With discoveries, advances, and contrary opinions about nanotechnology development coming fast and furious these days, it’s easy to miss certain things or let them slide by. But some items are too important to be overlooked.
We call your attention again to the remarkable work of Tihamer Toth-Fejel and his research team at General Dynamics, who recently completed a six-month study (PDF, 1.73 MB) investigating machine self-replication for NASA's Institute for Advanced Concepts. They examined the design of kinematic self-replicating robotic systems, which are physical machines that vary in size from a few cells to four-feet in diameter, and can build copies of themselves.
In showing how (relatively) easy an autoproductive manufacturing system would be to design, as well as calculating its immense practical value, the General Dynamics/NASA study confirms that exponential manufacturing is amenable to engineering and does not require complex biological approaches, and that the payoffs from a successful development project will be immense.
CRN's own studies indicate that nanotechnology, using molecular manufacturing techniques, will turn out to be an efficient and effective way of achieving engineered exponential manufacturing. Toth-Fejel's work shows that, regardless of whether CRN is right about molecular manufacturing, the world still needs to prepare for a disruptively powerful manufacturing technology based on self-constructing systems.
Combined with recent commentaries from Amory Lovins, Lawrence Lessig, and Adam Keiper, CRN sees an unmistakable trend toward acceptance of the possibilities for exponential general-purpose manufacturing. Although no one can say for certain which path will lead there first, it seems clear that we are headed in that direction, and soon. It’s also clear that policy makers must start taking this into account when planning for the future.