Shawn Carter BKA Jay-Z, black markets my research by introducing himself to Bill Gates. Even the blog writer senses something odd. http://blog.seattlepi.com/microsoft/archives/103195.asp

5- 06 My mother tried to give me a letter she reiceved. It was a "thank you letter" that said 'thank you for being a great benefit & service to your community' I had not done anything to receive such a letter. The event I had planned never got off the ground. I've been harassed by the world ever since.

5-12-06 Star is arrested in NY for offering his radio audience $500 to stalk & scandalize 4yr old daughter of a rival DJ & endangering her life. This also happened to me. http://mirroronamerica.blogspot.com/2007/12/hey-black-america-where-is-your-outrage.html

6-8-06: Jay-Z's introduced to HP & land an HP commercial http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XyI5OnECBoM

11-16-06: Jay-Z's introduced to Dr.Peter Gleick,Co-Founder of Pacific Institute&worlds water editor. http://www.pacinst.org/publications/online_update/dec_2006_online_update.html#headlines

Jay-Z Underworld alibis ain't matchin up BS catchin up http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n9eDdWCw2FE&feature=related

comment by Pavitra · 2010-08-30T18:03:59.676Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

You're signaling poorly for this community.

For example, starting your post with an all-caps sentence asserting that something is "undisputedly" true makes you look like a crank. It might be obviously true, or indisputably true, but if it were actually undisputed then why would you need to point it out? It would be like saying "THE SUN IS UNDISPUTEDLY BRIGHT AND HOT". This statement is true, but why does it deserve the all-caps treatment?

Similarly, "challenging" people to dispute an assertion sounds like you're setting up your arguments as soldiers to defend territory against enemies, which is generally frowned upon around here.

comment by JoshuaZ · 2010-08-30T18:36:33.598Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Your comment seems to be hovering around 0 with multiple upvotes and downvotes. I suspect this is because you replied to an individual who appears with great certainty to either be a troll or to be someone with a mental illness (I don't know if being a general crank is a mental illness per se). This individual is 1) claiming that he has revolutionary ideas relating to ancient Egypt 2) claiming that some of his ideas have been stolen from him by a popular rap-artist, 3) writing "E=MC" when he apparently means "E=MC^2" 4) claiming that his ideas are "copyrighted" 5) claiming that nanotechnology is some sort of UN plot. Given those data points one can conclude with a high confidence that interacting with the individual will not produce any useful results and is likely to simply damage the signal to noise ratio.

comment by Mass_Driver · 2010-08-30T23:28:41.536Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Wait, how does interacting with a troll damage the signal to noise ratio? Whose signal? Whose noise?

EDIT: It has been pointed out to me that the relevant signal-to-noise ratio is in the Recent Comments feed, which makes plenty of sense. I have been convinced, and will not interact with people I perceive as trolls. Note that at no point did I reply to anything Shoga said, nor do I defend Shoga's views, nor do I welcome Shoga's participation on Less Wrong. I was simply trying to understand Joshua Z's comment.

comment by jimrandomh · 2010-08-30T23:49:58.408Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It clutters up the Recent Comments feed. We'd rather it contained neither trolls nor responses to trolls.

comment by Mass_Driver · 2010-08-31T00:04:38.504Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Thanks.

comment by Vladimir_Nesov · 2010-08-30T18:50:06.794Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

You're signaling poorly for this community.

Signaling is not the problem here. Communication of inability to think clearly was quite reliable.

comment by Pavitra · 2010-08-30T18:55:10.368Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

There's an interesting point to be had here, actually: there's an awful lot of signaling where the cost isn't correlated with the truth of the signal. It takes just as much effort to dress up true ideas is scientific-sounding language as false ones, for example. Maybe it's just me, but it seems that the distinction is usually drawn between cheap vs. costly signaling, rather than empty vs. demonstrative signaling.

comment by Vladimir_Nesov · 2010-08-30T19:06:16.708Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The salient question is, signaling of what, not signaling in what sense.

comment by Pavitra · 2010-08-30T19:12:02.837Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Cheap signaling of undesirable qualities is indistinguishable from failure to expensively signal desirable qualities. (Edit: not really, but it's close enough for rock'n'roll.)

comment by Robin_Hanson2 · 2007-08-20T23:44:52.000Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

This example seems further support for my suggestion that talking about whether something is "scientific" mostly obscures the key issues.

comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2007-08-21T03:44:44.000Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Notice of censorship: I've begun deleting comments from Jonathan vos Post.

comment by Jonathan_Vos_Post · 2007-08-21T04:12:30.000Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Eliezer Yudkowsky: may I ask why?

