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« Directed Energy Warfare | Main | The Ten Commandments »

January 13, 2006

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Nato Welch

I'm becoming pretty convinced that the greatest impact of molecular manufacturing has nothing to do with it being molecular scale. The phenomenon of fabrication machines that make copies of themselves - and thus explode at exponential rates - is probably possible at the macroscale, and is achievable possibly within 5 years on a rudimentary level (I'm looking mostly at http://reprap.org/ here). Molecular-scale technologies, when they arrive, would then look like more incremental improvements in product quality and capability, rather than a revolutionary advance.

Roland

That first question could be a bit misleading, I think. If I were asked it I would have a lot of trouble answering it.

Nanotech will definitely have a lot of impact, but I don't know if it'll be within ten years. Genetic engineering is the same. Solar power will grow immensely in the next ten years, but it doesn't really "impact" your life any different to fossil fuels because they both produce electricity just the same. I doubt fusion power will be there yet, and the same thing goes for it as for solar. You can never say for certain about uninvented technologies, so I couldn't really say that. So I would have to choose the last one, other, ie the Internet. It's got a lot of impact on our lives today, and that's just going to grow and grow.

As for the second question, I'm surprised by how few people are worried about technologies. The problem is that the environment has always been portrayed as a source of great worry, while technology has been shown as a miraculous fix to every problem. The polls I've seen on the environment suggest that the vast majority of people have a vague sense of dread about it or believe it is in irreversible decline. The environment is very important indeed, but it's not as bad as it has been painted.

That Reprap thing looks amazing.

The Guy

Reprap sounds Very cool. Thanks for pointing it out. How come we haven't heard anything about reprap from the mainstream media? In the days of "Beyond 2000" (a discovery channel TV show) that sort of thing would've been eaten up.

Mike Treder, CRN

CNN.com ran a RepRap story last year, and we've blogged about it here and here, among other places. MIT's Fab Lab is also very cool.

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