Molecular Nanotech promises increased wealth, longer life

February 29 2008 / by futuretalk
Category: Technology   Year: General   Rating: 12

By Futuretalk

Arthur C. Clarke once said, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is virtually indistinguishable from magic.” Enter humanity’s newest plunge into magic – molecular nanotechnology.

Whether you fear it, welcome it, don’t understand it, or think it’s too crazy to be true, this most hyped science of all time promises a utopian future with no food shortages or disease, and a world of leisure and indefinite lifespan for everyone on Earth.

To achieve this remarkable future, researchers must first create a tiny microscopic-size robot assembler that can grab individual atoms and organize them into items. Futurists at the Center for Responsible Nanotechnology predict that the first assembler will be developed between 2010 and 2020.

The next step, experts say, is to build a small countertop machine called a nano-replicator with billions of assemblers inside, which can be instructed to extract atoms from waste materials or something as plentiful as dirt or seawater, and reassemble those atoms into food, appliances, clothing, or other desired products. Positive futurists believe that nano-replicators could be working in U.S. homes by 2025.

In their book, Revolutionary Wealth, Alvin and Heidi Toffler argue that we are on the verge of a post-scarcity time that will slash poverty around the world. Futurist Steve Burgess agrees. In an on-line essay, he predicts that nano-replicators will launch an era of abundance for everyone. (cont.)

Nano-theorist Robert Freitas, in a recent Lifeboat Foundation interview, claims that molecular nanotech will wreak havoc with economies of every nation in the world. With products available free from nano-replicators, humans will become pure consumers without need to produce goods or provide services. This will eventually reduce the value of human labor to zero.

However in this futuristic nano-world, forward-thinkers believe that there will be little need for money. All living costs could eventually be eliminated; and even expenses for public projects like roads, buildings, and government activities would be abolished with tomorrow’s nano-assembler technologies.

Freitas adds, “Not only will nanotech provide us with a lot of cool stuff and eliminate global poverty; it will also help us achieve a much longer lifespan.” He predicts that by 2010, nano-products will diagnose illnesses and destroy cancer cells and by late 2020s, tiny cell-repair mechanisms will roam through our bodies keeping us strong, youthful, and forever healthy.

Most gerontologists agree that aging, and therefore “natural” death occurs when the body’s cellular structure cannot repair itself. Cell-repair machines will allow us to rejuvenate damaged cells, eliminate disease and heal injuries. In addition, since aging is a result of accumulated tissue destruction, it will be possible to undo or reverse damages already inflicted. The young will remain young; the old will become young.

As molecular nanotech matures, its impact will affect nearly everyone. Labor-free products from replicators could devastate economies and many governments are scrambling for ways to manage the impact of this technology.

Clearly, the road to molecular nanotechnology winds around unknown, possibly even dangerous turns. However, strong commerce and government support continue to drive this revolution forward and it will unfold in our lifetime. Futuristic? Certainly. Possible? Absolutely. This science promises to change our lives beyond our wildest dreams. Get ready Gang, for a most amazing “magical future.”

Comments welcome.

Comment Thread (13 Responses)

  1. I don’t understand why would anybody think that stuff will be FREE. Right now everybody can burn CDs, print books using their computers. Yet, unless you are a pirate, those things are not free. Not to mention that one still have to pay for blank CD, paper and electricity.

    Nano replicators will still need energy, chemical elements including rare ones, and what’s even more important they will need INFORMATION, or blueprints of whatever they will be making. All those things will not be free in most cases, and sometimes they will be pretty expensive.

    Posted by: johnfrink   February 29, 2008
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  2. In other articles, Freitas says that initially, nano-replicators could be priced in the $500 to $3,000 range, and product instruction software would be downloaded from the Internet for various fees; in addition, a special atom raw material would be necessary, also at a fee, to build the products.

    As the technology advances in late 2020s, prices will drop substantially and eventually, over the next couple of decades, could reach levels where most items could be produced free.

    This wonder tech has attracted entrepreneurs from all over the world and the first to bring this product to market could, some say, become the world’s first trillionaire.

    Posted by: futuretalk   March 01, 2008
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  3. Isn’t replication technology an ideal candidate for a push prize? I think there are two tracks: (1) atomically precise assembly by a nanofactory following an assembly pattern, or (2) some sort of “Place Object to be Duplicated Here” (i.e. literal) replication.

    So who knows somebody in a position to sponsor push prizes to get high quality theoretical proposals on how such replication technologies might actually work? I bet a lot of people would be willing to contribute to the prize fund. I know I would.

