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Radical Abundance: How A Revolution in Nanotechnology Will Change Civilization    by K. Eric Drexler order for
Radical Abundance
by K. Eric Drexler
Order:  USA  Can
PublicAffairs, 2013 (2013)
* *   Reviewed by Bob Walch

If you want to take a look into the not so distant future, try gazing into the crystal ball of K. Eric Drexler, founding father of nanotechnology. Drexler's new book, Radical Abundance: How a Revolution in Nanotechnology Will Change Civilization, offers a provocative tour of cutting edge science and how atomically precise manufacturing (APM) will radically change how we produce things.

The scientific community has already constructed prototypes for circuit boards constructed of millions of precisely-arranged atoms. This type of atomic precision will change the way we make things and enable us to manufacture goods cleanly, inexpensively and on a global scale never seen before.

Of course with such major changes there will be a corresponding change in the social order. When an enormous automobile factory is supplanted by a production facility the size of a garage, what happens to the thousands of jobs that will vanish overnight?

Already, new, labor saving technologies have resulted in a diminished workforce, so what happens when there is even more displacement? How will people earn the money to avail themselves of these new, inexpensive products being produced by APM?

'The Industrial and Information Revolutions can serve as models (and yardsticks) because atomically precise manufacturing will combine and amplify the features of both,' writes Drexler. 'What computer systems have done for processing information, APM systems will do for processing matter, providing programmable machines that are fast, inexpensive, and enormously flexible like computers in many ways, but rather than electronic signals, producing physical products.'

The author explains that his intent in writing this book is to take his reader on a journey 'of ideas that begins with common knowledge yet leads in uncommon directions'. With APM at the center, he delves into perspectives that range from scientific and technological to cultural, historical, cognitive, and organizational.

In doing so he also offers a glimpse of a better future and what must be done to get there. Naturally, this also raises some serious questions which need to be considered. This book will also launch the conversation on exactly how we want to reshape out future and whether, indeed, this is something we wish to totally embrace.

The implications for APM's application in medicine, health care, national security, warfare, industrial production, and environmental protection are all areas addressed but, naturally, a lot more discussion will be forthcoming.

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