A lot of comments so far. And a fascinating discussion brewing on the outside before the factory workers have even cleared their throats. I won’t pretend to understand the intricacies. My brain already hurts. But it strikes me that we have some interesting lines of argument in place that touch upon the central questions of what the Ideas Factory is for and what science is for. Over on the Demos Greenhouse, a commenter has been a part of a previous Ideas Factory. He tells us that we were in for something special.
Suggestions so far, both in terms of making matter and running the sandpit, have ranged from the prosaic to the far-fetched. Some have commented that we should take stock and look for do-able problems (is science, like politics, the art of the possible?) Others have suggested that we use this as an opportunity to our disrupt disciplinary, and disciplined, sense of what is possible.
When Richard asked people to think of what we might use a matter compiler for, some replied that it could perform new scientific tricks. Others, including Zenith, our self-confessed hobbyist, wanted a fundamental change in the way he or she was able to create real things.
One final point before handing over. Lots of the conversation so far has hinged on the nano-question of how we can observe things without intervening. We can try to represent things, using microscopes or the computer models favoured by some of our more radical friends. But the challenge comes when we try to make things as we would like them – or coerce things into falling into place as we would wish. All of this blurs the distinction between science and technology. Is seeing believing, or do we need to intervene, which is more chaotic, for nano-things to make sense to us? And how much are the limits of possibility (or plausibility) defined by what we know?
Over the weekend, if people are able, we would love to see more discussion, which we will inject into the first day.
What things – methods, products, outcomes, social needs – should we be imagining? And what questions should we have in our minds as we do so?