A question from Yahoo! Answers:
Nanotechnology, will it be suppressed?
Nanotechnology has been on the forefront of many peoples minds for years. Scientists, engineers, and nonprofessionals are all working towards a goal of machines that are able to manipulate matter on a molecular or atomic scale. The possibilities are near endless with applications in medicine, construction, and even military. The US federal government has even started to develop laws to guide, limit, and institute the technology even if it may be years from fruition.
How can the common person expect to see a technology that could grind the global economies to a halt? Imagine having the capability to create food, clean water, and shelter from something self-replicating. Money would become meaningless. The people that have the capability to unleash the potential also stand to lose the most from it, how can we expect that to happen?
Will nanotechnology be suppressed? Don’t worry, it won’t be. It is no accident that Eric Drexler studied under Marvin Minsky at MIT. Nanotechnology is just another artificial intelligence — tons of hype today, billions of dollars in grant money tomorrow, and ounces of practical application years later. In thirty years or so, Drexler (if he is still alive then) will utter something similar to Minsky’s “common sense remains elusive”, and the book on nanotechnology will be closed for good.
Also, note that even Eric Drexler agrees that nanotechnology in your definition (“machines that are able to manipulate matter on a molecular or atomic scale”) is impossible: