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Some rare individuals possess a clear vision of an expansive future created by technologies they study, design and promote. This talk explores the activities of “visioneers” Gerard O’Neill and Eric Drexler who advocated space settlements and nanotechnologies in response to perceived threats of eco-catastrophism and planetary limits.
Visioneers and the communities of researchers, futurists and entrepreneurs they attracted have often existed at the blurry border between scientific fact, technological possibility and optimistic speculation. Considering visioneers as a particular analytical category provides an opportunity to reexamine the uptake and adoption of radical ideas in contemporary technological ecosystems.
Patrick McCray is a professor in the University of California Santa Barbara Department of History where he researches and teaches post-1945 and contemporary science and technology. He is also co-PI and a lead researcher for the NSF-funded Center for Nanotechnology in Society at UCSB.