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

After proposing doomsday scenarios brought on by nanotechnology it seems Joy became nanotech investor a few years back

1 min read

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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3D-Stacked CMOS Takes Moore’s Law to New Heights

When transistors can’t get any smaller, the only direction is up

10 min read
An image of stacked squares with yellow flat bars through them.
Emily Cooper

Perhaps the most far-reaching technological achievement over the last 50 years has been the steady march toward ever smaller transistors, fitting them more tightly together, and reducing their power consumption. And yet, ever since the two of us started our careers at Intel more than 20 years ago, we’ve been hearing the alarms that the descent into the infinitesimal was about to end. Yet year after year, brilliant new innovations continue to propel the semiconductor industry further.

Along this journey, we engineers had to change the transistor’s architecture as we continued to scale down area and power consumption while boosting performance. The “planar” transistor designs that took us through the last half of the 20th century gave way to 3D fin-shaped devices by the first half of the 2010s. Now, these too have an end date in sight, with a new gate-all-around (GAA) structure rolling into production soon. But we have to look even further ahead because our ability to scale down even this new transistor architecture, which we call RibbonFET, has its limits.

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