CRN Director of Research Chris Phoenix.
Lisa Hopper, Founder of World Care
“Nanotechnologies and Biotechnologies as they relate to humanitarian application: clean water, food, and health care”
9:00 – 10:10AM
First speaker is Lisa Hopper. She is talking to us about her non-profit, CRN’s parent organization, World Care. She has moved over 100 million pounds of supplies, $25 million worth, to dozens of countries during three wars and 15 major disasters. She’s telling us the story of how she founded World Care and left her medical career for the cause. She’s highlighting that she wanted to give resources to build infrastructures, not just “give them stuff”. For schools: desks, tables, chalkboards, school supplies, pens, pencils, etc. She invested all of her retirement savings in World Care. It was difficult for the first five years, but then things started taking off. World Care is now one of the top health care product providers in the United States, with over 500 volunteers. Instead of “needs assessment”, they call their activity “project planning”, because people don’t like to be assessed. She has been in Jordan, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, etc. Because they are not politically or religiously based, they can work with many people without prejudice.
How did she get into nanotechnology? Lisa used to do physics a long time ago. She met Chris Phoenix when he was volunteering for 9/11. They used to play with numbers and argue with one another. She was sold on the idea of a center to analyze the ramifications of nanotechnology. So the idea was born in the back of World Care, organizing books to send out to a 3rd world country. Chris ended up reading half the books instead of organizing them! She proposed setting up CRN as a daughter organization of World Care and helping manage it.
World Care is now providing North Korea with resources every time they disarm a nuclear weapon. Not many organizations have this opportunity. Every gov’t agency already knows their involved, so don’t bother reporting it, heh. What jazzed her about nanotech was not just little robots running around, but the possibility of changing the world as we see it. Very difficult for most people to understand nanotech, unfortunately.
Majority of the load in a spacecraft are parts: if we were able to fabricate parts on the shuttle, this would allow the load to go down so far that space travel would become possible for everyone. What if we were able to do MNT and build houses without having to transport a whole lot? Let me tell you: everything we deal with is about transportation. We have everything we need in this world, the problem is getting it to where it needs to be. I was just in the Congo: walked into two warehouses with supplies, but they said they had to burn two other warehouses with millions of dollars of AIDS equipment because they couldn’t move it! An entire warehouse of products, burned! There were 55 people managing this project. She couldn’t find out what they were doing. Out of all this, only one person in the entire area was being treated for AIDS. Obviously there was a huge problem with the system, with distribution and information. Problems with truth, smoke and mirrors.
She takes this sort of knowledge and tries to transfer it over to the area of nanotechology. Say she’s going to Honduras or something. When they bring in free stuff (clothes, shoes), their small economies are ruined. Something so simple where you think you’re doing good but you’re not. Indian tsunami: never seen so many dead people in her life. No one she met who didn’t lose someone, or 10 people in their family. They recognized there’s only certain things they could send. Salt water was contaminating clean water everywhere. They send jumbo jets of desalinization equipment to these places.
For a good plan, you have to think ahead. Einstein had good intentions, but accidentally contributed to the atomic bomb, and they stopped listening to him after it was developed. Nanotech has tremendous opportunity for the humanitarian world. Chris impressed her with the idea of sending people a little box (nanofactory) and it being used to build houses and basic supplies out of raw materials. Clean water – only 3% of water is fresh, much of it is contaminated. Desalinization plants: sometimes they expel salt which in turn kills certain plants. There are ramifications to our attempts at doing good, which we have to be aware of. She has started 15 organizations under World Care, CRN is one of them. All her funding is private because she didn’t want it to be controlled by other interests. They manage over 5,000 different types of resources.
There are going to be a lot of opportunists who want to exploit nanotechnology for their own ends. For control. She calls criminals “opportunists” because that’s what they do. The road because humanitarian aid and nanotechnology are going to cross, and we both have to deal with the same types of issues. When she helps out a 3rd world country, one of the first things she needs to know is how corrupt it is. We have to realize that the development of nanotechnology is extremely important to our future, our environment, everything we do and touch. It will change our world.
Something that you can put in your pocket with the same destruction as a nuclear silo. That’s what nanotechnology has the potential to create.
Behrooz Dehdashti, Ph.D, heart researcher
“Introduction to Angiogenesis in ischemic tissue”
10:10 – 10:30AM
Next speaker is Behrooz Dehdashti, a senior research analyst in cadio-vascular biology at the University of Arizona Sarver Heart Center. He’s working to create artificial hearts and treat heart disease. This is a relatively technical medical talk so I will transcribe the main ideas as best I can. He’s talking about transmyocardial channeling (TMC) and showing various images of heart tissue.
He talks about an experiment where they damaged the heart tissue of pigs with small channels, and observed how they healed over 60 days. He’s showing us microscopic slides of the healing process in these hearts. Their conclusion was that transmyocardial channeling may be readily performed and appears feasible. TMC combined with a sixty day period of healing provides significant protection to the LV myocardium in the setting of acute ischemic challenge. (This means these little holes made the heart more resistant to challenges such as heart attacks.) With relation to nanotechnology, he says that small drug capsules could be implanted in these small channels and slowly release medication. TMC is implemented through catheter – not open-heart. This therapy increases angiogenesis which makes the heart stronger. The key is drilling the holes without crossing the threshold too much injury.
Chris Phoenix asked “how much would your research be speeded up if you had a rapid prototyping machine that could build 100-micron machines”. Answer: “A world of opportunity. It currently takes us months to design and build some tools.”
10:30 – 11:20AM Break
Mike Treder, Executive Director, CRN and Chris Phoenix, Director of Research, CRN
Discussion on CRN Task Force Scenarios: “Nano Tomorrows”
11:20AM – 12:20PM
Mike handed out a bunch of packets of the CRN scenarios. This is the first time the scenarios are being revealed outside of the group that created them. They say “DRAFT: Not for Publication”. He emphasizes scenarios are not a prediction but a provocation. They’re a tool. The scenarios: Secret Military Development, Negative Drivers, Positive Expectations, Presidential Commission, And Not a Drop to Drink, Newshound Notebook, A Goal Postponed, Breaking the Fever. These are the result of a “Potato-Head Process” – we made up dozens of drivers and combined them arbitrarily. Some things in these scenarios may sound too techno-wonderful to be plausible. Quote from Christine Peterson: if it sounds like sci-fi it may be wrong, but if it doesn’t, it’s definitely wrong. Primary coordinators of this scenario development process were Mike Treder, Chris Phoenix, Jamais Cascio.
We expected that there’d be more military scenarios, we were quite surprised that didn’t happen. We think that war is a possibility but not a certainty. These scenarios are what leads us to MNT, not what happens afterward.
Scenario Two: Positive Expectations. Fabbing and rapid prototyping comes along before MNT. What would happen if a bunch of hobbyists worldwide got their hands on RepRap type machines. Sensor networks deployed everywhere. This is the most open scenario.
Scenario Three: Story of Death and Redemption on Three Acts. MNT comes about as a result of negative pressures, unhappy crises. Spread of a dangerous new pandemic: the Rot. China inadvertently spreads a new virus around the world through clothing made there. The whole product supply chain gets shut down. Lots of effort goes into developing MNT to help this. By the end, things look good, but lots of bad stuff happens along the way.
Scenario Four: written in the style of an internal government report describing how the crisis in 2022 came to be.
Scenario Five: Water Water Everywhere, But Not a Drop to Drink. Trigger for MNT development was the need for new water filtration devices. MNT is developed for Singapore to desalinate water. Bad stuff happens though. Diseases end up being spread through the filtration devices. Industrial espionage, terrorist activity takes place. 2nd scenario where disease plays a major role. Disease has the potential to make major impacts in the world, we must remember this.
Scenario Six: Devil’s Advocate Scenario, a Goal Postponed. What if no one develops MNT very quickly? Say it takes until 2020 because everyone was busy chasing other technologies, and it never got the mindshare to be developed.
Scenario Seven: collapse of China in the mid-2010s, due to pressure from out-of-control pollution, dissension and crackdowns. What happens if the world’s largest country basically falls apart? Scientists working on MNT in China need to leave, some go to US, some Russia, some other countries. This is probably the most negative scenario. The money to fund MNT mainly comes from militaries, the world becomes less and less stable, MNT-enabled conflict results.
Scenario Eight: climate change turns out to be worse than scientists projected, by the 2010s, terrible things are happening around the world, this performs an impetus for developing MNT as the only way out.
Overview done. We expect to keep developing more later. Open for questions.
Q: I don’t see any self-enhancement in these scenarios. Enhancing our own ability to access information, etc. Also, what about space exploration?
A: Because these scenarios are pre-MNT, space will continue to be hard. Global hypsothermal limit, if it were distributed as unevenly as wealth, would we even get to dissipate our own body heat, 100 watts?
Discussion about Google, information, openness, Wikipedia, etc.
Comment from one of the scenario participants: it was good that we started off with a brainstorming, unstructured process.
Comment: it would be hard to keep MNT to the military, because people come and go, form their own businesses, etc. It would spread around, be developed in multiple places at once, etc.
Comment: these Eight Scenarios should be called “the First Eight Scenarios”.
Points left out in scenarios: religion, telecom, space flight, human enhancement.
Lunch: 12:20PM – 1:40PM
Jason McCoy, Vice President, Global Seawater, Inc.
“Greening the Deserts of the Earth”
1:40 – 3:10PM
The for-profit company, Global Seawater, Inc., grew out of 25 years of Seawater Foundation research. He is a University of Arizona alumni, worked with Lisa Hopper at World Care doing international projects.
For a long time people have tried to breed plants to grow in seawater. This has always failed. We’re trying something else which I’ll talk about in a minute. This company combines aquaculture, agriculture, and forestry.
Here are the big problems in the world:
Global warming and energy: CO2 mostly comes from developing countries. 2.2% per year increase in global energy demand. 84% of demand from developing countries by 2020, according to McKinsey energy analysts.
Sea level rise: a looming catastrophe. Some people say it will rise by 25 feet. The UN IPCC concluded 7 to 23 inches by 2100. Sea level would increase rate of soil erosion, salinize freshwater tables, force the migration of hundreds of millions of environmental refugees.
Loss of biodiversity and global warming. Deforestation contributes between 25 and 30% of total greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere each year.
