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« DNA Brick Placement | Main | Tell Me What You Want »

September 26, 2006


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Jan-Willem Bats

"Would you believe that within five years, there will be a breakthrough that will enable a single novice person, using skills and supplies obtained over the Internet on a hobbyist's budget, to design and make an engineered DNA shape with 10,000 bases in less than a month?"

Can you please elaborate on this? Where could I do this and which breakthrough has made it possible?

Mike Treder, CRN

Good explanation, Chris. I'll add two more points. The first point is that scientist-academics take a distinctly different approach to problem-solving than do engineers and product designers. This has been well-explained by Eric Drexler here and even better explained by Chris Phoenix here.

The second important point is CRN's reason for adopting an especially agressive timeline. I've talked about this before, but it's important to reiterate. Our mission is to raise awareness of and stimulate preparation for the transformative and disruptive impacts of molecular manufacturing. It's our job to watch for signs that indicate the technology might be developed faster than many people realize. We (the world) can't afford to be caught by surprise, and CRN can't afford to be cautious about taking positions that may not be popular with the mainstream. We'd rather be wrong about how quickly MM will be developed than be wrong about how long it will take.

Chris Phoenix, CRN

Jan-Willem, I'm talking about Rothemund's DNA staples.

Re Mike's comment, I want to emphasize that CRN is not exaggerating or selecting a lower bound of our time estimates. A lower bound would be tomorrow -- if someone has been working on it in a low-profile high-urgency manner for the past decade, it's conceivable that they could finish at any time.

Knowing what we know about the projected capabilities of molecular manufacturing, we can see a lot of incentive for a focused development program -- once development has been accepted as possible.

Seeing the rapidity of technical progress and the slower but ongoing advance of paradigm shifts, we feel it's essentially certain that MM will be accepted as possible (by at least one major funder) by 2015, and likely by 2010.

And how long will the project take, once launched? With another decade of advances and breakthroughs, it would surprise us if a well-designed program starting in 2015 took more than five years. It would surprise me a lot if a program starting in 2010 took more than ten years.

Couple that with the rapidly decreasing cost of the development program, leading to an explosive growth in the number of people who could fund it, and that that's why we're comfortable with our estimate.


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