    Posted by: DaveColes   July 12, 2008
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  4. Foresight organization sponsors a number of prizes for achievements in nanotechnology research.

    However, prize money for developing the first “assembler” may not be necessary as there are already dozens of companies scrambling to be first out of the starting gate with this “magical” product, which economists say could enable members of the winning team to increase their worth to trillionaire status.

    I look for the first assembler to appear around 2015, which most likely would be produced by IBM, Nanorex, or Zyvex. Should this happen, by 2025 the first replicator could be developed and by mid-2020s these amazing machines could begin appearing on kitchen counters around the world.

    Comments welcome.

    Posted by: futuretalk   July 12, 2008
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  5. “I look for the first assembler to appear around 2015, which most likely would be produced by IBM, Nanorex, or Zyvex. Should this happen, by 2025 the first replicator could be developed and by mid-2020s these amazing machines could begin appearing on kitchen counters around the world.”

    Once again, ill-informed.

    All this when we currently don’t have a ghost of a clue how to come up with a somewhat decent functional design of an assembler.

    Don’t listen to Ray Kurzweil. He may be a successful inventor, but in the realms of hard science he falls ever-so-short. His blind optimism makes me dry-heave in disgust.

    Posted by: adbatstone80   July 13, 2008
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  6. Adbatstohne80, Robert Freitas; not Kurzweil is involved in these projections; and I believe that this future could be realized in the time frame mentioned.

    Posted by: futuretalk   July 13, 2008
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  7. Adbatstone80, don’t be so dramatic. When optimism is mistaken or premature, it may be worthy of reasoned criticism, but a reaction of “disgust” is hardly warranted. I find people’s incessant cynicism and poisonous negativity to be far more disgusting. Indeed, you fall into this category.

    Kurzweil is likely wrong about some things, but he is not disgusting. Moreover, things feel very different from a scientist’s perspective such as my own (not Kurzweil as he is not a scientist). People talk as though the future just happens, something we cannot control. What garbage, we are at the helm, we are in control. We design our own future, and with sufficient ingenuity anything is possible. If something is not impossible, it is invariably invented eventually. Why not 2020 instead of 2200? With enough brainpower and collaboration we can design industrial and/or medical nanoassemblers if we damned well want to.

    As for the possibilty of an economic discontinuity, the same argument applies. If it does not happen sooner, it WILL happen later. With sufficient will, positivity and motivation, it will happen. As for armchair naysayers such as adbatstone80, the influence and result of their babblings will be the usual result when someone sits in an armchair and contributes nothing to scientific research: NOTHING. In the mean time the real researchers will continue at the breakneck pace that they are presently.

    Posted by: CptSunbeam   July 13, 2008
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  8. Brilliantly stated, CaptSunbeam; thank you.

    Posted by: futuretalk   July 13, 2008
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  9. I enjoy reading this blog and believe the future will indeed be “magical”, but I have serious doubts about an assembler that can transform a shovelful of dirt into a pizza within the next 20 years or so. I’m middle-aged and feel it’s safe to say this won’t be available in my lifetime.

    Posted by: Palladin   July 14, 2008
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  10. Most positive futurists believe that the world’s first computer-controlled ‘assembler’ that can grab raw atoms and connect them together to create new products; even make new copies of itself; will be developed by as early as 2010, or as late as 2020.

    Will this happen in such an aggressive time schedule? I personally think that it will, and at age 77, I believe that my body, supported by next decade’s stem cell and genetic engineering marvels, will still be around enabling me to witness this wonder product.

    Posted by: futuretalk   July 14, 2008
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  11. Is a Utopian society what we really want? What about all the stuff we have to work for? Why work out when nanobots can do it for you? Why have kids when you can live forever? More and more it seems to me that a society that is afforded everything would probably be the most depressing world we can live in. Stranger in a Strange Land anyone? Some ancient Romans said their society was destroyed by luxury (specifically pontic pickled fish and young Greek boys), will nanobots be our undoing?

    Posted by: John Heylin   July 14, 2008
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  12. Referring to events in the past does not tell us much about what to expect in an exponentially-advancing future.

    Posted by: futuretalk   July 14, 2008
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  13. People who refer to positive future talk as “disgusting” (adbatstone80) or “depressing” (jheylin) have taken it too far. Cynicism and negativity are bad enough, but to assault the very idea of optimism being a good thing has to be evidence of some sort of mental dysfunction.

    Posted by: CptSunbeam   July 15, 2008
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