Eric Mathews, associate director of the FedEx Institute of Technology, says nanotech enterprises will provide "the ultimate convergence of computers networks and biotech" to create products that no one has seen before.
Imagine being able to take a pill that knows exactly where what ails you is hiding in your body and then commences to attack and destroy that ailment.
Imagine having the computing power of a supercomputer in a device the size of a cell phone or being able to manipulate atoms into any shape to create anything.
While it may sound like the best parts of your favorite science fiction story, all of these things could be possible in the next 15-20 years as scientists continue to make great leaps into the world of nanotechnology.
Yes, indeed, all these things -- and more -- will be made possible by advanced nanotechnology. But everything comes at a cost. The price for safe introduction of nanotech's benefits is thorough, conscientious preparation. If we don't avoid the risks, which are many, we may never get to see any of this stuff:
"Most of the best inventions were things no one ever thought of and once they were brought out, you don't know how you lived without them," Mathews says. "Nano devices can be nearly invisible, intelligent and powerful. They'll be able to be used in every industry and will define the limits of what's possible."
"The limits of what's possible" can go in at least two directions, however: toward a much better world, or toward a far worse world.
We worry that when people speak so enthusiastically about all these wondrous benefits, they encourage headlong, incautious development, heedless of the dangers that could rapidly escalate out of control.
A new arms race, devastating global war, an unprecedented concentration of unrestrained power, massive oppression -- all this may sound like hype. Unfortunately, it is not. None of this has to come true, of course. But if we don't act to prevent such dark scenarios, they just might happen.