Population growth and sustainable food production. World population will increase to 7.6 billion by 2020.
Shrinking fresh water sources: this has been measured all over the world. Increases the possibility of conflict over water. Arab-Israeli conflicts are a preview. Food crops diverted to the production of biofuels will exacerbate the problem.
GSI’s founder, Dr. Carl Hodges, began studying halophytic plants more than 30 years ago to develop solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges. In 1967, he founded the Environmental Research Laboratory at the University of Arizona creating a visible and highly reputable research organization. He directed ERL for 25 years during which time he led and secured funding for pioneering research projects such as saltwater shrimp production, high-efficiency solar energy systems, controlled environmental agriculture. He was closely involved with Biosphere 2.
GSI leverages some of the world’s most abundant natural resources: seawater, unproductive desert coasts, and sunlight. Integrated system that we offer has 3 aspects: aquaculture, agriculture, forestry. We work with halophytes, salt-tolerant plants. Salicornia and mangrove trees are the two plants we work with.
Rivers from the sea: a canal is cut from the ocean inland to deliver water to GSI’s saltwater intake and pumping system. Massive pumps lift large volumes of untreated seawater into the front end aquaculture areas where shrimp, seaweed, and tilapia are raised. Fisheries worldwide are being drained. We have an incentive to overfish due to Tragedy of the Commons, because international waters are uncontrolled. This encourages a more responsible way of managing aquaculture.
The effluent that the shrimp and fish produce usually is shoved out into the ocean, causing algae blooms that kill everything. Next year, they bring that back in. We take the waste and channel it into salicornia/mangrove fields. Salicornia loves salt that can be readily grown in untreated seawater. Products from salicornia: protein meal, oil, green tips and biomass (straw) that remains after harvesting. Salicornia bears oil, which is unusual for a halophyte. Salicornia can be used to make biodiesel. The root structures of the plant absorb between 2 to 3 metric tons of atmospheric carbon per hectare per year.
Mangrove trees: halophytes, grow globally. Enormous growth rates, within 18 months they can grow up to 6 feet. Will create forests in mere years. They sequester massive amounts of carbon: 8 metric tons per hectare per year in their root structures. They are working to monetize this for carbon credits.
Seawater from the mangrove forests helps filter remaining waste out of the water, flows to constructed wetlands.
Eritrean pilot project, launched in 1999. A 1,000 hectare integrated seawater system. They had a huge civil war with Ethiopia. Eritrea is the world’s youngest nation and one of the poorest. They did a 50-50 partnership with the government of Eritrea. in 2003, political instability led to the project’s closure. Successful project lasted for four years.
Now we watch a 15-minute video narrated by Martin Sheen, on the Eritrean pilot project: “The Greening of Eritrea”.
The world’s first seawater farm to combat drought. Carl Hodges is Director of the project. 20-30 crops, spectrum of aquatic animals, helps fight famine. It will actually make Eritrea an exporter of food. Saltwater river flowing upstream into the desert. Many weeks or months later, the water goes back to the sea. Lots of shrimp gets farmed. The farm is a completely closed cycle. Effluent from shrimp ponds all go to the mangrove forests. Totally addresses the contamination/pollution issue of shrimp effluent.
Salicornia can be eaten like a vegetable when young. The seeds can be made into oil and flour. Strong fiber board can be made with its husk. The ground cover stabilizes the soil. It grows off untreated saltwater. It can grow in soil without carbon. But it adds carbon back into the soil. Seawater forestry farming. Mangrove seeds grow to forests taller than a person in 2 years. 18 metric tons of leaves per hectare per year for animal feed. Eventually they can provide even firewood. 200 species of birds have found refuge in the fledgling forest.
A community of 30 women have become experts on mangroves. They’re becoming educated and self-sustaining, learning how to write and read.
They call this the 2nd agriculture evolution, using seawater. Battling against human ignorance, battling against human greed, which sees 3rd world as a place to exploit. Video ends. Mr. McCoy continues talking.
GSI will transform deserts into wetlands and forests. Wetlands are dynamic, complex habitats that increase biodiversity and biologically clean water before it returns to the sea. Reduces impact of global warming. According to US Dep’t of Energy, in 2007 worldwide carbon emissions will be 8 billion metric tons per year.
Economic development: this system creates job opportunity and generates wealth for all participants. The system creates new food-producing areas at a time when arable land is declining, both in terms of amount and quality. Emphasizes the human element, transferring skills as well as employment to people in the area.
Primary product: SeaForest BioDieselâ„¢. It is sustainable, avoids an increase in global food prices for individuals in poor, developing nations. Btw, a hectare is roughly 2 1/2 acres. There are roughly 200 million hectares of unproductive coastal areas which could be used for SeaForest BioDieselâ„¢ production. The cost of producing it is competitive compared to other biofuels. It avoids increasing the cost of food staples lie corn and sugar. It doesn’t not compete with other crops for limited freshwater supplies.
R&D program is sophisticated and complex. Uses a mix of traditional plant breeding and cutting edge biotech techniques such as: hybrid cultivators to dramatically enhance product yields. Molecular marker-assisted selection, gene knock-down (RNA interference). Intellectual property: knowledgable team, accumulative years of seawater-farming. Know-how trade secrets, intensive R&D input, development of value-added products.
Future implications: economic development, energy security, biotech and IP, environmental impact, sustainable business models. Sadly, the countries that need this most are most likely to mismanage it, kick us out of their country, etc. Our newest project is in Mexico, only 100 miles south of the Arizona border, so we’re close this time!
Summary: this is a wonderful project, takes advantage of natural resources, let me know if you want to get involved. Here’s my contact info. Questions?
Chris Phoenix: Could some aspect of this project be open source?
McCoy: We’ve invested a lot of money into our intellectual property. We’ve had many discussions about how to both disseminate our technologies and profit from them. We have two pilot projects to replicate what we did in Eritrea. We understand no one company can do this. To get to a tipping point, it has to be done by many people simultaneously.
Chris Phoenix: How far can this be scaled down? To a single family?
McCoy: We’ve mainly looked at this on a large scale, economies of scale make it work a lot better. 25,000 hectares is ideal.
Break 3:10 – 3:20PM
Gary Marchant, Center for the Study of Law, Science, and Technology
“Emerging technologies and the environment”
3:20 – 5:00PM
He mentions deep ecology, that it probably wouldn’t work. Cites Martin Lews, Green Delusions (1992). GMOs have demonstrated benefits: reducing pesticide use, use of less environmentally harmful herbicides, less tilling of soils, increased yields, reduced greenhouse emissions, etc.
GM crop impact: 493 million pound reduction in pesticide sprayings worldwide (7% reduction). Decresed adverse environmental impact of pesticide by 15%. Huge greenhouse emissions reduction due to not having to drive tractors. Mold crowing on corn can produce terrible carcinogens (fumonisin), GMOs eliminate this. IN October 2003, the UK food safety agency found that ten products exceeded the proposed standard for fumonisin in foods – 500 ppb. All six organic products tested were withdrawn. Non-GM food was not tested because none for sale in the UK.
Jonathan Rauch: Will Frankenfood Save the Planet? GM foods: no unique risks (at least so far). Cites Nina Federoff, US National Academy of Sciences, European Union. Numerous false alarms: monarch butterfly, starlink, pusztai toxic potato, “ice minus”, bayer rice, disappearing bees. None of these turned out to be due to GM foods. Biotechnology: environmental savior? Cites Daniel Charles, Lords of the Harvest.
Yet GMOs have been at most a limited success… complete rejection in EU, unenthusiastic acceptance in US. Factors; failure to consult, no obvious direct benefits to consumer, corporate control, US dominance, “unnatural”. Australia has had 5-year moratoriums and they are now revisiting it. It seems that the public is angry that GM foods were sneaked into their diets. Organized GM movement has been very effective. Cites Greenpeace and Jeremy Rifkin making sensational statements which are scientifically inaccurate.
Nanotech and GMO are similar in that Prince Charles hates them both. 2 differences: more likely for direct benefit for nanotech, but strong likelihood of real risks. GMOs have less direct benefits to consumers, also low risks. Nanoscale iron particles have been used to dechlorinate chlorinated hydrocarbons. Environmental sensors are great for detecting pollutants. Improving water quality using nanotech-based flow-through capacitors to desalinize water. In the future, nanotechnology will provide zero-waste manufacturing.
Nanotech risks: some nanoparticles may be dangerous under very high doses, possibly damaging the brain or killing fish. “Magic Nano”, a sealant for glass in bathrooms, caused big problems, some customers alleged they suffered ‘inhalation injuries”. Triggered front-page news across the world demanding stricter regulation of nanotechnology. They suddenly realized that the product contained nothing nano-related at all, and media coverage immediately ceased! So I guess it’s okay if something is dangerous but not nano.
Nanotech and the public: “cognitive dissonance avoidance” (Mandel 2005) people cannot simultaneously perceive that a particular technology cannot have both risks and benefits. Kahan et al., 2007, asked people about their opinions of nanotech, found out that people form opinions based on their own orientations, regardless of what they are told. Their more basic attitudes towards technology in general influence this. Social amplification of risk (Slovic, in publication).
Growing pressure for nanotech regulations. Many voices are calling for regulation of nanotechnology now. Lux Research Report: absence of regulation drives perceptual risk. “Under-regulation will be a bigger threat than over-regulation.” Companies are afraid to “put nano” into their products because they’re afraid of what’s happening. The industry is calling for nano oversight.
What to do? Option 1, apply regulatory status quo to nanotechnology. EPA White Paper on Nanotechnology (Feb. 2007). Primary goal: by 2011 to have sufficient knowledge to develop integrated approaches to assess, manage, and communicate risks associated with engineered nanomaterials in the environment. In the meantime, a voluntary program: nanoscale materials stewardship program, for submitting data. But they’ve been spinning their wheels for two years. Environmental groups have now dropped out of this. Lost all NGO support through delays. Polls show the general public does not trust a voluntary program. Only 11% believe they are sufficient.
