Nanotechnology: Immortality or Total Annihilation?

Topics: Molecular nanotechnology, Grey goo, K. Eric Drexler Pages: 7 (2256 words) Published: May 11, 2000
Technology has evolved from ideals once seen as unbelievable to common everyday instruments. Computers that used to occupy an entire room are now the size of notebooks. The human race has always pushed for technological advances working at the most efficient level, perhaps, the molecular level. The developments and progress in artificial intelligence and molecular technology have spawned a new form of technology; Nanotechnology. Nanotechnology could give the human race eternal life, or it could cause total annihilation.

The idea of nanotech was conceived by a man named K. Eric Drexler (Stix 94), which he defines as "Technology based on the manipulation of individual atoms and molecules to build structures to complex atomic specifications (Drexler, "Engines" 288)." The technology which Drexler speaks of will be undoubtedly small, in fact, nano- structures will only measure 100 nanometers, or a billionth of a meter (Stix 94).

Being as small as they are, nanostructures require fine particles that can only be seen with the STM, or Scanning Tunneling Microscope (Dowie 4). Moreover the STM allows the scientists to not only see things at the molecular level, but it can pick up and move atoms as well (Port 128). Unfortunately the one device that is giving nanoscientists something to work with is also one of the many obstacles restricting the development of nanotech. The STM has been regarded as too big to ever produce nanotech structures (Port 128). Other scientists have stated that the manipulation of atoms, which nanotech relies on, ignores atomic reality. Atoms simply don't fit together in ways which nanotech intends to use them (Garfinkel 105). The problems plaguing the progress of nanotech has raised many questions among the scientific community concerning it's validity. The moving of atoms, the gathering of information, the restrictions of the STM, all restrict nanotech progress. And until these questions are answered, nanotech is regarded as silly (Stix 98).

But the nanotech optimists are still out there. They contend that the progress made by a team at IBM who was able to write letters and draw pictures atom by atom actually began the birth of nanotech (Darling 49). These same people answer the scientific questions by replying that a breakthrough is not needed, rather the science gained must be applied (DuCharme 33). In fact, Drexler argues that the machines exist, trends are simply working on building better ones ("Unbounding" 24). Drexler continues by stating that the machines he spoke about in "Engines of Creation" published in 1986 should be developed early in the 21st century ("Unbounding" 116).

However many scientists still argue that because nanotech has produced absolutely nothing physical, it should be regarded as science fiction (Garfinkel 111). Secondly, nano-doubters rely on scientific fact to condemn nanotech. For example it is argued that we are very far away from ever seeing nanotech due to the fact that when atoms get warm they have a tendency to bounce around. As a result the bouncing atoms collide with other materials and mess up the entire structure (Davidson A1). Taken in hand with the movement of electron charges, many regard nanotech as impossible (Garfinkel 106). But this is not the entirety of the obstacles confining nanotech development. One major set-back is the fact that the nanostructures are too small to reflect light in a visible way, making them practically invisible (Garfinkel 104).

Nevertheless, Nanotech engineers remain hopeful and argue that; "With adequate funding, researchers will soon be able to custom build simple molecules that can store and process information and manipulate or fabricate other molecules, including more of themselves. This may occur before the turn of the century."(Roland 30) There are other developments also, that are pushing nanotech in the right direction for as Lipkin pointed out recent...
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