Engines of Creation
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Engines of Creation (ISBN 0-385-19973-2) is a seminal molecular nanotechnology book written by K. Eric Drexler in 1986. The foreword is by Marvin Minsky of MIT. It has been translated into Japanese, French, Spanish, Italian, Russian, and Chinese.
Drexler's 1992 book, Nanosystems: molecular machinery, manufacturing, and computation, (ISBN 0-471-57518-6) is a much more technical treatment of similar material. Nanosystems addresses chemical, thermodynamic, and other constraints on nanotechnology and manufacturing.
Engines of Creation is unique for its style and substance. It makes oblique literary references; the section on hypertext references the Samuel Taylor Coleridge poem Xanadu: The Ballad of Kubla Khan while discussing the concepts first developed by the Project Xanadu while never mentioning Coleridge by name. A section on life extension is entitled "Worlds Enough And Time" but never names the Andrew Marvell poem from which the phrase is adapted ("To His Coy Mistress").
The substance of Engines of Creation is unique as well. Various science fiction writers have used the concept of tiny machines. Physicist Richard Feynman discussed the concept of recursive miniaturisation in his 1959 speech There's Plenty of Room at the Bottom. But only Drexler came up with the idea of using molecular machinery for large-scale fabrication.
Engines of Creation (Chapter 10, Limits to Growth) takes a realistic Malthusian view of exponential growth within limits to growth. It also promotes space advocacy arguing that, because the universe is essentially infinite, life can escape the limits to growth defined by Earth. Additionally, Engines of Creation supports a form of the Fermi paradox, arguing that as there is no evidence of alien civilizations:
- "Thus for now, and perhaps forever, we can make plans for our future without concern for limits imposed by other civilizations"
It is in this book Drexler first published his famous prediction of what might happen if a molecular nanotechnology were used to build uncontrollable self-replicating machines - the "gray goo" scenario.
With the publication of Engines of Creation Drexler founded the first group for preparing society for molecular nanotechnology. Drexler took the unusual step of securing permission from the publisher to include the post office box for the Foresight Institute, a group that did not yet exist. Drexler is no longer with the Foresight Institute.
Engines of Creation is often abbreviated "EOC" in online discussions.
- Full text of the book
- Full text in Russian: МАШИНЫ СОЗДАНИЯ: Грядущая эра нанотехнологии
- Full text in Italian: MOTORI DI CREAZIONE: L’era prossima della nanotecnologia
- Full text in Chinese: 创造的发动机
- Drexler's personal website and digital archive
- Biography of K. Eric Drexler