FDA: in July 2007 suggested no new regulations needed. No new statutes likely in near to mid term. US Congress has shown little or no interest in enacting new statutory authorities specifically for nanotechology. Agencies coordinating the National Nanotech Initiative have denied need for new regulatory authorities. Unless some high-profile disaster occurs, no new statutes are forthcoming. But unfortunately, nano issues do not fit within existing statutory regimes. Difficult to figure out what “new” means. Is a nano version of a drug different than the larger version. No. So no need for new regulation to go along with it. Difficulty of defining what nanotechnology even is. Does it make sense to treat nanotechnology as a single category? Existing regulatory scheme ignores social and ethical concerns. It’s beyond the jurisdiction of agencies such as the FDA. Our current situation is tenable. We’re heading towards irreversible stigmitization.
Option 2: Precautionary Principle. He is a critic, doesn’t think it works. Puts burden of proof on the proponent of the technology. Many false negatives, but tons of false positives, like coffee and chocolate. But the PP has proliferated, into more than 60 international environmental treaties. It’s in the national constitution of France. Adopted by the City of San Francisco and Seattle. Being applied as binding law by some courts (Australia, New Zealand, India). But there is no standard version of the PP. There are over 50 different formulations of the PP! Threat dimension, uncertainty dimension, action dimension, etc. How much threat/risk does there need to be? The PP is totally ambiguous. He’s asked proponents of the PP what they mean but they always dodge. The PP has been applied arbitrarily.
Zambia refused US food aid because corn contained GMO kernels. France banned Red Bull energy drinks. Support for EU subsidization of coal-mining industry (don’t know why). Netherlands prohibited vitamin-fortified Corn Flakes based on it. Why is the PP not applied to herbal supplements, tourism (destroys the environment), asteroids, toothpicks, bean sprouts, organic foods? Risks of excessive precaution. Potential for precaution disproportionate to benefits.
Many people think there needs to be a brand new model. Nanotech is fortunate to have several organizations that can play a key role: Wilson Center Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies, Foresight Institute, Center for Responsible Nanotechnology. Concluding thought: a slide with two cave men talking, one saying, “Something’s just not right–our air is clean, our water is pure, we all get plenty of exercise, everything we eat is organic and free-range, yet nobody lives past thirty”.
Doug Mulhall: patent regime will be destroyed by the GRAIN (genetics, robotics, AI, nano) technologies.
Gary Marchant: some legal scholars have looked into the possibility of a post-nano world.
Commenters are agreeing that the government cannot move as fast as technology progresses. What kind of government can deal with this?
Day One over. Time to go have wine and cheese.
Chris Phoenix, Director of Research, CRN
Keynote: “A history of nanotechnology — From 1959 to 2029″
8:40 – 9:50AM
Today’s first speaker is Chris Phoenix, the research half of the high-powered duo that is the core of CRN. Yesterday we heard about biotech, now we go into biotech.
I’ve divided nanotech into four time periods. Pre-”nanotech”, then till the present, present till nanofactories, then a few years beyond nanofactories (highly speculative). Important technologies I’ll be talking about: nanoscale technologies molecular manufacturing, a little bit about other significant technologies.
Can trace nanotech back to Richard Feynman’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom talk. Colloids, electron microscopy, and von Neumanan around the same period. Von Neuman’s thoughts on software led to computer science. His ideas on self-replicating machines have not been realized yet, but they’re closed. In the early 80s, Drexler published peer-reviewed articles on nanotechnology, including focus on protein engineering.
Mid-1980s: Nanotechnology begins. Engines of Creation published, Foresight Institute founded, “grey goo” worries began, “universal assembler”, “disassembler”, nanotechnology. The phrase “universal assembler” was never used, but “universal assemblers” — he never implies a single assembler could do everything. Because “grey goo” had an alliterative name, it caught on and haunts nanotech to this day. Nanotech arms race discussion was largely ignored. At the time, Drexler was looking for a biological perspective, the idea of a nano-assisted bacterium that could not be killed. Eventually nanotech developed to focus on nanofactories, the grey goo risk began to look like less of a big deal, but the media continued to be preoccupied with it.
Early conception of molecular manufacturing (MM): based on biology, high performance (copies in 15 minutes), large potential impact. Engines of Creation attracted unsavory characters: transhumanists, cryonicists, etc. This led to a conflict with the scientific establishment, which also frowned on the popular book EoC.
MM’s power: scaling laws, low friction and wear, general purpose manufacturing (download the blueprint, print it an hour or so later), highly reliable, high material strength, inexpensive material (carbon). We have rapid prototyping systems today, but they only built shapes. With MM you could build this $3,000 projector in an hour for about $10. Because carbon is so easily available, massive mining and political problems could be avoided.
Skepticism: how can a machine reproduce?, won’t quantum uncertainty?, how can you power it?, how can you control it?, chemistry is too unreliable! Some objections: because we don’t like it and we’ll think of something. None of the objections showed any numbers. As time went on, large numbers of calculations to show it would work, none to show it wouldn’t. Some objections were couched in scientific language: “Hisenberg Uncertainty Principle!” But like mechanical vibrations at the macro-scale, this is not be a showstopper, just an engineering challenge. Most people didn’t look closely at the theory before they objected. Scorn appeared on both sides: which still exists.
One of the things that CRN has been doing over the past five years is communicate with scientists and diplomatically chip away at the lack of understanding and study that a lot of scientists have not yet rectified. In their defense: there’s a lot of pseudoscience out there, and maybe in some contexts, MM seemed that way. Ralph Merkle in audience: “Don’t defend them.” Chris Phoenix: “I’m going to defend them a little bit”. Many scientists felt it was their public duty to object to it.
MM promised great medical advances. Nanomedicine: robots that can climb inside cells and fix things (in vivo cellular surgery). Small and numerous. Respirocytes, etc. 1999: Robert Freitas’ Nanomedicine. With MM you can talk about trillions of bots floating through your bloodstream, increase your oxygen carrying capacity or whatever. Repair of whole-body frostbite (this attracted many cryonicists). 1996-2002: vasculoid. As some people became more interested in it, more scientists thought it was even more silly, and MM was full of flakes.
By the way, how did I get involved in MM? I took a class from Drexler in 1988. In 1996 I got the idea of bots floating through the bloodstream replacing red blood cells, talked about it with Robert Freitas. If it worked, you wouldn’t have to worry about bloodborne infections, bleeding, poisons, metastasized cancer, etc. 111 pages long, 587 references.
1990s: concepts mature. Drexler publishes Nanosytems: lots of physics analysis, diamondoid, nanofactories. Largely ignored outside the community. J. Storrs Hall’s “Utility Fog: the Stuff Dreams are Made Of”. More skepticism in publications like Scientific American: smear piece that didn’t even mention Nanosystems, appropriated quotes from EoC. Detailed analyses, like how long does it take for atoms to boil away from diamond? Practically never. Meanwhile, the word “nanotechnology” was co-opted by scientists working in nanoscale films, etc. Skepticism continued to get nastier.
Physics of Nanosystems: scaling laws. Shrink something by a factor of ten, what do you get? Power density increases 10 times. Component density 1000 times. Operation frequency 10 times. Relative throughput (very important) 10,000 times. An STM the 100 nm across can process its own mass in 100 seconds. J. Storrs Hall in audience: “These scaling laws are what makes Moore’s law work.” Other advantages: stiff, strong surfaces that slide well (superlubricity). Atomic precision. Either it goes exactly where it’s supposed to go, or it is completely broken. Because new products are exactly the same as the last, it requires less feedback and maintenance.
2000: Nanotech goes mainstream. National Nanotechnology Intiative started: $1 billion/year in funding for “nanotechnology” (defined broadly). 100 nm across in any one dimension. This was clever because computer chips were about to break the 100 nm barrier. Several other technologies were about to break this barrier as well. Nanotech defined as anything small and interesting. Why didn’t it fund MM? Because Bill Joy’s article in WIRED said that nanotech would be likely to destroy the world. One laboratory “oops” would release grey goo onto the world. This led to a strong incentive to marginalize MM. But Joy’s ideas on nanotechnology had been obsolete since 1992, when factory-like nanomanufacturing systems were judged to be more effective than free-floating bots. $1B of impetus added to the drive for scientists to decry MM loudly and often.
Nanoscale technologies: build small objects and structures with big machines. Limited project range, diverse but limited applications, lots of cool physics tricks. Not just one technology; not even a family. Materials, not products. Interesting things: sub-wavelength objects, new materials, semiconductors. A whole bunch of stuff only united in being really small. Market for “nanotechnology”: predicted to be $1 trillion by 2015.
2000-2007: nanoscale advances in many directions, nanoparticle concerns (media sensationalism), Center for Responsible Nanotechnology founded Dec. 2002. Still no funding for MM. Drexler/Smalley debate: depending on who you ask, depends who won. Smalley said enzymes could only work in water, but they had already been working in non-aqueous media for 20 years. NMAB report: we looked at it, had questions, can’t prove it won’t work. Opposition to MM slowly fades: Joy’s warnings in the past, Phoenix-Drexler paper on why grey goo is not an issue.
2000-2007 continued. Nanofactory architecture matures. Drexler/Merkle pioneered the idea of fractal, then convergent assembly. Foresight/Battelle Productive Nanosystems Roadmap. NanoRex: working on open-source molecular CAD program, NanoEngineer-1. Rob Freitas’ Nanofactory Collaboration: claims $100 million in 12 years could reach MM. Ideas Factory: instead of going directly to MM, can we do something similar? $6 million for experiments over 4-5 years. A mechanical system that puts molecular together and makes them reactor. A polymer system that can string together practically anything. A library of computational chemistry that lets you design STM reactions in an open way. My guess: 1/4 of the way to a nanofactory.
Nanofactory architecture: “Design of a Primitive Nanofactory”. Chris Phoenix, Oct. 2003, JETpress. Demonstrate that nanofactories could be bootstrapped quickly. Covered everything I could think of: physical architecture, power, redundancy, product specification and capabilities, bootstrapping time, etc. 73 pages. The main point: once you have a tiny assembler, it’s just engineering from there to a tabletop box that can spit out a box that can build as many motorcycles or bazookas as you want.
Burch/Drexler nanofactory animation: June 2005. John Burch is a mechanical engineer turned illustrator, Drexler is of course a nanotechnology expert. This animation made the physical architecture of my nanofactory obsolete! Planar nanofactory: can build more faster and more flexibly. Obsoleted about 1/4 of the nanofactory paper. It’s a lot faster because it only deals with nanoscale blocks, instead of convergent assembly with deals with blocks ranging in size from nanoscale to a substantial fraction of the final product size. Chris plays the productive nanofactory video.
