Book review: Radical Abundance: How a Revolution in Nanotechnology Will Change Civilization, by K. Eric Drexler.
Radical Abundance is more cautious than his prior books, and targeted at a very nontechnical audience. It accurately describes many likely ways in which technology will create orders of magnitude more material wealth.
Much of it repackages old ideas, and it focuses too much on the history of nanotechnology.
He defines the subject of the book to be atomically precise manufacturing (APM), and doesn’t consider nanobots to have much relevance to the book.
One new idea that I liked is that rare elements will become unimportant to manufacturing. In particular, solar energy can be made entirely out of relatively common elements (unlike current photovoltaics). Alas, he doesn’t provide enough detail for me to figure out how confident I should be about that.
He predicts that progress toward APM will accelerate someday, but doesn’t provide convincing arguments. I don’t recall him pointing out the likelihood that investment in APM companies will increase dramatically when VCs realize that a few years of effort will produce commercial products.
He doesn’t do a good jobs of documenting his claims that APM has advanced far. I’m pretty sure that the million atom DNA scaffolds he mentions have as much programmable complexity as he hints, but if I only relied on this book to analyze that I’d suspect that those structures were simpler and filled with redundancy.
He wants us to believe that APM will largely eliminate pollution, and that waste heat will “have little adverse impact”. I’m disappointed that he doesn’t quantify the global impact of increasing waste heat. Why does he seem to disagree with Rob Freitas about this?