I am simultaneously amazed and concerned when I read mainstream publications tackle the issue of business and nanotechnology. Last month we had the NY Times informing us that things were looking up for the commercialization of nanotech because it seemed industry and academic research centers were beginning to team up. What a novel idea.
Of course, this penetrating analysis followed the Grey Lady’s previous prediction over 18 months earlier that nanotech was going to finally experience its long-awaited boom with a series of IPOs…that never came.
But the latest bit of business journalism I’ve read on nanotech comes from one of the NY Times’ subsidiary publications, the Boston Globe. What is fascinating about this one is how it reads like a “Mad Lib” for nanotech articles formulated in 2001.
We get insights like the nanotechnology market in 2015 will be worth (fill in blank with number) trillion. Then they even find ways to throw in all the favored terms used in 2001, like “nanobots” or size definitions such as a “nanometer, equal to one-billionth of a meter”.So, why am I am amazed and concerned at the same time? I am amazed because we can read articles that manage to be repeating articles written from nearly a decade before, or have such a flimsy grasp of the mechanisms of commercializing emerging technologies that they believe industry/lab partnerships are actually an innovative idea. And I am also concerned because I read business articles from publications like this on topics that I know far less about than nanotech, should I be worried? I think maybe, yes.
Dexter Johnson is a contributing editor at IEEE Spectrum, with a focus on nanotechnology.