NASA Institute for Advanced Concept Project with Tihamer Toth-Fejel: “tattoo needle” architecture. Recent advances in nanotech. Oyabu: pick and place silicon atoms. Schafmeister: rigid biopolymer. Rothemund: DNA staples. Freitas, Merkle, Drexler, Allis: mechnoasynthesis studies. Seeman: DNA building DNA.
2008-2015: nanoscale tech continues: better computers, medicine, materials, sensors. Nanoscale polymer that stops bleeding in 20 seconds. This really exists now, I saw the video. It seems that popular acceptance will slowly increase. People don’t feel the need to insert “assemblers are impossible” in every article.
2016-2022;:; diamond fabricataion by SPM. Push for nanofactory (may happen earlier). If diamondoid doesn’t work, there’s alumina and some other options. People will increasingly recognize the possibilities of MM. Eventually (probably before 2020 in my opinion), we’ll get a nanofactory. 2023-2029: general purp[ose nanotech, medicine, brain/machine interface, spaceflight, computers, networks, sensors, planet-scale engineering. Possibility of briefcase-size, air-breathing launch units that can carry a kg into orbit. Many possibilities and concerns here. Planet-scale engineering. Due to exponential growth, within a few months, you could probably build a gigaton of stuff. Probably you could build the feedstock processors and solar panels to feed and power the nanofactories.
Bootstrapping options: direct diamond synthesis (Freitas), biopolymers (Drexler), molecular building blocks (Toth-Fejel), top-down manufacturing (Hall), other covalent solids (in particular silica can be built by protein). Development cost of MM: in 1980s, tens or hundreds of $B, in 1990s, a few $B, in 2000s, several hundred $M, in 2010s, tens of $M, in 2020, a few $M.
Conclusion: MM will be developed soon, this is where nanotechnology is going, it will be more powerful, and more impactful, than we can easily imagine. The things we can imagine are mind-blowing, those we can't are something else entirely. It's going to take a lot of effort not to walk off the numerous cliffs that MM opens up in front of us. We prefer for it to be developed sooner rather than later, because as related technologies get more powerful, they'll allow the power of MM to be unlocked more totally. If developed in 2025, likely to hit more like a tidal wave than a flood.
Dr. Ned Seeman, New York University
"Building with DNA"
9:50 - 11:00AM
Because I'm a research scientist I don't make progress very fast. I've been working on this stuff since the 1980s and it still doesn't exist. I've been doing what I'm doing since I heard of Eric Drexler.
(Shows a slide of a woman among plants and animals.) This is DNA in life. This is not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about the structural properties of DNA itself. (Shows pictures of skeletons, then a chandelier of skeletons.) This is what I'm doing, taking something natural, then making something unnatural out of it. If you've been to kindergarten since 1960 you know that DNA is a nanoscale object.
What we have done is stolen something from biology: reciprocal exchange, a biokleptic tool to generate new DNA motifs. Design of immobile branched junctions: a four-armed branch of DNA. This is usual for biology, such as in recombination. But you can do other things: 5-arm, 6-arm, 8-arm, and 12-arm junctions. While I was in the pub, having a beer, I thought about the Escher woodcut "Depth", fish which were 6-arm junctions. These were organized in a 3-dimensional periodic arrangement, just like in a molecular crystal. At the time I had been an assistant professor for four years, and hadn't made any crystals interesting to myself or anyone else. The Escher woodcut gave me the idea of making 3-D crystals out of 6-arm branching DNA. 27 years later, we still can't make good DNA crystals, but have found many interesting things trying.
Bricks from Ming tombs: they have inscriptions so that tombs can be knocked down and rebuilt properties. In DNA: sticky-ended cohesion; smart affinity. You put two sticky ended-DNA in a pot, they form a hydrogen bond and a new DNA strand. Because I can arbitrarily set up different sticky-ended DNA, I can know in detail the final structures which get assembled.
The central concept of structural DNA nanotechnology: combine branched DNA with sticky ends to make objects, lattices, and devices. We've made tons of 2-D latices that can be imaged with an AFM. High resolution/structural: DNA as bricks and mortar. Low resolution/compositional: DNA as mortar only. Our long-term objective is nanofabrication.
Current crystallization protocol: guess conditions, pray for crystals, if it doesn't work, change deities or conditions, if it does, then do crystallography. Minimal feedback from failure. New suggestion for macromolecular crystals: use sticky ends to organize other molecules into a lattice, like biological macromolecules or nanoelectronic components. A suggestion for a molecular memory device organized by DNA (shows stereo image). Why DNA? Predictable molecular interactions, can design shape by selecting sequence, convenient automated chemistry, convenient modifying enzymes, locally a stiff polymer, robust molecule, amenable to molecular biology and biotechnology techniques, eternally readable code when paired, high functional group density, prototype for many derivatives.
What is the intellectual goal of structural DNA nanotechnology? Controlling the structure of matter in 3D to the highest extent (resolution) possible, so to understand the connection between the molecular and macroscopic scales. "What I cannot create, I do not understand" - Richard P. Feynman (but the inverse is not necessarily true). Many things in our lab we create without understanding.
More recent: DNA helix cube, truncated octohedron. 8- and 12-connected lattices offer may interesting new shapes. Buckminster Fuller's octohedral truss (which he patented). A common and tough arrangement, you may have seen it in an airport.
Construction of crystalline arrays. Requirements for lattice design components: predictable interactions, predictable local product structures, structural integrity. Think of impaling a marshmallow on a truss of uncooked rotini pasta. Robust arrays: DX triangles (Baoquan Ding). Simple bulged 3-arm junction triangle (1996). DX bulged triangle motif - double the width. Two tragonal motifs form a pseudohexagonal trigonal array. You can get beautiful honeycomb patterns (AFM images). The control: no array is seen when double sticky ends are converted to single sticky ends. It wasn't just the stiffness of DX from each end, but also the additional stiffness from the double cohesion factor. More work: DX cohesion of parallelograms (more AFM images). DX cohesion of skewed TX triangles, tensegrity triangles.
Progress towards 3-D arrays: long list of 18 names working toward it. A 3D trigonal DX lattice. This is the best we can do today. 1-nm resolution (10 angstroms). To an x-ray crystallographer, this is not good enough. They want a resolution of 1 angstrom. Large crystals, as big as 1.3 mm. These crystals singly extinguish under polarized light. Prtotyping the control of molecular topology: nylon-DNAA. THe basic idea: using DNA to control molecular toplogy. Hanging stuff off nucleic acid knots. Basic idea: N.A. knot with pendent groups, link the pendent groups, blow away the DNA, you get a nylon knot. First phase took us 7 years, second only four or five. We may see it completed in the next decade or two. This is a long-term project.
Another project: organizing 5 and 10 nm nanoparticles. The 3D-DX triangle: a DX version of the tensegrity 3D triangle. Then we attach a nanoparticle to the 3D-DX motif. Two motifs caan organize nanoparticles of different sizes. Organizing DNAzyme (enzyme but made out of DNA). Here's an image of a DNAzyme that autodigests in the presence of copper ions.
From genes to machines: DNA nanomechanical devices. Shows image of Rube Goldberg's self-opening umbrella. More effective than anything anyone's made yet on the nanoscale, at least with DNA! B-DNA and Z-DNA: left-handed and right-handed DNA. These can be arranged into nanoscale devices that transfer energy. A Sequence-Dependent Device: Hao Yan. Looks like two double-helices wrapped around each other. Eliminate a few crossovers, you get two loosely intertwined double-helices. Take about eight nucleotides, add them in, they change the number of DNA crossovers, and you can create a machine cycle where the DNA strands change state in a robust way. By attaching DNA trapezoids onto the edges of the DNA, you can get machines that rearrange their orientations to create a nanomechanical device. You can even get DNA that contracts its length like a machine. Baoquan Ding inserted these machines into a 2D array to create a device that inserts DNA cassettes which flip over relative to a marker. This creates an array that can change states.
A ribosome-like device: a DNA nanomechanical translation machine. The advent of translation was a watershed event in the evolution of life. It introduces chemical diversity into the RNA world and freed it from the constraints of RNA chemistry. We hope to achieve the same artificially. (Shows a complex machine that changes orientation of DNA trapezoids in a sequence-dependent way.) Some parts of the strand act as codon equivalents. Molecularly-precise DNA is easy to get -- molecularly precise polymers are not. So we attach little polymer components to this nanomechanical machine and use it to organize these with the same precision and diversity used in proteins to organize amino acids. DNA walking Zyvex.com, ZyvexPro.com, ZyvexLabs.com, ZyvexAsia.com.
12:30 – 1:00PM: Lunch
Jack Smith, Office of the National Science Advisor, Canada
“Seeing the nano future through storytelling”
1:00PM – 1:30PM
Current mindsets are often limited. We try to keep track of who is saying what in long-term horizons. Brockman’s list, Business 2.0 list, Fraunhofer-Germany long-term tech list. Our foresight tools: we like expert technical panels. 4-7 is best, 10 is confusing. Plots are important. Plots useful when transparent, consistently structured, precise. More specific question, the better the scenario. Evocative names help recognition and thematic links. Focus is critical to engage key stakeholders. Rich context, provocative diversity, relate to percevied needs and opportunities, designate some edges, choices, boundaries.
Relevance-importance: plausibility, technical feasibility, probability, convergence character, disruptive potential, relative preference, relative expectation, instant buzz factor. Spheres of influence: ecological, economic-productive, socio-ethical, educational, geo-political, military-intelligence, values and culture.
US National Reconnaissance Office: Proteus. 5-6 scenarios. One of them: Amazon.plague. A global plague that kills millions, what happens to security, investment, paranoia, etc. Meta-insights: Protean Insights. Naval Post-Graduate School participated.
Environmental scanning: strategic trends, critical drivers and uncertainties (amenable to stakeholder actions), possible shocks (wild cards). Macro shaping trends: ambient intelligence (progress toward the Singularity), miniaturization, globalization, anti-globalization, de-carbonization, harmonization, migration, intensification, differentiation of wealth, bipolarization of religion values, virtualization, etc. Key societal change domains: demographics, science and tech, environment, attitudes, beliefs, global economy, government. ONSA connections: various governments and universities. It’s important that these processes are global in nature.
