GiveWell / Open Philanthropy Project has conversation notes about this (e.g. interviews with K. Eric Drexler). K. Eric Drexler’s “Engines of Creation” is a popular outline of the impact of nanotechnology. His PhD thesis “Nanosystems” is a more in-depth, rigorous treatment of similar ideas.

Nanotechnology could be a source of existential risk. Although Drexler and other experts have questioned the likelihood of the grey goo scenario, there are still worries that nanotechnology could be used to build very powerful weapons in large quantities (perhaps in an arms race).

See some discussion here. In particular, in this comment Carl Shulman says “I’ve probably put 50-300 hours (depending on how inclusive a criterion I use for relevant hours) into the topic, and saw diminishing returns. If I overlap with Eric Drexler or such folk at a venue I would inquire, and I would read a novel contribution, but I’m not going to be putting much into it given my alternatives soon.”

External links

  • Risks from atomically precise manufacturing: “some argue that it would help make it possible to create tiny self-replicating machines that could consume the Earth’s resources in a scenario known as “grey goo,” but such machines would have to be designed deliberately and we are highly uncertain of whether it would be possible to make them”.