From Doomsayer to Nanotech Investor: The Interesting Path of Bill Joy

It has been argued by a few that the eleventh-hour reversal in the US government’s approach to nanotechnology back in 2000 from a support of molecular manufacturing (MNT) as theorized by Eric Drexler to more of a focus on surface and colloidal science was in part informed by Bill Joy’s article in Wired magazine entitled "Why the Future Doesn’t Need Us.”

Joy’s article laid out a rather grim assessment of our future that saw our most advanced technologies, including nanotechnology (which in this case seems to be the MNT variety), leading to our own destruction. In a country that idolizes either pretty young pop artists or captains of industry, the force of his argument became inescapable for the government leaders holding the purse strings. Over at Accelerating Future, Michael Anissimov has captured this turnaround somewhat with the friendly hearings Gore held with Eric Drexler.

To the extent that Joy’s article derailed MNT research and development no one can say for sure, but there is a feeling out there that it was not insignificant. So, I was a bit surprised when I saw over at Frogheart that Christine Peterson was promoting a TED video of Bill Joy on the Foresight Institute’s Nanodot blog.

But the irony doesn’t end there. In the video below, which was filmed back in 2006 and posted in 2008, Joy explains how he had become a venture capitalist, specializing in…nanotechnology. Of course, it was more of the advanced materials variety than the MNT kind, but clearly Mr. Joy knows which side his bread is buttered on and it isn’t the one that entertains doomsday scenarios brought on by technological advancement.

 

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Nanoclast

IEEE Spectrum’s nanotechnology blog, featuring news and analysis about the development, applications, and future of science and technology at the nanoscale.

 
Editor
Dexter Johnson
Madrid, Spain
 
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Rachel Courtland
Associate Editor, IEEE Spectrum
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