Foresight process overview: define topic, review situation, identify key lenses, answer challenge questions, identify change drivers, select critical drivers, identify scenarios, populate each scenario, backcast to present, synthesis and recommendations.
Three revolutions in science: nanotechnology, advanced computation, and systems biology. Carbon nanotubes: convergent potentials. Research methodology: each technology/application area was evaluated by each expert panel member on three relevant dimensions: commercial potential technical feasibility, public policy issues. Various charts of key technologies over the next 10-20 years, showing anticipated market size, likelihood, etc.
Converging technologies for Canada: “clean coal” technologies, bio-nano-health monitors, implantable nanoarrays for livestock, CO2 sequestration, etc. Shows a chart of techno-utopia, reason over hope and vice versa. Trends in nanotechnology: shows a long list of about 12 items, each a sentence long. Trends in infotechnology and ambient intelligence: another long list. Glimpses of the Nanocosm: various nanotechnology (non-MNT) items on the list. The Big Uncertainty: when, how and with what implications, nano-level self-assembly will be practical for making advanced machines. This conference is showing the leading-edge capabilities. CRN scenarios: shows the list of titles.
Ralph Merkle, Institute for Molecular Manufacturing
1:30 – 2:30PM
Me and Rob Freitas were working at Zyvex. We looked at the reactions involved in mechanosynthesis: building diamond. A link to the nanofactory collaboration site. Arranging atoms: diversity, precision, cost. Slides are very simple, clear, and easy to understand.
Shows pictures of bearings, rotary to linear elements. Hydrocarbon stuff is not seen in the media much, because we like showing colored images to the media. Planetary gear: it’s colorful and looks pretty, has sulfur, oxygen, etc. Simulations down at Caltech, looks like it would work. Neon pump: also simulated at Caltech. Making diamond today: CVD. A synthetic strategy for the synthesis of diamondoid structures. We need more than a gaseous vapor banging into a surface. Not enough control. We’d like to use positional assembly (6 degrees of freedom), highly reactive compounds (radicals, carbenes, etc.), inert environment (vacuum, noble gas) to eliminate side reactions.
Thermal noise: the more heat, the more of a problem. The stiffer, the more positional accuracy you get and the better it is. Plug in some reasonable numbers (300K temp.) and you get a positional accuracy of 0.2 angstroms. Critics of MNT ignore this analysis, ignore biology, ignore everything. If you see them, they’re wrong. I’ve seen many, and they’re just wrong.
Annotated bibliography on diamondoid mechanosynthesis is available at molecular assembler website. Shows a movie of the hydrogen abstraction tool that does the basics of mechanosynthesis. Theoretical bibliography (about 20 papers)–this is one of the slides that is flashed on the screen to impress you. There are references to actual published papers here, it’s true.
Say you want to make almost anything: high complexity; over 100 elements in periodic table, over 100 tools, combinatorial explosion in considering reaction sequences, can build almost any structure consistent with physical law, great flexibility in synthesis. New paper in preparation: A Minimal Toolset for Positional Diamond Mechanosynthesis. Three elements: H, C, Ge. Limits combinatorial explosion, H and C can build almost any rigid structure, (diamond, lonsdaleite, graphite, bucktubes, fullernes, carbyne, organic compounds). Ge provides “just enough” synthetic flexibility.
Computational methods: 1630 tooltip/workpiece structures, 65 reaction sequences, 328 reaction steps, 354 pathological side reactions, 1321 reported energies, consuming 102,188 CPU-hours (using 1-GHz CPUs). Sometimes things don’t do the way you want them to do. Analyze the bad reactions, make sure that you have them under control. We tried out a lot of stuff and threw it away. Gaussian 98 was the chemistry program used.
Molecular tools: shows about ten tooltips. Some hold onto hydrogen weakly so they can donate hydrogen to a surface. Hydrogen abstraction and donation tools. Dimer placement tool. Analyzing all tooltips and what they can do based on quantum chemistry calculations. How do you recharge the hydrogen abstraction tool? Our Russian collaborators figured out a way (shows visuals of reaction sequence). Next, C placement (shows visuals of reaction sequence).
Chemists always talk about reactions activated by thermal energy. They rarely talk about reactions activated by pulling on the molecule. The rules are slightly different. The question is not about the well depth. The question is the strength of bond in terms of force. There are molecules weaker in terms of force but stronger in terms of well depth. The Germanium-Carbon bond will break if you pull it, ignoring thermal energy. If you pull at 0K, what dominates is the tensile strength of the bond. This was an interesting point that took us a while to figure out. But we exploited it to deposit a carbon atom on the surface. (Shows various carbon deposition reactions.) We’re checking out a lot of reaction pathways to make sure they all work.
There’s even a way to build a hydrogen abstraction tool using a carbon placement tool. These tools are designed to build each other. Here is a reaction to build a GM tool. This is all in the paper if you want more details. 100% process closure, 9 tools, feedstock: acetylene, methane, Ge2H6 and hydrogen. Flat depassivated diamond and germanium surfaces for C and Ge feedstock presentation. Six(?) degree of freedom positional control. In some of these reactions you can get away with using only three degrees of freedom.
Future work: further analysis of all reactions, higher level of theory, molecular dynamics, etc. Development of directly accessible experimental pathways (the Direct Path). Funding of long term system design by conventional funding sources has so far been disappointing. Angel funding is more effective. Thanks so far to the Alcor Foundation, the Institute for Molecular Manufacturing, Kurzweil Foundation, the Life Extension Foundation, Nanorex, Zyvex. Useful funding has primarily been coming from individuals. Today’s experimental work is quite limited. To have a context for that, you have to visualize where we are going: computational and theoretical work. Maybe it will branch beyond individuals, maybe not. If we don’t get the research that computational and theoretical work provides, we will wander in the desert for a long time. If you don’t know where you’re going, it’s harder to get there. True statement. That’s the end of the talk.
Tihamer Toth-Fejel, General Dynamics
“How to build a nanofactory”
2:30 – 3:30PM
I’m a research engineer so I don’t know what I’m doing. If I did, it wouldn’t be research. I met long-haired Eric Drexler in 1978, talking about molecular robots. It took him five years to convince me it was realistic. At Barbara Marx Hubbard’s mansion for space-related gatherings, I used to talk to him about it regularly.
Difference between top-down and bottom-up manufacturing. Nomenclature: factory. Similarities: mass production, interchangeable parts, input/process/output, positional assembly, product and process design, layout/control/test, low cost. Differences: size, physical properties, massive parallelism, extreme automation, additive assembly vs. everything else.
One thing NNI has right: if you can’t measure it, you can’t build it. Nomenclature: metrology. Accuracy, precision, reliability, repeatability, and reproducibility, traceability, calibration, tolerance, surface finish, quality, interchangeability, etc. Nomenclature: 3D printers. On my keychain is a tag made of titanium. It was formed in a machine that builds it from dust.
Mechanosynthesis: I’ve been wanting to know, what’s the largest block we can use to build things from the bottom up? Sharon Glasner, University of Michigan: diblock copolymers built using string-and-block constructs. This is the self-assembly path. It’s useful, but not what we really need for large products. Self-replication: cellular kinematic automata. Modular robots that pick up things and put them together. (Shows short animation.) The system can make copies of itself. This is very different from self-assembly. But this assumes you have a finite-state machine. Self-assembly depends on weak forces.
What building blocks for precision assembly? Silsesquioxane nanocubes. In the last 10 years, there’s been a lot of development by the Defense Department. J. Storrs in audience: “T, what program are you using to show us these pictures?” Toth-Fejel: “NanoEngineer by Nanorex… (smiles) I’ll talk more about that later.” Perfect nano-building blocks. You can interlink these nano-cubelets and start growing them like dendrimers. There are multiple requirements, like controlling length and so on.
Solid phase DNA synthesis: overview of steps. This reliable process is why you can buy it for $30/nanogram. Can we apply this same stepwise technique to nanocube assembly? Problem: the cubes are not perfectly formed enough, and there’s not enough control using today’s chemistry techniques. How to connect the cubes to each other? Zinc fingers, Diels-Alder cycloaddition, photochemical bonding, pyrimidine photodimerization.
Another requirement: molecular actuator. It turns out that there area a lot of them. I personally like the interlocking rotaxane dimers. They look the coolest. Except they’re slow. Tip arrays: atomically precise manufacturing. Tip hyperarrays: dip pen, 55,000 tips, thermally actuated, multiple links, 15 nm resolution, fast. DARPA is finally getting interested in this. They would like to see people using probe arrays to build things. They’re asking for only 6 probe tips.
Instead of using pores and tips: perhaps you could use smart pores with a smart silkscreen. This is another mechanism for adding silsesquioxane nanocubes. DNA origami: 50 billion smiley faces. Arbitrary 2D molecular structures. Easily reproducible. “So easy a High school student can do it.” They actually tried this, and it worked. Little bits of DNA (“helper strands”) linking together longer strands. Pixelated DNA origami: this can be done in two hours. Once someone paves the way, following is easy.
What we really want is DNA-mediated nanocube assembly. I have simulated this in NanoEngineer, that’s it so far. DNA-mediated multi-layered nanocube assembly would allow us to start building solid-state devices. Hierarchial assembly, a series of self-assembling puzzle pieces to make electronics. Another way to do hierarchial assembly: polyominoes. Design-ahead: NanoEngineer-1. The next version will be able to handle DNA. Mark Simms (head of Nanorex) wants to go around the country, put on workshops where people design the structure, it gets sent to a DNA ligamer synthesis, synthesized on-site, heated up to 90C, cool over two hours, use AFM to take a look at it. From a publicity point of view, this will have a huge impact.
Even if all you can do is make pores, you can make water filters, artificial kidney, extreme broadband reconfigurable fragmented aperture phased arrays. That last one will increase visual acuity for your camera by four magnitudes. Negative index of refraction metamaterials: optical cloaking/camouflage.
The ultimate goal: desktop nanofactory appliance. When you have diamond, you can build skyscrapers a hundred miles up. A practical application: space pier. 300 km long. A linear accelerator to low-earth orbit. Everyone’s going to want one. People will start sucking CO2 out of the atmosphere. Think about Google: because it is free, everyone will use it. Tragedy of the commons. Keith Henson first remarked that the Sierra club will start digging up coal and burning it to save the rainforest. I’ve been trying to think of why this wouldn’t be an issue, but I have trouble. One possibility: government enforces a ban on using CO2 from the air to make nanofactory feedstock. That kind of enforcement requires invasive nanotechnology, which scares the hell out of me. One possible solution would be to make air owned. This would be a very frustrating choice.
