Nanotech wonders hyped at Wash. DC conference

September 01 2008 / by futuretalk
Category: Technology   Year: General   Rating: 6 Hot

By Dick Pelletier

At the First Conference on Advanced Nanotechnology held in Washington DC, researchers discussed the possibilities expected of this new wonder science, including glittering visions of abundance and long, healthy life spans.

Within 20 years, a small Star Trek-like replicator called a “nanofactory” could sit on your kitchen counter and let you order up any product you want – food, clothing, appliances, or whatever your dreams desire – at little or no cost.

Nanofactories work by collecting atoms from something as inexpensive as dirt or seawater, and using software downloaded from the Internet, directs those atoms to “grow” into the final product. A nanofactory can even “grow” another nanofactory.

This wild technology sounds like science fiction, but its not. Foresight Institute sociologist Bryan Bruns said nanotech will provide solutions for some 2.7 billion people now living on less than $2 per day, and eliminate poverty worldwide.

Bruns envisions a “2025 Whole Earth Catalog” which would offer economic water filtration systems that purify 100,000 gallons of water a day; inexpensive solar roofing panels that come in rolls like Saran Wrap; powerful inexpensive computers that fit inside eyeglass frames; and suitcase-size nanoclinics with a full range of diagnostics and treatments.

“Turn trash into treasure”, could become the slogan of the 2020s. Nanorefineries will break down unwanted consumer items, sewage sludge, and other waste materials, and re-build them into food, clothing, or household items.

Institute for Molecular Manufacturing’s Robert Freitas added, “not only will nanotech provide us with a lot of cool stuff and eliminate global poverty; it will also help us live a really long time”. Freitas predicted by 2015, nanoproducts will diagnose illnesses and destroy cancer cells – and by mid-2020s, tiny cell-repair mechanisms will roam through our bodies keeping us strong, youthful, and forever healthy.

And this wonder technology will be affordable too. Enthusiasts believe inventors will likely provide nanofactories free, and charge a small fee for software that gives the machine its building instructions. Today’s economics based on scarcity and prices will disappear. How the economy will change cannot now be known, but a post-manufacturing, post-job economy will definitely not be dominated by corporations.

Human needs for status and competition will move from the economics arena to arts and science. Handmade items like paintings and genetically modified orchids will become expensive – goods like cars and computers will become cheap. An “experience economy” will arise where novel experiences, not mere objects, will be sought after. An older person’s lifetime of memories will become a highly valued commodity to share as we enter this nanotech wonder world.

Could nanotechnology ever eliminate death? British Telecom’s Ian Pearson suggests that advances in genetics and nanotech expected over the next three decades will be sufficient for us to make a realistic stab at ending death. And Phoenix says not to worry about overpopulation; the coming molecular nanotech revolution could support 100 billion people on Earth comfortably.

Inventor Ray Kurzweil adds, “We didn’t stay on the ground or on the planet, and we’re not staying within the limitations of our biology”. Get ready to enjoy what promises to become a most “magical future.” Comments welcome.

What might be the most important benefit from molecular nanotech?

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Comment Thread (4 Responses)

  1. Nanotech wonders hyped at Washington DC conference.

    At last, an accurate header for once.

    Posted by: adbatstone80   September 01, 2008
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  2. As usual, you add nothing to the discussion AT ALL adbatstone80. You also obviously don’t realise that the word ‘hype’ can be used in other legitimate ways in the English language. But I’m not surprised that you don’t know that.

    Posted by: CptSunbeam   September 01, 2008
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  3. Let’s just hope our net-connected nanofactories aren’t used to punish us from breaking laws, that is to say, commandeered by law enforcement… being as how we’ll be under constant surveillance and things like smoking marijuana will still be crimes. You know, like your idea for nanotech enabled “barless prisons,” which are, coincidentally, also known as cities.

    Posted by: Bogey156   September 01, 2008
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  4. Ah but presumably the black and white hats will survive, and threatened by nano enabled autocracy they will unify into a solid front against the forces of tyranny.

    In such an age, the only people holding power would be those controlling large quantities of complex and diverse molecules, similar to today’s world. However, I can think of no more likely scenario than an instant arms race to develop the best way to control whatever it is you might call order.

    I am personally horrified by the concept of space denial, a possible first strike by environmentalist who might seek to contain the human invasion on earth. This kind of action would only bring ruin and death to our fragile and threatened orb.

    In the absence of such a thoughtless action, I imagine a quick and short space race with competitors from all across the former spectrum of nationality and economics rapidly coming to the conclusion that any one of them is now in the position to destroy the earth, and there would be remarkably little any single one of them could do to prevent it.

    This will inevitably bring the death of tyranny on the earth, one way or another.

    Again, I’m sorry I digressed so far to answer a simple fear.

    Posted by: tk421   September 05, 2008
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