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Nanosystems (1992) written by Eric K. Drexler - It covers the basics of atomically precise maufacturing and adheres to exploratory engineering to make reliable predictions about future technology

Nanosystems: Molecular Machinery, Manufacturing, and Computation - by K. Eric Drexler

"Nanosystems" [1] is the main technical reference book for feasibility analysis of the far term target of atomically precise manufacturing. This far term target being gemstone based metamaterial technology. The book is for the most part:

  • an identification of a sensible far-term-target technology
  • a stringently conducted feasibility study of this target technology

Only the very last chapter touches briefly and incompletely on eventual approaches that could be part of some pathways towards that target technology.

What you can and can't gain from reading Nanosystems

Here's what you can gain from reading Nanosystems
(and maybe for the first pass jumping over difficult parts to get the big picture quickly)

So in case you are doubtful about the feasibility of the far-the-target or
just want to understand the technical reasons for the far-term-target
then Nanosystems is for you.

Here's what you can NOT gain from reading Nanosystems

Free to read dissertation preceding the Book

Eric Drexlers 1991 MIT dissertation is as he wrote
"a draft of Nanosystems" and was published by him for free to read.
Unfortunately his website is completely gone now (as of 2021-03).
But it's still available via internet archive (link below in external links section).
Edit (2023-08) and now via MIT download page.

Note that some parts are missing in the dissertation compared to the book including (not an exhaustive list):

  • Nanosystems 11.6 Electromechanical devices (page 333) including 11.7. DC motors and generators (page 336)
  • The final Nanofactory analysis listing an example System Table 14.1 (page 422)
  • ...

Still the only resource on the topic

Till day of last review of this text (2023) there is still no other book available that:

As the first and last book of its kind it leaves a huge amount of exploratory engineering work that needs to be done.
And as a book that does not focus on pathways it leaves even more there..

Important things to note

No molecular assemblers in this book

In the technical book Nanosystems "universal molecular assemblers" are neither proposed nor even mentioned!

Instead in the brief section about pathways at the end of the book the incremental pathway to "nanofactories" is discussed prominently.
Using biotech to get away from biotech ASAP.
The only topic in the book that may be somewhat related to universal molecular assemblers and their direct path context
is a discussion of pressure driven diamondoid actuators and from withing expandable modular plate or block vacuum sealing methods.

Why is this important?
In the preceding popular science book Engines of Creaton "universal molecular assemblers" where discussed. See: Molecular assembler.
This lead to some hype, fear, and negative influence on relevant funding. As discussed in the newest popular science book on the topic: Radical Abundance.
Molecular assemblers are absent from nanosystems not for political reasons but for technical reasons.
One point of evidence being that the dissertation (1991) and book (1992) was published well before the problems manifested around 2000/2001.

Exploratory engineering

Nanosystems applies exploratory engineering (EE) as it's the guiding epistemological principle. While EE is not science (just as math is not a science in the sense of not having a tight hypothesis-experiment cycle) it's still practically useful with it's products being knowledge. The knowledge about far therm targets that are worth aiming for.


This wiki is written independently by third party and thus
does not necessarily accurately describe the ideas of the author of Nanosystems.


External links

Nanosystems: Molecular Machinery, Manufacturing, and Computation
The whole book on the internet archive here (restricted access):
You can get the book via amazon (as of 2023-08).

Eric Drexlers MIT dissertation is covering a good part of Nanosystems and is freely available.
It is missing is e.g. the nanofactory analysis table and a few other things.
That table might have some issues leading this wikis author to do some reanalysis).

Molecular machinery and manufacturing with applications to computation Author(s) Drexler, K. Eric (1991)

On K. Eric Drexlers website (recovered via internet archive):


  1. Nanosystems: Molecular Machinery, Manufacturing, and Computation - by K. Eric Drexler (1992)