Conclusion: nanofactories will be tipping point in the industrial revolution. There are many approaches. Coming to your neighborhood soon.
J. Storrs Hall, Institute for Molecular Manufacturing
“What could a nanofactory make?”
3:30 – 4:30PM
I feel like someone in 1950 asking, “what kind of software could a computer run”. If you talked then about virus detection, taking information from website users, etc., people would think you were crazy. They were only used for solving equations, solving equations, and solving equations. Timeline–computers. 1960 — centralized megabuck machines, in the 1970s — $100K and at universities, the 1980s — $5K, the PC spreadsheet, in 1990s — “a meg and a MIPS” desktop publishing, 2000s — “a gig and a GIPS”, moviemaking.
Timeline — fabricators. 1990s — centralized $M CNC shops, 2000s — $100K rapid prototyping hobbyist machines, 2010 — $45K, home fabbers, plastic/electronic gadgets, 2020s — nanoblock factories, most manufactured items, 2030s — full molecular synthesis, food, flying cars. I don’t see any reason for it to go significantly slower than computers. Before you know it, you have killer apps for home fabbing machines, cheap enough to be owned by universities and small businesses. Instead of a one-hour photo place, you’ll have a one-hour manufacturing place.
Today; metals, plastics, ceramics, wax, composites, icing, chocolate. Raw materials: legos? There is a machine made out of legos that makes cars out of legos. Raw materials: nanoblocks. Raw materials: CHON. The human body is 96% CHON. Wood 99%. Plastics typically 100%. Food: fats 100%, protein ~98%, carbohydrates 100%. Most everyday objects can be made entirely out of CHON.
Speed: always going to be a difference between a machine that does one thing in a repetitive way than a machine that acts like a a robot arm and is more general-purpose. In the nanofactory movie, we saw both kinds of operation. Anything at the nanoscale will move very fast by our standards. Some will be so fast that you pour things in and they come right out the bottom, transformed. Figure of merit: how long does it take to output its own mass? Not very long.
So much for the preliminaries. Now for the fun part. What could you make with a nanofactory?
You could make Apples! (Shows picture of an iPhone.) Bicycles. Cups of coffee, tea… Earl Grey, that’s hot. I’m not kidding… including the cup! The cup you can even do today. Most food. Only two critical amino acids have one sulfur each. Otherwise, CHON is sufficient. There’s a lot of stuff you can do with building proteins from the bottom up. It turns out that there’s some proteins that taste sweet, by docking to the stem of the sensor in the tongue instead of the clamshell top. So even if you want to build something sweet and non-fattening, you can do so. Diamonds. Eggs! Back to food again. Not hatchable eggs, because there are many cute protein tricks you can’t get around. Being able to produce living creatures is not in the easily foreseeable future. Folding furniture. Gadgets and gizmos galore. Headphones. Ice cream. We can manipulate temperature with this.
Instead of synthesizing a slab and meat and putting it in the stove, you’d synthesize it already cooked. We are assuming a specialized food-synthesizing machine here. Probably more specialized than our computers are today. Jackets. Besides optical stuff that would let you see 200 miles, be invisible, or, dare I say, project a laser beam to crisp someone at those distances… your clothing-synthesizer is likely to look like a closet. It’s interesting to ask what houses will look like with this. There could be mirrors that project what you’d look like with the clothes you’re considering synthesizing. No one is going to pull their clothes out of a countertop unit except in the very early days. Knives. These will be ceramic knives. It sounds like those Dungeon and Dragon stories where a magician conjures up a magical world that disappears when you touch it with cold steel. Since metals may not be materials of choice in synthesizers, we may be moving to a post-metallic world. It’s perfectly possible to make superior knives out of diamond.
Lights. Incandescent lights are not likely. Probably LEDs, in pretty much every shape and color you want. Money. This problem has already slightly showed up, with color printers. A top-notch home synthesizer could just print bills. This probably won’t be as big of a problem as people first think. Everything will be done via credit and identity authentication. Nanofactories. More social impact than the money thing. Office supplies. Perambulators. Chess pieces. A robot of human size and human and strength that weighs a few grams and can fold up into the size of a ball point pen. Synthetic humans: chapter 27 of Nanomedicine goes into detail about this. Tennis racquets.
Utility fog. This puts you in the situation of a magician, but you have to solve enormous software problems to deal with it. This is more blue-sky, latter half of the 21st century. Volantors. Similar to a skycar I designed for NASA ten years ago. It gets around the noise factor with sails consisting of tiny fans. This would require a mature nanotechnology to build. Watches. Yurts (hut-like houses). You might go camping with a small fabricator on your back, sucking CO2 out of the air, or using cellulose as feedstock. But not zircons! It uses zirconium, used for nothing else. No reason a home synthesizer would use zirconium as a feedstock. Future laptops could look like a sheet of paper, something you could crumple into a ball. It will know when you’re trying to write on it, so you can use anything.
Break: 4:30 – 4:40PM
“How soon is all this coming?”
4:40 – 6:00PM
Could global warming galvanize governments to develop MM? Not likely, it’s not on their radar. Jim Von Ehr: when I started Zyvex in 1997, I thought MM would take 10 years. Today I think it will take ten years from now. Ask me again in ten years. What is promising is that we are getting money from the government now. Chris: not much I saw today changed my timeline much. The timeline has changed a little bit in the last five years. I have a little more appreciation for human intertia. When I first heard about this twenty years ago, it seems certain would investigate this and start the downward slope of the roller coaster. But history has shown this didn’t happen, so it may not happen in the future. It will require some visionary that has many millions of dollars. Jim Von Ehr: I had the money to do it, but couldn’t attract the right people. No amount of money will do it with an average person. Phoenix: I think it used to take a world-class leader leading world-class people, now I think it needs a competent leader leading competent people. Merkle: without a clear goal, ten years isn’t enough. Toth-Fejel: the closer we get, the less sudden it seems it will appear. Hall: I would stand by the timelines in my talk. I see fabs following the same general timeline found in computers. If you believe that analogy, we’re halfway along the track.
Seeman: I don’t fit in this room. I’m not a believer in anything. 30 years ago I had a vision to solve a technical problem. I saw it would be possible to make interesting things about DNA. I see lots of complaints on this panel about not getting funded. On the scale of an individual private investigator, I’ve been reasonably well-funded. Recently, I’ve been quite well-funded. My program is not Drexler’s. I’ve built up my program as I envisioned it in the early 80s. Now there are 30 labs competing with me. How did this program take off? I didn’t treat every grant proposal as if I were going to save the world. In every grant proposal, I treated every specific aim in the same way that evolution treats every small advance. The first eye was just a light-sensitive patch. It’s a highly incremental approach. I’ve always fashioned each aim to have immediate value. We’re building a molecular assembly line as we speak, but it’s not very complex. If Ralph’s reactions work, then we should figure out whether that can be done.
Me: you all represent a good diversity of approaches, we have people from companies, academia, and non-profits. My question is for Josh. How many copies have you sold, and have any wealthy individuals approached you, excited about MM? Josh: I don’t know exactly how many I’ve sold, though I presume it’s done well because Prometheus approached me to write another book. Wealthy individuals have not come up and offered to help, but they have given me prizes.
Toth-Fejel: (to Seeman) what are you doing next? Seeman: to make things good in 3D. Incorporating devices into 3D arrangements. Open/close pores, molecular assembly. Algorithmic assembly as opposed to specific assembly. Braiding. More serious organization of nanoelectronics.
Treder: will the mainstream neaed to buy in? Hall: There are a number of established technologies that, as time goes on, are going to be looking for new capabilities to take the next step. Every time they look, they’re going to be getting closer to the sort of stuff we’re talking about here. Not many steps between the bleeding edge of current technologies and what we’re talking about here. Treder: so it’s an inevitability regardless of what people in this room say? Hall: people in this room can help by having stuff to offer to companies when they start looking around.
Phoenix (to Seeman): what can we do to accelerate DMS research? Seeman (facetiously): Make it work! What I’m doing with DNA got a huge boost from DNA computation. Presumably there is support somewhere for this stuff. Mulhall: will DNA ever be fast enough to produce things from desktop factories? Seeman: DNA is highly damageable and big. I don’t regard DNA as the be-all, end-all molecule. I view it to scaffold other molecules that may be better for specific purposes. Mulhall: are these two competing models or are they going to merge? Seeman: DNA is good for scaffolding, you can throw it out at the end. Right now it is the most convenient programmable molecule. You can use that information to organize other things.
Mulhall: other panelists’ opinion? Merkle: DNA used for structural purposes seems very powerful, with a lot of mileage going for it. Certainly Drexler at nanotech is adopting DNA for a pathway to a larger range of capabilities. At PARC, they asked us to take a week to decide whether DNA computation was a good idea, we said no. If you do experimental work, you’re more likely to get funded that computational work. From a philosophical perspective, both are good forms of knowledge. So DNA are different routes to the long-term agenda. Mulhall: to the entrepreneur in the room, what do you think of DNA? Von Ehr: it’s out of our future plans. Our approach is much more mechanistic. Phoenix: let me add some engineering. DNA actuators are vastly too slow to be used in a nanofactory of the design shown here. Motions on megahertz scale, computations on gigahertz. DNA can’t do it. Like building a rocket ship out of hay.
Attendee: How close is your simulation to reality? Merkle: You verify it experimentally. Q: How long would it take to build these actuators? Phoenix: they are saying several years to demonstrate diamond mechanosynthesis. Attendee: what about nanotech for imaging? Von Ehr: there’s a machine that can peel atoms off a layer one by one.
Day Three: Implications of nano/bio manufacturing
Mike Treder, Executive Director, CRN
“Circles of concern”
8:30 – 9:45AM
Mike shows us an image by Voyager, looking back towards Saturn. That tiny blue dot… that’s us, home to over six billion humans. We are seeing a massive acceleration of glacial melting in Greenland, receding more than 13 km a year. IPCC said 1/2 a foot to 2 feet of rise by 2100.
