Script assistance interview August 29, 2004
This was a interview for a theatre group researching background material to establish different ideologies of what modern means to aid them in writing a script for their play.
How would you define the Modern World?
The word "modern" itself often means what is most current in technology and art, but is also a meme that in terminology can represent ideas of the time that might represent the future. Although "modern" describes what is now, what is new and what is present, the secondary description is what is emerging now (or theorized now) and what may become more advanced and thus become the "modern" of future generations. Looking back in history, what was modern then most assuredly is not considered modern now, but can not be dismissed, since these earlier advances have been important steps to leading us to where we are today. Without small increments of discovery, we would not have the needed tools to understand how to attain the next breakthrough. This last century has been most spectacular, as we are on the edge of understanding matter (with the discovery and research of genes, DNA and atoms). To me modern really means, the current time line or state of evolution, meaning the evolution of mind power that has allowed us to advance up to this point, that has occurred through the Earth's very aging and thus changing state.
Part of your web site, The Museum of the Future, is dedicated to artistic renderings of what the world could look like in the future, with the benefit of technology. Are these visions purely creative, hypothetical, or are they based on research and study--or a combination of both?
The artwork on my "Museum of the Future" page does allow for artistic license. Meaning that the end goal of these images is a real potential, but the devices are created with artistic liberty and not technical accuracy. I am currently working on real technical designs of nanotechnology devices, but these are not yet available to the public. Since these works will be based on the math of actual designs, they take longer to build. I can say this about rendering pieces relevant to nanotechnology, since our bodies, the air we breathe, the earth we live on and the universe it inhabits is all comprised of atoms, the applications of these future nano devices are limited only by the imagination.
And the larger question, following from that is: What is your vision for the future? Do you imagine a sort of Utopia as a result of immortality and nanotechnology?
I would like to see a world without hunger, without disease, without pollution and without poverty. Nanotechnology and it's far reaching applications could be a direct route to ending these types of suffering. These are the reasons why I support research.
Do you perceive any potential dangers from this technology? From progress in general? (sub question: What appliances are most afraid of? Which can't you lives without?)
Every new technology has a high possibility of risk, especially ones that manipulate matter. We have in the past repeatedly faced this issue. Currently when you go to the hospital for a surgery you will be informed that there are many risks, sometimes including death, and in certain circumstances we are willing to sign on the dotted line because we believe that the success of the procedure will bring us good health. We can take a pill to cure something and the pill itself may have side effects, it is up to us to decide if the benefits outweigh the risks.
I remember when I was in grade school reading in the schools distributed newsletter that computers would take over and completely replace teachers in the classroom by 1985, the artwork that accompanied this article expressed impending doom. 1985 came and went while I continued to be instructed by human teachers. There are real risks, every time we connect to the internet with our computers we risk someone sending us a virus or hijacking our machine. We respond by writing programs for protection, and even though viruses are successful sometimes, we continue to take the risk, because we find the benefits too great. I can not compare the scale of risk involved with our computers to the risks involved with nanotechnology, however even in this early stage of development the risks and policies required are being addressed. There are real concerns, and they really depend on how future breakthroughs are achieved, since we are not there yet, I can not speculate. However, these issues are not being ignored and are being discussed in conferences and even recently in the government with related agencies.
Some, like the Amish and others, see progress as evil thing, and would look at the sort of work you're doing with deep hostility. Looking at it from the other side: how do you view people who reject technology altogether?
It is my strong conviction that everyone is entitled to their opinion and to live by their chosen belief system. I value this in the same way that I would expect others to respect my choices. If the vision of the future I envision comes to fruition, there will be those who would remain naturalists (for lack of a better word), who continue to work at their jobs, and may not feel comfortable extending their lives in the way that I would like to. In today's world there are those who seek medical treatment when they are ill, and there are others who believe treatments and transfusions are against their religious beliefs. I certainly would not force a grown adult to receive care that goes against their convictions. In that same light, I would not like to be told that I can not receive medical care that I do want. This example is applicable to the medical advances of the future as well. People can decide for themselves if they want nanotechnology to aid them in their lives, I only hope to be afforded the option.
(part 2 of the above question) Do you see the value in "getting back to nature"? Without nature, technology could never exist. Nature holds all of the building blocks that we can use to build........
I'm not sure what you mean by "getting back to nature" this phrase is usually related to hiking and limiting technological entertainment (i.e. television) in exchange for exploring the elements. We in fact live completely in the world that nature has provided us. We would not have technological products if it wasn't for the natural materials that are available to us. There are two states of nature, nature in it's original state, and nature's possibilities exploited by man. Mother nature herself, is in fact the very first nanotechnologist, but unfortunately nature is not biased and the errors that occur can cause a young child to die prematurely. It is such a child that could benefit from nature's errors being reduced with advanced technology so that he or she can go on to live a long life, natural or extended.
In your bio you write, "I would love to see a technological movie that actually uses the technology as a solution or utopia as opposed to feared antagonist" Could you elaborate on this? Do you see movies as a way to teach people about nanotech? Do you have any ideas for such a movie?
I don't think that the majority of major motion pictures provide a good avenue for teaching in the way that documentaries and reading can provide. I do however acknowledge that these movies impact the mainstream and have been known to introduce ideas to the public, as any other medium has the potential to do. Movies can make us as the audience think, and open the doorway for healthy discussion, insight or research.
The statement you refer to is the recognition of technology being presented as the problem or as the bad guy. We see this central theme occur repeatedly in the history of film as well as other mediums. This is of no shock, since we as a people have a psychology of fear towards change and are worrisome of things that may appear to have an intelligence or control that we either do not understand or is equal to our own. We see this portrayed in many ways, not just with technological advances, but with themes of aliens, angry Gods, ancient mythology, monsters, and even natural disasters. Our fears are often our method of entertainment. Most plots require a protagonist and an antagonist that confront each other and end in some sort of resolution, good or bad. If I were to write a script for a movie that demonstrates what is plausible with nanotechnology, I wouldn't need to look very far. I would simply look around at the real world problems that are occurring every day. We would describe the aids epidemic and other medical problems (cancer, diabetes etc.), starvation, the ozone layer and poverty. You could take any number of these issues and focus on them in the way that they could contribute to our existence being under duress. The ozone layer is a perfect example because we can clearly see how it will interfere with our continuing on. So here is our confrontation, the time is here, and just before the end is nigh a PhD in a research lab somewhere has a breakthrough that repairs the layer and saves the day(s), among other things.This plot is quite simply the truth, a real problem that could be solved using a real emerging technology. I'm not sure if this would be exciting enough, since audiences tend to prefer the imagination and escapism that is the motion picture industry.
(1)And finally, we read your essay about the Nanorgasm in Wired, and we were wondering, what gave you the idea for that essay?
I don't recall the specifics but I had brought up the subject on an email list while discussing nanotechnology, and I was later requested by Wired magazine to contribute.
(Part 2 of the above question)How did you develop that idea? Anything that is matter can be effected by nanotechnology, and of course sex is sexy and there for appeals to a wider audience.
(Part 3 of the above question)Was that vision with you from the beginning of your fascination with nanotechnology, or did your work lead you in that sort of speculation?
I became aware of nanotechnology first. The more one ponders the applications of nanotechnology, the more you realize how diverse the applications truly are.
(Part 4 of the above question) Is human sexuality an active part in most nanotechnology research or is this an entirely new angle you're presenting?
We are currently not that advanced in this up and coming technology but there are those who are studying how nanotech can effect the human body, for the majority it involves cures for diseases. Sexuality is secondary.