Day 087 - Nanotech promises

Submitted by Sam on 16 August, 2011 - 00:09

There are immense consequences to molecular nanotechnology advancing to the level of functional programmable molecular assemblers and productive nanofactories, the implications of which have been studied, debated and systematized since Eric Drexler published his seminal book on nanotechnology, Engines of Creation, in 1986. Indeed, the Foresight Institute, which Drexler co-founded in the same year as its publication, has been working steadily to promote awareness of transformative technologies like nanotech, and to enhance knowledge and promote the critical discussion which will ensure that these technologies are put to safe and beneficial use.

And the beneficial uses of nanotechnology are manifold. In its mature form, molecular assembly will slash the cost of manufacturing every type of product, reducing the cost of producing even today's most expensive commodities, like computer chips, aeroplanes, missiles, surgical tools etc., towards a bottom limit which will be set by the cost of the raw materials and energy, amounting to only a few pennies per kilogram. The only significant cost will be an initial expenditure in the design of the products, because as soon as a blueprint exists molecular assemblers will be able to churn out enough copies to satisfy any demand very, very quickly. This development has the potential to utterly upset our current market structure, rewrite all intellectual property laws and regulations, and disrupt the world economy like nothing before.

Not only will nanotechnology greatly reduce the cost of manufacturing today's products, it will allow us to improve and upgrade them with new nano-materials, many times stronger and lighter than anything we have in existence today. These new materials will open up possibilities for further new technologies that we cannot possibly predict, and enhance those that already exist beyond recognition. Inexpensive, and radically strong and lightweight materials will very literally expand the frontiers of human endeavour, enabling widespread space exploration as cost- and energy-efficient spacecraft become a commonplace.

Nanotechnology promises to fuel such spacecraft cleanly. It will make renewable energy viable, allowing molecular solar cells to be manufactured on such a widespread scale that they could be used to coat roads and roofs everywhere, providing enough clean energy to satisfy the entire world's demands. Indeed, the nanofactory manufacturing revolution promises the greenest of futures, not only solving the global energy crisis but also removing the root cause of much of the world's pollution itself, eradicating all traditional industrial processes and their hazardous by-products and chemical pollution. Nanofactories will work with a molecular efficiency designed to produce no pollutants at all.

On top of these industrial and environmental potentials, nanotechnology also carries the promise of a completely new type of medicine – one that could potentially cure all diseases and stop and reverse ageing entirely. Medical nanorobots could repair and defend bodies on the cellular level, performing molecular surgery to repair our own biological nano-machines and destroy cancer cells.

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