I'm making what I thought was a rational, polite summary, thread by thread, of my credentials in the field, since one of the issues was whether or not Bostrom was properly citing his sources.

Is there something about my behavior, my language, or my prolific publications that you feel is inappropriate?

Also, I have not made copies of those comments which I'd submitted. If you are to delete them, would you be so kind as to email the text to me, or back them up? I did take some time to read the threads in question, and to attempt a short comment that cited by background and bias, for the sake of genuine conversation.

Is Tom McCabe asserting that I have NOT done what is claimed in some part of my CV, or published something which is, in fact, a matter of record? I'd rather not be punished for being very productive.

Sincerely,

Prof. Jonathan Vos Post

comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2007-08-21T04:32:04.000Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

may I ask why?

Tom nailed it.

I have forwarded you your comments. Please don't post further comments to any more threads I've authored, or they will be deleted without archival.

comment by Tom_McCabe · 2007-08-21T05:09:44.000Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

"Is Tom McCabe asserting that I have NOT done what is claimed in some part of my CV, or published something which is, in fact, a matter of record?"

If you want something specific, a quick check of your website shows a picture of you (on your personal homepage!) holding two Hugo awards to your head. A quick Google reveals that you have never won the Hugo; this is dishonest at best.

comment by Stuart_Armstrong · 2007-08-21T10:04:30.000Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

This example seems further support for my suggestion that talking about whether something is "scientific" mostly obscures the key issues.

I disagree; I think this example clarifies the issue. The point is that statments about nanotechnology aren't scientific (not dervived from replicated experiments) but despite this, they aren't meaningless or empty of rigour.

Setting aside a special domain that is "scientific" clarifies those domains that aren't. And demonstates why answering the statement "nanotechnology will do such and such in a few years" with "show me a replicated experiment that proves what you've just said, or I won't believe it" is the wrong response. Though it would be the proper response for a scientific statment.

comment by Robin_Hanson2 · 2007-08-22T20:50:54.000Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I have unpublished a comment by Tom McCabe on Jon Post, and I declare this conversation over - please, neither of you comment about each other anymore here at Overcoming Bias.

comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2007-08-22T21:04:53.000Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I've deleted both comments. Tom, please don't respond to comments that I'm going to delete anyway.

[Edit: Unpublished comments from JVP aliases "John Sokol" and "Dr. Philip V. Fellman".]

comment by Eliezer Yudkowsky (Eliezer_Yudkowsky) · 2007-11-06T18:48:17.000Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Again, I'm looking for examples. I have heard many criticisms of nanotech - specific, science-based criticisms. You can't be talking about those. But I'm not aware of others. Google was no help. (That wasn't my only search term BTW, the other ones I tried also failed, that particular search term simply makes the point.)

What I want to guard against is tarring valid criticisms of nanotech and nanotech advocates by associating them with a made-up, straw man attack.

Here's an example of what we have to deal with.

comment by jimrandomh · 2010-08-30T21:50:13.125Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I went to school at my family's Kingdom of Oyotunji Royal Academy where we learn about the ancient science of astral physics.

This is sad. Shoga, your teachers have taken advantage of you, and filled your head with nonsense and confusion. If you want to truly understand the world, you must start over with new teachers.

comment by Pavitra · 2010-08-30T21:53:52.073Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

It's an improvement, but I suspect you still won't receive a particularly welcome reception. Most people on this website are fairly firmly grounded in mainstream Western science, so if you want to advocate something called "the ancient science of astral physics" then you'll need to display a significantly higher degree of intellectual clarity and scientific and philosophical literacy than is typical among commenters here, which is a fairly high standard. You'll have an uphill battle, is what I'm saying.

Also, I really recommend against using all-caps.

comment by nhamann · 2010-08-30T22:56:59.768Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

No, no, I appreciate when people with great insights type in all caps. Otherwise I might miss truly important ideas, like that the earth has a 4-corner simultaneous 4-day TIME CUBE.

comment by Paul Crowley (ciphergoth) · 2010-08-30T21:57:31.898Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I think we're probably too far behind you for us to have a useful exchange; you should probably look elsewhere for smarter people who are ready for your enlightenment.

