71. Conflict between general research and applied research

Ray Kurzweil points to a phenomenon he calls “engineer's pessimism,” that engineers working on a difficult problem will overestimate its difficulty because they are so closely immersed in details51. Similarly, in nanotechnology there is a split between theoretical researchers focused on long-term goals, like Rob Freitas and Eric Drexler, and more applied researchers, like Nadrian Seeman and the late Richard Smalley. This led to a bitter rivalry between Drexler and Smalley until Smalley's death in 2005. Generalists sometimes accuse  engineers of focusing overmuch on what has already been done rather than the space of what's possible, or not taking the long-term view, or considering developing new basic capabilities, while engineers accuse the generalists of being overoptimistic or pie-in-the-sky. There is a grain of truth to both charges.