November 06 2008 / by Adam Cutsinger
Category: Technology Year: 2014 Rating: 5 Hot
Ever since buckyballs were discovered in 1986, an event that liberated nanotechnology from being an on-paper-only concept and graduated it into a hands-on (or at least electron microscope-on) practice, nanotechnology has been gaining momentum exponentially, despite aggressive anti-tech litigation.
In 2009 the EPA was sued by a collection of tech corporations for failing to enforce federal restrictions on the import and development of carbon nanotubes imposed one year earlier, and for completely failing to make any laws whatsoever regarding other similar carbon-based materials or those of other metals like titanium-dioxide and silver. Although the EPA was cleared of any wrong-doing, the following year three more laws were initiated, and several companies and research facilities were fined.
But then, in 2010, President Obama reversed the ban on stem cell research enacted by former president George W. Bush, stating, “The potential benefits greatly outweigh the moral dilemma. It is not for me to say whether God would have us utilize a dead fetus. But I do believe God would ask us to help to save the sick and dying, if there was any way we could.”
In his famous 2012 re-election speech that earned him the nickname Nanobama, he said:
“It has never been in doubt, among scientists, and engineers, since the first “harvest,” if you will, of the tiny, hollow fibers, known as nanotubes, which are smaller than hairs, and stronger than steel, that their potential to revolutionize technology, in all aspects, in science, in engineering, in industry, in transportation, for medicine, and the treatment of the many health problems we face, for the infrastructure, for computers, satellites, for the exploration of our oceans, and for the exploration of space, is beyond any major advancement in the history of science. We cannot, and must not, stand in the way of progress, toward a safer, healthier world, at a time when we face so many serious challenges. America needs to show the world, we are not afraid of the future. We still have hope. It is important for us to focus, on the problems of the present, so that when we arrive in the future, we are prepared for it. We mustn’t let fear keep us in the dark ages. Humanity can’t afford it.”
Now, in 2013, as the Nanobama Administration embarks on its second term, it is clear that the benefits of nanotech have already greatly changed the lives of every human, and for the better. Still, the ethical and existential implications continue to boggle the mind.
In particular, the primary neo-luddite argument against the pursuit of nanotechnological development is the fear that intelligent machines will one day spell the doom of mankind. There could come a point, critics continue to warn, where tech ceases to be an extension of humanity, or worse, turns against it’s maker, a possibility made more dangerous by the likelihood that, by the time it happened, humans will have become complacent and helpless.
Still, it looks as thought the Nanobama forces will continue to embrace acceleration, sticking to the critical path laid out by Bucky Fuller. The argument is that the knowledge base of any intelligent species must expand proportionately to the growth of its population, to survive past a critical survival threshold (a potential confrontation with rogue AI?). It’s evolve or die, though that same evolution is likely to bring about the forces that could bring us to the brink.
Image credit Professor John Hart’s Nanobama