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Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology

Volume 11, Issue 1, Fall 2007

Bernadette Bensuade-Vincent, Xavier Guchet
Pages 71-89
DOI: 10.5840/techne20071117

One Word For Three Different Paradigms

Scientists and engineers who extensively use the term “nanomachine” are not always aware of the philosophical implications of this term. The purpose of this paper is to clarify the concept of nanomachine through a distinction between three major paradigms of machine. After a brief presentation of two well-known paradigms - Cartesian mechanistic machines and Von Neumann’s complex and uncontrolled machines – we will argue that Drexler’s model was mainly Cartesian. But what about the model of his critics? We propose a third model - Gilbert Simondon’s notion of concrete machines – which seems more appropriate to understand nanomachines than the notion of “soft machines”. Finally we review a few strategies currently used to design nanomachines, in an effort to determine which paradigm they belong to.

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