woensdag, juli 13, 2005

From Sticks & Stones to Nanotech!

After a few billion years of evolution on this planet, about 150.000 years ago nature had finally completed 'the design' (evolutionary development) of what we so proudly call today: Homo Sapiens Sapiens. Monkeys had already figured out that you could chase any competition away by throwing sticks & stones at eachother. We (well, the hominids right before us, to be exact) however managed to figure out that if you would bang two stones on top of eachother long enough, you could actually change the shape of these stones. And this is how the 'manufacturing process' of sharp edges started. Very useful, cause it enabled us to more effectively kill animals (so we could survive using less effort).

And this is how the story begins. From there on we basically embarked on a path of ever more effective 'manipulation' of the environment (the basic essence of survival for us); shaping tools and building stuff, basically.

Essentially our approach to building stuff has never really changed, we still use a Top-Down approach; take a house for instance: we literally stack layers and layers of bricks on top of eachother.

Now, @dawn of the 21st century, we have also learned that things are much smaller than they seem @first glance: atoms are the basic building blocks of everything, Barbie-dolls, sigarettes, humans, we're all nothing more than an intricate system of trillions of atoms..

Obviously we could build things much better if we would be more precise, if we would use a Bottom-Up approach instead of a Top-Down approach; if we could figure out a way of building something by doing it atom-for-atom, we could literally make things perfect - upon returning to Earth, astronauts wouldn't have to worry about part of their spacecraft's heatshield to 'let go', McDonald's wouldn't have to worry about strange stuff popping up in their Burgers and I wouldn't have to sit here writing in my naked upperbody, because 90 degrees or not, the sweat just wouldn't stick to my shirt! - And so on and soforth, because every single atom would 'know it's place'.

So to cut a long story short: Molecular Manufacturing is the Future, a not-too-distant one too. And I think that's cool! And I'm not the only one. The only reason I'm all excited about this, is this guy, Eric Drexler. Back in 1986 he wrote this book 'Engines of Creation', in which he explained the powerful potential of Nano-Technology.

Although the Top-Down approach still is the dominant one when it comes to building stuff, things have indeed already gotten a lot smaller. Just look at the way medicine is being produced, or IBM's carbon nanotubes, or RFID-chips (and Smart Dust shortly thereafter), or, and many more examples...

As exciting as things have already gotten, we haven't even begun to touch upon the true power of the Nanotech age though. Because in a truly developed nanotech-society we would have 'factories in a box' (literally). All you need would be a 'pool of basic goo' (containing all required atoms) and a factory so small you can't see it, that would 'put every required atom in the right place, at lightspeed. And then you're in the realm of Star Trek where you can tell the computer what food you want and it would be produced instantly (from our very very large Top-Down human perspective).

Would this be possible? Yes! Yes! Yes! But it obviously sounds ridiculous to most people anyways, just like lightbulbs, phones (yes even fixed-line phones :), cars, airplanes, computers, nuclear bombs, the Internet and all these other things sounded ridiculous 200 years ago.

But, do not worry Oh fellow-earthlings! Welcome to the age of limitless visualization! What? Well, animator and engineer, John Burch, and pioneer nanotechnologist, Dr. K. Eric Drexler have now completed a new computer-generated animated short film called "Productive Nanosystems: from Molecules to Superproducts".

So get ready to enjoy: The future of Manufacturing (60+ MB)

Read more about Nanotech here! (thanx to the British government)

With kind regards and shitloads of love,

Yours truly,