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« Looking Ahead: Sousveillance & Fabrication | Main | Shifting Paradigms »

February 06, 2008


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Brian Wang

I think DNA nanotechnology has arrived as a rapidly developing impactful technology.

DNA pistons for precise positioning and actuation using DNA

DNA used to assemble and glue millions of nanoparticles in precise 3d structure They are looking to make some modifications so that the 3d structures that get built do not need water to retain their structure. Form it wet then modify and then drain out the water for dry nanotech.

Synthetic bases and 500,000 bp in a single sequence (2.3 million bp in a ribosome)

As noted by Michael Anissimov popping whatever DNA sequences we want into a cell that can still replicate (via normal cell division means that we can have high volumes (tons of things) using the DNA tech in days. It is still going to take some time to master but clever application of the capabilities here will have huge impact. Quantum dot nanoparticles for highly efficient solar cells.

DNA nanobarcodes created in trillion copy batches.

Programmed DNA used to assemble other DNA.

Printable electronic advances could rapidly lower the costs of electronics and enhance the range of what can be fabbed. Organized carbon nanotubes for printable electronics has 300MHz speed (Pentium 2 speed). Electron mobility speeds of carbon nanotubes would suggest that this could potentially be faster and cheaper than silicon transistors.

Dwave could have a 2000-4000 qubit quantum computer by yearend. The chip die that they use can hold a million qubits. If this technology is successful this year with superior performance then it would take much more money to make filled out die designs. Million qubits within 2-3 years performing molecular simulations. This will rapidly accelerate the development of molecular nanotechnology.

There are already experiments using carbon nanotubes to perform cellular surgery on parts of cells.

The next level of nanotech and future technology is already upon us and will be impacting in a bigger and bigger way over this year and the next few years. DNA nanotechnology and synthetic biology and synthetic life are going to rapidly blur into molecular nanotechnology. At the rate of progress overcoming bottlenecks and expanding the capabilities this could break out further at any time.

Tom Craver

The talk of DNA barcodes reminds me of one of my anti-cancer schemes:

Introduce unique random genetic strings into the DNA of every cell of a healthy person, capped so they won't have any side effects. Each time a cell divides, the new cells get the same ID code.

When cancer is detected, scan a sample to read out it's genetic marker. Produce a drug that specifically kills all cells with that marker, perhaps by matching up with the marker and interfering with cell division. If there were 32 bits in the marker, only about 1 in 4 billion non-cancer cells would be killed.

Alas, the scheme probably has some fatal flaw - it certainly has a lot of unknowns in implementation.

Still, the core idea - somehow pre-treating healthy people, to make it easier to treat cancer should it arise - seems to have some merit.

Tom Craver

Perhaps CRN should think about the characteristics of nanofactories have been of particular concern - and then look for similar characteristics in other developing areas of technology, and broaden focus along those lines.

- Individual/small group empowerment to produce dangerous technologies. What about internet distribution of dark technologies - computer viruses and worms, recipes for explosives or for bio-warfare agents? Project a few years ahead in fabbers - what sorts of weapons could they produce, and what limitations will they have? Is there a key cut-over point, where they become so easy to produce that they might as well be self-copying, and spread rapidly? When will it be possible to fab desktop chemical factories based on open source designs?

- Enabling of new technological dangers - especially technologies small enough to be nearly invisible. There've been good strides in understanding the brain of late, and tools to accelerate that trend - are there particular risks there that intersect with drugs and perhaps DNA assembly? Or how about a bacteria engineered to be injected into low grade hydrocarbon deposits to convert them into easily accessible high grade crude oil?

- Potential economic and social disruption by powerful new technologies that modify foundational "facts" of our society. What if someone develops factory-grown meat, fruit and vegetables? What if Bussard fusion works out? What if a few key robotics breakthroughs suddenly accelerate us toward a world where human factory labor isn't worth even a subsistence wage? Or what if AI displaces all knowledge and creative workers, leaving humans *only* low-skill hand-eye coordination jobs? What if someone figures out how to use an MMORPG to control a real-world economy - rewarding good economic decision making with in-game gold and reputation, while imposing material equality in the real world?

Brian Wang

I agree with Tom that functions and characteristics should be examined to look at closer tipping points and societal disruptions. There are multiple tipping points with MM but there are earlier ones.

Low cost bulk Carbon nanotube material, rail guns with Bussard (or some other) fusion would make for some very powerful weapons.

Fabbers, printable electronics, cigarette size plasma jet UAVs

Autonomous robots with freeze frame 3D lidar

the oakster1

I think we should talk about totalitarian technologies


Think about this: what are you guys going to do for the next ten or fifteen years? Continue to warn about hypothetical nanofactories? You're going to be completely irrelevant if so.

Look at it realistically. Most of your blog postings these days have little to do with nanotech. You need to redefine your mission to be broader, a general concern about disruptive technologies. I like Tom's idea above. Focus on aspects of future technology that maybe are not being considered too much by other groups.

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