The Visioneers: How a Group of Elite Scientists Pursued Space Colonies, Nanotechnologies, and a Limitless Future

Princeton University Press
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In 1969, Princeton physicist Gerard O'Neill began looking outward to space colonies as the new frontier for humanity's expansion. A decade later, Eric Drexler, an MIT-trained engineer, turned his attention to the molecular world as the place where society's future needs could be met using self-replicating nanoscale machines. These modern utopians predicted that their technologies could transform society as humans mastered the ability to create new worlds, undertook atomic-scale engineering, and, if truly successful, overcame their own biological limits. The Visioneers tells the story of how these scientists and the communities they fostered imagined, designed, and popularized speculative technologies such as space colonies and nanotechnologies.

Patrick McCray traces how these visioneers blended countercultural ideals with hard science, entrepreneurship, libertarianism, and unbridled optimism about the future. He shows how they built networks that communicated their ideas to writers, politicians, and corporate leaders. But the visioneers were not immune to failure--or to the lures of profit, celebrity, and hype. O'Neill and Drexler faced difficulty funding their work and overcoming colleagues' skepticism, and saw their ideas co-opted and transformed by Timothy Leary, the scriptwriters of Star Trek, and many others. Ultimately, both men struggled to overcome stigma and ostracism as they tried to unshackle their visioneering from pejorative labels like "fringe" and "pseudoscience.?



The Visioneers provides a balanced look at the successes and pitfalls they encountered. The book exposes the dangers of promotion--oversimplification, misuse, and misunderstanding--that can plague exploratory science. But above all, it highlights the importance of radical new ideas that inspire us to support cutting-edge research into tomorrow's technologies.

Some images inside the book are unavailable due to digital copyright restrictions.

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About the author

W. Patrick McCray is professor of history at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He is the author of Keep Watching the Skies!: The Story of Operation Moonwatch and the Dawn of the Space Age (Princeton) and Giant Telescopes: Astronomical Ambition and the Promise of Technology.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Princeton University Press
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Published on
Dec 9, 2012
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Pages
368
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ISBN
9781400844685
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Language
English
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Genres
Science / General
Science / History
Science / Nanoscience
Science / Space Science
Technology & Engineering / Nanotechnology & MEMS
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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The transformation of the Venetian glass industry during the Renaissance was not only a technical phenomenon, but also a social one. In this volume, Patrick McCray examines the demand, production and distribution of glass and glassmaking technology during this period and evaluates several key topics, including the nature of Renaissance demand for certain luxury goods, the interaction between industry and government in the Renaissance, and technological change as a social process. McCray places in its broader economic and cultural context a craft and industry that has been traditionally viewed primarily through the surviving artefacts held in museum collections. McCray explores the social and economic context of glassmaking in Venice, from the guild and state level down to the workings of the individual glass house. He tracks the dissemination of Venetian-style glassmaking throughout Europe during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and its effects on Venice’s glass industry. Integrating evidence from a wide variety of sources - written documents such as shop records and recipe books, pictorial representations of glass and glassmaking, and the careful physical and chemical analysis of glass pieces that have survived to the present - he examines the relation between consumer demand and technological change. In the process, he traces the organizational changes that signified a transition from an older and more traditional manner of ’artisan’ manufacture to a modern, ’factory-style’ manner of production.
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