How long can this planet sustain billions of humans? Genetically engineered viruses, nanotechnological arms races, catastrophic nuclear war, superintelligent AI indifferent to humans, physics disaster in a particle accelerator, supervolcano explosion blocks out the sun. Our species is faces a series of threats. The planet will survive, but will our species last? We’re facing threats we’ve never faced before. In order to understand those threats, we need to understand many sciences: philosophy, psychology, sociology, anthropology, physics, astronomy, chemistry, geology, biology.
Molecular manufacturing, three spheres: power, timing, impacts. The little circle in the middle, what we know now. That circle needs to grow, but it hasn’t been growing fast enough. This community has been looking at this for 20 years and we’ve just begun. When that circle expands, it’s not enough to grow it in just one direction. If it does, we’re missing out on the big picture. We have to expand our circle of knowledge to cover everything, and that’s a big job. It takes not just effort, but coordinated activity and focus.
The solution space is an even bigger circle that we need to investigate. Key factors: health care, energy, and conflict. Sometimes they’re seen as orthogonal, but all three are related. Problems and solutions affect the other areas. If you’re focused on only one, you might not realize there are overlaps in other areas.
Robotics, nanotech, genetics, info-tech, cogno-tech, biotech. They are all are overlapping circles of concern. Back to the circle of different sciences. It’s too much for any one person to take it in and make sense of it all, but this is the challenge we face here on 2007. We’ve had this explosion of impact upon our planet, and now we’re faced with challenges we’ve never faced before.
Civilization itself has many circles of concern: economics, government, arts/expression, security, etc.
CRN has a paper it published a while ago, called Systems of Action. There are three of them. Guardian: how humans try to protect their interests and form organizations to do so. Commercial: companies, interest groups that focus on commerce, etc. Informational: more recently, groups have emerged focused on spreading information. Each group has a different focus and different principles by which they operate.
Circles of influence: the central one is things we can control. Beyond that is a larger superset of things we may affect. Beyond that is a circle of things we cannot control. The most important circle of concern are human beings and the planet. I hope we can go out from this conference, expand our circles of concern, and see how it fits into the bigger picture.
Part of a comment by Douglas Mulhall: “I like the word molecular manufacturing and think we should ban the word nanotechnology (in reference to MM).”, “CRN needs to use its limited resources to have the greatest possible impact in this area. Many organizations waste their resources by trying to contact “the public” instead of the small group of people who have actual influence in the research. You here this mantra again and again: “We scientists need to educate the public.” It’s nonsense, because scientists get their funding from organizations that have very little contact with the public. The best way to educate the public is to lead by example. This is much better than trying to communicate directly to them. If you show people you can kill cancer cells with nanotech, then people will care about it. They’ll get on the Internet and find all about it themselves. You can educate people one of two ways. Hit them in the face with something that’s really bad, or show them something really good. I would argue that’s the only way you can motivate people. If we don’t supply them with something really good, eventually something really bad will come along.”
Deborah Osborne, President, Police Futurists International
“The information revolution on steroids”
9:45 – 11:00AM
I’m a member of Police Futurists International. We have just under 300 members, we’re dedicated to professionalizing policing. Out of that group, very few are interested in nanotechnology. People are interested in the crisis de jour. I’m also part of the FBI/PFI Futures Working Group, a slightly more sophisticated group, but small, just like the group of people aware of molecular manufacturing.
I grew up with science fiction. I’m considered one of the leading crime analysts in the world, which means the world is in trouble. (Audience laughs.) Why is policing the same as 100 years ago? You see on TV they make it seem that we have all sorts of cool
stuff, like screens coming down, but we really don’t.
Cycle from Dr. Jerry Ratcliffe: intelligence analysis influences the decision maker, and these systems interpret or impact the criminal environment respectively. Out of every 1000 crimes, only 4 person area convicted and jailed. 6% of criminals commit 60% of crime. We have tons of records we don’t even know how to search, so we can’t catch that 6%. Maybe one person can identify someone, but others can’t. People are afraid of Big Brother, but us police don’t even know how to analyze the information we have.
CSI is fantasy. The mythology around policing makes it harder to move forward. Crime mapping: most people are only preoccupied with their own investigations and don’t connect relationships together. We sometimes use box graphs to make investigations more clear-cut. Real time crime center (shows Wikipedia page). They aren’t looking at data to look at new problems. We don’t have a lot of sophisticated staff and don’t know how to look at the data.
Cybercrimes: identify theft, fraud, intellectual property crimes, sexual predators. Internet threats: activism, hacktivism, cyberterrorism.
Estonia attacked by Russia via cybercrime: major commercial banks, name servers, telcos, media outlets were all hit. (Shows WIRED magazine quote.) We don’t have the means to deal with these emerging threats that you scientists are going to create.
Molecular manufacturing may bring good things, but policing will need to change totally. What if there were real time field reporting, real time analysis, integration of information, and collaboration by experts? Surveillance: cameras, GPS, RFID. Shenzen in China has issued ID cards which contain ethnicity, religion, home address, work history, background, and medical insurance. A company in Florida is supplying these.
I think that younger people will be more amenable to implanted chips to give themselves ease of access. I live on the border with Canada, I have an ID card I can use for instant access. UAVs have long been used by the military in war zones. But the technology has been adapted for domestic use and could revolutionize law enforcement. Half of information systems bought by law enforcement fail because we have no idea what we need and how to make it work. Some police agencies have recruited via Myspace.
NY Times: Logged in and sharing gossip, er, intelligence. A-space, a top-secret variant for spies. Even though people act like the government is really powerful, I’m actually scared by how little they know. Enemy of the State… I’m not afraid of anything like that. The Vancouver Police Department is poised to become the first real-life police force in SecondLife. SecondLife has a community police blotter. YouTube: watching the watchers. I don’t worry much about government because we’re going to become much more transparent. They’re “corrupt” just because they’re too lazy. Distributed citizen surveillance: Virtual Community Patrol. Chicago has open crime-mapping for citizens to submit things to.
Virtual Case File (VCF): software developed by FBI betwen 200 and 2005, it turned into a complete fiasco which cost $100M and brought shame to the FBI’s director. The FBI still has email problems. They don’t think in terms of knowledge or information. ixReveal Video: the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office. This is like a Google that will let you search for different fields: different concepts, like different modus operandi, types of cars, etc.
Information on steroids: interdisciplinary, available, accessible, affordable, empowers individuals. The “Big Sister” scenario; intelligence preparation for the community. Instead of “fighting crime”, let’s take a preventive approach and “promote safety”. Info-based crime prevention possibilities: nanotech property, identifiers/locators, outsourcing surveillance, other things I didn’t think of. What if we put embedded GPS tags in our belongings, which let us prevent that sort of crime entirely?
Current and future challenges: issues of jurisdiction, issues of location, politics, funding, education and training, bureaucracy, understanding, imagination… what if?
Brian Wang, Advanced Nano
“Economics in a new era”
11:00AM – 12:00PM
Overview: lead up to MM, world of 2015-2020, nanofactory impact. Fast production -> infrastructure revision years/months, not decades. Not just production -> clear hurdles to other technology. Choices that matter — faster growth not just economic competition but to save lives.
Background and review of the acceleration of technology. Metamaterials and superlenses: direct visible viewing down to 1 nm. Adiabatic quantum computing: some controversy whether or not D-Wave actually achieved a quantum computer. We will know over the next two years. 1000 qubits next year, which will quickly determine how useful it is. Superthread made at Los Alamos: 100 times stronger than steel. Similar strength to single carbon nanotubes in a bulk material. The high-strength material type of predictions made in Engines of Creation could start to be fulfilled.
DNA nanotechnology: will get very powerful over 7-8 years. DNA robotic aram arrays (Seeman), DNA origami (200-trillionths actual size map) virus assembled batteries (Becker). Total genetic tronol: gene therapy, RNA interference, RNA activation, metagenomics, synthetic biology
IBM nanogravure printing, nanopantography (billions of ion beams), thermochemical nanolithography (heat up an AFM tip, writes 10,000+ faster than dip pen, mm/sec) dimensions down to 12 nanometers in width, fracture induced structuring (60 nm lines)
Convergence greater than sum of individual technological parts. A lot of different technologies developing (picture of people) + molecular nanotechnology and technology convergence (picture of gasoline) = makes what existed before more powerful and accelerates convergence (huge forest fire). Improving technology that is underestimated: labs on a chip and bubble logic, nanomaterials revolution not just for stronger material (CNT-reinforced aluminum, nanograin metal) but also batteries, fuel-cells, CVD diamond, superconductors, nanomembranes, lasers, wireless, software radio, robotics, automation, AI, and UAVs, rapid prototyping, rapid manufacturing, claytronics, RFIDs, smart dust and variations, cryocoolers, magnetic cooling, efficient condition control.
Social change leading up to 2015. Mass wealth: I predict 15 million millionaires in 2015, double 2004 amount. (Extrapolation of Merrill Lynch wealth survey). Triple the number of tech angel investors in 2015 (UNH’s venture research center: 515,000 businesses raised angel funding from 234,000 individuals in 2006) $255.6 billion into US entrepreneurial ventures in 2006. Rise of China, India, and other countries. Long-term acceleration of economic growth. More countries, companies, and people able to fund technology and change. More companies and countries will be able to fund and achieve disruptive changes.
Faster than Moore’s law and the spread of Moore’s law outside IT. NAND memory, system integration, graphics chips (general purpose GPUs), falling price of DNA sequencing, synthesis. Technology projections for 2015: 200,000 – 1 million qubit quantum computers, billions of artificial or simulated neurons, NRAM (Nanotero) and PRAM (ovonics) memory, ovonic quantum control devices 2008-2013 enable flat computers, 64 terabyte flash drives (Samsung), gene therapy and gene doping, superthread — carbon nanotubes common, wireless, fiber & cable superbroadband 100Mbps -> 5 Gbps (Comcast, Verizon, White space model (Microsoft and others) overseas, NTT fiber demo results), gigapixel cameras (currently up to about only 12 MP for consumer cameras), claytronics, ubiquitous computing, wireless power/comm, China’s economy passes the USA 2018 +/- 3 years.
