Nanotechnology: An Artistic Approach


In this week’s reading, I found the section about nanotechnology most intriguing, and for this week’s blog, I would like to critique this emergent technology along with a the possible problem with nanotechnology .

But first, as a sort of background, nanotechnology deals with, according to Wilson, the manipulation of materials at a extremely small scale. Due to the successes of the integrated chip and other projects, many nano-enthusiasts claim that the future of nanotechnology is bright. In engineer Eric Drexler’s book, Engines of Creation and Unbounding the Future, are a series of ideas that might be able to not only explain what nanotechnology is capable but of potential projects that can come from this movement.

From an artistic standpoint, nanotechnology can be utilized in the manipulation of matter to form artistic, aesthetic pieces at an extremely small scale. Some of these images, done by IBM corp. show atomized material in a very simple form.

Blue Nickel, Don Eigler
Blue Platinum, Don Eigler

Nanotechnologists have promoted various technical images made in their laboratories as instances of artistic production, as much as scientific representation. Don Eigler, James Gimzewski, Wolfgang Heckl, Eric Heller, and a number of others now frequently exhibit their images of atomic structures or quantum phenomena in art galleries.

Also in Information Arts, is the explanation of the projects that utilize nanotechnology in the manufacturization of products. More simply, such technologies can be utilized to make items from their more simpler forms. “If we rearrange the atoms in dirt, water and air we can make potatoes… We’ll be able to snap together the fundamental building blocks of nature easily, inexpensively, and in almost any arrangement that we desire.” (Wilson 215) And although this all sounds nice and convenient, there are a few problems with nanotechnology that has many skeptics suspicious of this topic.

A scientific problem that arises with nanotechnology is our understanding of atomic and molecular structures and complexity of manipulating such forces. Some of these “complexities” comes with the handling the memetic forces of organisms. For example, in Drexler’s book (that was mentioned earlier) he discusses that in terms of genetic evolution, the use of assembler-built molecular machines, assemblers will be able to build all that ribosomes can, and more; assembler-based replicators will therefore be able to do all that life can, and more. This brings on the main problem; producing too much that might, in effect, cause a unstoppable,large scale accident known as the “grey goo problem.” Such a problem would create an exponential growth in the production by machines.


Still, many groups propose that the social and environmental risks of nanotechnology, if it’s actually something, is a thing to worry about far off in the future.

-Dahlia Dominguez


– Information Arts, Wilson



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