comment by Shoga · 2010-08-30T23:23:44.270Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Well I think your not being honest. In a community of people who seem to think of themselves as highly intelligent and wants to keep it that way, then you would not send me to look for smarter people who are ready for enlightenment. I guess your assuming that I'm a flower child that spend all day speaking philosophies and not hard practical science, if so now that would be sad. I deal with the physics of astral physics. I deal with the calculable astral dimension of time and space. Of course in the village they throw shells as you may see on some voodoo type movie, but don't let Hollywood fool you, the binary numbers used in calculators and everywhere else came from practice of throwing cowrie shells that based on math's 10,000 year old binary calculations as proven by the count of binary notches in the 10,000 year old Shango bone. However, I do not throw shells, unlike everyone else in my village I have taught myself to convert and formulate astral physics on paper in calculable mathematics. For your information, when I say astral physics and when you say astral physics we are certainly talking about two different things. I don't deal with myths, philosophies, numerology, and speaking from an amateur point of view. I'm dealing with my divine interface and sacred technology. As I have said, your science in the real world of possibility is primitive. You should never put down what you don't understand.

comment by Alicorn · 2010-08-30T23:08:09.462Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Please go away.

comment by komponisto · 2010-08-30T23:38:26.357Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

For you information the royal academy was challenged by America's public school system and lost

(Insert obvious cheap shot here.)

comment by mattnewport · 2010-08-31T00:04:43.148Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

However, it seems apparent that you are claiming that I'm lieing or a nut case, but because you know nothing about me, you would agree that your claims are based in ignorance are they not?

Your original post is all the evidence needed to assign a high probability to the hypothesis that you are a nutcase.

comment by katydee · 2010-08-31T00:17:57.535Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

To be blunt, you sound like a crank. You misspell things frequently, allude to weird, pseudo-scientific sounding theories, imply that your enemies are trying to suppress you, claim you are much more intelligent than all the ignorant people who surround you, talk about how famous, successful work was secretly based on your theories, and so on. All of these things are generally associated with cranks.

comment by TheStevenator · 2011-07-31T19:24:01.688Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I forget who this commonly used quote is taken from, but I find it useful when discussing potential future technologies with people. "If a celebrated scientist says something is possible he [unfortunately the quote does use only 'he'] is almost certainly right. If he says something is impossible, he is almost certainly wrong."

I, as a lowly college student, would hesitate to call almost anything impossible. Speaking with the benefit of reading lots of dead smart people saying how impossible things that are trivial to us now are, I feel comfortable saying that future technology will likely surprise a lot of us. How surprised we'll be, however, depends on how much we underestimate ourselves and how much we constrain our imaginations.

comment by Dreaded_Anomaly · 2011-07-31T19:30:40.018Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

The quote is Clarke's first law:

When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.

comment by lessdazed · 2011-08-01T04:30:05.954Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

What is the relationship between saying that doing something is impossible and that understanding something is impossible?

Is saying that understanding something is impossible simply thinking that mysteriousness is a property of objective rather than subjective reality? In this case, it would be infinitely worse than simply saying that doing something is impossible, as it is a type error.

At the same time, the two seem related as they both may involve mistaking the limits of imagination for the limit of possibility.

Perhaps claims that understanding is impossible are sometimes from the first, more fundamental mistake, and sometimes from the latter. Alternatively, perhaps in practice all such claims draw from both errors.

comment by zslastman · 2013-04-26T19:34:51.337Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Existing molecular nanomachines (proteins) tend to be extremely unreliable. They work, but only on average. Someone recently issued a challenge to prove that Quantum computers are thermodynamically impossible So I'm wondering if anyone has done serious work with statistical mechanics, trying to figure out if the kind of nanotechnology so enthusiastically proposed in "engines of creation" runs afoul of more subtle laws around reversibility or thermal noise.

comment by leplen · 2013-11-01T14:10:31.022Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

I would point out that molecular dynamics simulations are known to be inaccurate, and that by choosing the atomic force fields you can get essentially any result you want. For most materials simulations, these parameters are tuned to some experimentally realized system. It is not obvious to me that such tuning is being done in the case of these molecular gear assemblies, and even less obvious to me what would constitute an appropriate system to tune towards.

comment by CellBioGuy · 2015-11-22T21:39:03.840Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Missing the point...

comment by Gram_Stone · 2015-11-23T01:22:46.829Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

Please state your disagreements instead of insinuating that they exist.

comment by waveman · 2020-07-15T01:30:10.669Z · LW(p) · GW(p)

This reminds me a bit of arguing about words and definitions.

Really the question is whether nanotech is an idea worth pursuing. It is relevant how much of a stretch it is from what it known to what is claimed to be possible. There is nothing that is against science in Drexler's writings. The slow progress speaks against the most optimistic claims. Chemists talk about the sticky fat fingers problem. Biology has lots of repair mechanisms that make it look like the problem is hard. But I think given the enormous benefits it looks worth following up on.

You could say similar things about hot fusion, and the claims that we can support 11B people on first world living standards on renewable energy.