2015: nanomaterials, tools. Multi-wall carbon nanotubes: 10K tons per year by 2011, $10-50/lb. 40K-100K tons/year by 2015, $1-5/lb or less. Graphene (2D carbon) could have an impact, lots of money going into it and interesting lab work today. High-precision parallel AFMs/STMs/etc. DNA sequencing cost and DNA synthesis costs are falling exponentially.
Pre-nanofactories: impact from China. China’s production revolution is based on speed and flexibility. (Citation: China Makes, the World Takes.) Quick scale-up, Chinese factories can respond more quickly, and not simply because of 12-hour workdays. People think China is cheap, but really, its’ fast.
About 2015 — full-blown molecular manufacturing. What has been holding back technological change even against the powerful technology of 2015? Changing infrastructure has still been hard. Energy takes decades to solve, there are roadblocks to realizing full computing potential. Truly conquering space has still been hard. Bad choices and governance too (expect that to persist). All this depends on society and individual choices. Even if you can do it in principle, others may stop you from doing it.
Nanofactory capabilities; a one kilogram one-hour nanofactory could, if supplied iwth enough feedstock and energy, makes 4 thousand tons of nanofactories and 8 thousand tons of products ina single day. Possile to replace/upgrade more than our current prodution capability in weeks to months. This is theoretically possible, of course there may be caveats. World infrastructure could then be regularly replaced.
Nanofactories will provide the capability to physically and technologically overcome barriers to space, and various economic goals could be achieved. Collective mental restrictions (consistently wrong choices and bad governance/incentive feedback structure) that prevent full capabilities from being developed must be overcome. Example: coal kills several million worldwide. This is a bad feedback structure. Coal companies don’t have to pay for the people they make sick. The government is willing to tolerate the bad side effects because they want the energy so badly: “give us the kilowatts”.
Some past examples of underutilizing technology: nuclear power, nuclear propulsion. Trying to give up good uses does not mean bad uses are avoided, it just means good uses are reduced. People don’t study, they just have kneejerk reactions. Same thing for nanotech: to really understand and make choices you have to delve into it. But no one has any time. So they end up with these half-assed choices. If we kept building nuclear reactors in the 70s, we could use 80% nuclear power today (instead of 20%), it would have saved a million lives per year from coal deaths. Past nuclear accidents: Chernobyl had no containment dome, in Three Mile Island, no one died.
Any delays or production limitations for molecular manufacturing? If full-blown nanofactory molecular manufacturing does not happen until 2025 or so, there will be increasingly powerful molecular manipulations and powerful nanometer control capabilities. Use the advanced nanometer manipulation systems, only use molecular manufacturing for critical components, and even when we have diamondoid mechanosynthesis other simpler manufacturing will be used.
We need to maintain momentum once we overcome current challenges. Even if nanofactories are developed, we need to keep moving. You know Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs? I believe there’s a civilizational analogue to that, and we need to keep moving up it as quickly as possile.
Best non-molecular manufacturing plans and try to enable and enhance them. Dual mode transportation: mix of car and rail, cars that get electrical power from induction. 3 to 6 times more efficent than standard cars. Lets you go electric, prevent accidents, linear induction motors -> higher volumes, high speeds, no accidents. Today this would cost trillions, but with molecular manufacturing, it could become possible. Solar power in space and space colonization: current best is the Dnepr rocket, 4300W/kg. Mirror/laser arrays: 100-144 kw lasers, thirty two 4.5 KW laser diodes, $30/W 2006, $10/W 2010, $2/W 2015. Robert Forward’s work with laser-powered sails. There are ways to get up to a “science fiction” level of capability for space travel with molecular manufacturing. Food production -> stem cell factories.
Drilling down on industries and parts of the economy. Areas where molecular manufacturing could have impact: automotive and transportation, consumer products, distribution, energy, utilities, and chemicals, financial services, healthcare life sciences, manufacturing, public sector, retail, telecom, media & entertainment.
Productivity growth: depending on how clever and bold we are we can collectively increase growth to 20% to 50% per year as full-blown molecular manufacturing kicks in. After initial burst, what is longer term sustainable growth? Managing and maximizing hypergrowth will not be easy. Increase energy efficiency 3-10 times, increase usage 500 times. In 20 years at the 50% annual rate, we would be past Kardashev level 1, 60 more years to K2.
Restructuring for hypergrowth: you can’t have long multi-year studies or endless debates. varying certifications, easy certification for better power sources to replace coal, but growing beyond that would have more stringent requirements. Need multiple faster than real time simulations for assessing environmental and other impacts. Cannot have multi-year studies and assessments and have good growth let alone hypergrowth. Need to enable more builders of new industries and expander of industries. Get people from just re-allocating without adding value. Without restructuring some countries could get stuck.
More change than just production: room-temperature supercomputers, nuclear fusion, mass-produced high burn nuclear fission and large scale adsorption of ocean uranium and other minerals, super-charged solar power production, magnets, lasers, energy density, capacitance, inexpensive access to space from many different technology options. Nanomedicine, life extension, enhancing capabilities, AI and robotics, etc.
Business strategies; :premium for speed and effective responsiveness, detailed anticipation, effectiveness in handling transitions. Islands of stability in the storm of change you can exploit long enough to make a profit. No limit/high growth businesses and jobs: over a dozen available, including businesspeople, entertainers, etc. More technology for more robustness and ability to tolerate persistent imperfection. Some problems may not go away but may be more tolerable. Some problems can be leapfrogged.
Douglas Mulhall, author of Our Molecular Future
“Energy, ecology, and planetary engineering”
12:00 – 1:00PM
Nanotechnology is the biggest idea since the First Industrial Revolution, and will have a bigger impact. Big ideas have the problem of being born. Ten years in the course of history is nothing. I’m going to talk about three big ideas; the little ideas will fall into place as we go along, and we can’t predict them all anyway.
Energy: fossil fuels, start now. Ecology: disassembly principle. Planetary engineering: World Treaty Organization to govern molecular manufacturing.
Energy: replace fossil fuels by making solar competitive. We can replace fossil fuels with solar right now. It’s a myth that this is something in the future. It is not so difficult. We only have to get the price down, and that is happening now. Our economy is being governed by the most dictatorial areas in the world. Who wants to hand over billions of dollars a day to Chavez, Putin, and the Ayatollah of Iran? It’s creating enormous problems. But we can get rid of that substantially if we simply get rid of our dependence on fossil fuels. This is technologically and economically feasible today.
By burning fossil fuels, we have an endemic toxicology problem on our plan that is causing millions of diseases every year. Through this, we are bankrupting our health care system.
Current and emerging nanotech can provide solar energy and storage for most uses competitive with fossil fuels, so let’s get on with it. MM will multiply that effectiveness. This will solve: many political problems by eliminating dependence on unstable regions, disempowering dictators, and alleviating many atmospheric problems incl. toxic particulates and gases and CO2. Let’s get rid of fossil fuels, and stop screwing around. That’s the message.
Ecology: the disassembly principle. If the EPA regulations applied to volcanoes, they would be illegal. They should be creating havoc, but they’re not. Spewing billions of tons of waste into the atmosphere every year. Instead of talking just about efficiency, start talking about effectiveness
Regulatory agencies focus on wasate reduction when anture is the worst waster ut seems to survive, e.g., volcanoes, trees. Technological example: solar paint. Even if it were only 2%, if you put it everywhere, it would solve the energy problem. You can use things effectively but not efficiently. Stop obsessing over efficiency.
New rule: disassembly principle: everything returns to definable cycles. Biodegrade it, oxidize it cleanly, or deconstruct the product to base materials for reuse. It’s feasible for MM. If we’re smart enough to build desktop facotires we can design each product to be deconstructed. At this conference, no one has talked about how to take this stuff apart. People keep delaying on it, shoving it into the future. Right from the beginning, we should incorporate the principle of disassembly. There are a lot of products being redesigned to biodegrade nowadays. Some are also designed to be incinerated.
Jim Von Ehr mentioned that when you burn carbon nanotubes, they just turn into CO2. We have to make sure that things to be incinerated don’t have toxins. MM is ideally suited to this. Drexler wrote about this in 1986, but many people have gone right past it, preoccupied with how to construct it rather than deconstruct it. If we can build an assembler, we should be smart enough to build a disassembly.
Planetary engineering: management by World Treaty Organization. This is Martine Rothblatt’s ideas. Local and national management of the ecology will be rendered impracticable by desalinzation, massive material use, exponential wealth increases, and terraforming that cut across local and national borders. Current IP and regulatory regimes are breaking down and suffocataing innovation must be replaced. This world treaty organization needs to own the platform of molecular manufacturing and license it out to countries, companies, etc. The big questions: who can effectively manage MM and who owns theMM platforms? The big answers: AI-assisted management. 2) The world treaty organization owns and licenses the platforms.
Massive desalinization. What does this lead to? The Sahara Forest. I’m not kidding. Major changes to the world’s ecology. Terraforming: massive landscaping. Arizona, where we are, could become a completely different type of ecology, like a rainforest. Some of these huge transformations could happen in 5-10 years.
Nano? Someone said to me: it’s all macro in the end. Molecular manfuacturing will allow a huge throughoutput, unbelievable amounts of products, massive transfers of materials throughout the world, huge impacts on the ecology. This simply cannot be controlled by national governments.
Our problem will not be poverty, but wealth. As people get richer, they have a bigger impact on the ecology. Buying and using more stuff.
Treaty Organization: we will license you the platform, but we get to look at what you’re doing. If you screw up the ecology and don’t comply, we take away your license. Of course, you need to structure it to make sure it’s not Big Brother, etc. We must have an international organization to govern this. Not just for nano, but also the huge proliferation of all new technologies: AI, robotics, genetics, etc. Current systems, like the patent system, are currently in the statement of collapse.
The human brain does not have the capacity to compute all these issues. We absolutely need superhuman AI to assist us with this. Ray Kurzweil has made a very good case for this. AI is the monster in the closet that nobody’s talking about. AI systems that project more accurately what these implications are. What this means is that we will evolve quickly into a new systems, and that’s what’s already happening now. The first signal of our transition will be using AIs to help us manage the worldwide implications of molecular manufacturing.
Molecular manufacturing is a huge idea. You need more big ideas to manage it, because the current stuff won’t work. It will change not just what we do, but what we are — as a species.
End of talk.
This was followed by a lunch discussion,a panel that I participated on, and closing. An amazing and very engaging conference. I will share more specific thoughts in my next post.