Nanotechnology: Immortality Or Total Annihilation?

Nanotechnology:

Immortality Or Total Annihilation?

Technology has evolved from ideals once
seen as unbelievable to common everyday instruments.

Computers that used to occupy an entire
room are now the size of notebooks. The human race has always
pushed for technological advances working
at the most efficient level, perhaps, the molecular level. The
developments and progress in artificial
intelligence and molecular technology have spawned a new form
of technology; Nanotechnology. Nanotechnology
could give the human race eternal life, or it could cause
total annihilation.

The idea of nanotech was conceived
by a man named K. Eric Drexler (Stix 94), which he defines
as "Technology based on the manipulation
of individual atoms and molecules to build structures to
complex atomic specifications (Drexler,

"Engines" 288)." The technology which Drexler speaks of will be
undoubtedly small, in fact, nano- structures
will only measure 100 nanometers, or a billionth of a meter
(Stix 94).

Being as small as they are, nanostructures
require fine particles that can only be seen with the

STM, or Scanning Tunneling Microscope
(Dowie 4). Moreover the STM allows the scientists to not only
see things at the molecular level, but
it can pick up and move atoms as well (Port 128). Unfortunately the
one device that is giving nanoscientists
something to work with is also one of the many obstacles
restricting the development of nanotech.

The STM has been regarded as too big to ever produce nanotech
structures (Port 128). Other scientists
have stated that the manipulation of atoms, which nanotech relies
on, ignores atomic reality. Atoms
simply don\'t fit together in ways which nanotech intends to use them
(Garfinkel 105). The problems plaguing
the progress of nanotech has raised many questions among the
scientific community concerning it\'s validity.

The moving of atoms, the gathering of information, the
restrictions of the STM, all restrict
nanotech progress. And until these questions are answered, nanotech
is regarded as silly (Stix 98).

But the nanotech optimists are still
out there. They contend that the progress made by a team at

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

116).

However many scientists still argue
that because nanotech has produced absolutely nothing
physical, it should be regarded as science
fiction (Garfinkel 111). Secondly, nano-doubters rely on
scientific fact to condemn nanotech.

For example it is argued that we are very far away from ever seeing
nanotech due to the fact that when atoms
get warm they have a tendency to bounce around. As a result
the bouncing atoms collide with other
materials and mess up the entire structure (Davidson A1). Taken in
hand with the movement of electron charges,
many regard nanotech as impossible (Garfinkel 106). But
this is not the entirety of the obstacles
confining nanotech development. One major set-back is the fact
that the nanostructures are too small
to reflect light in a visible way, making them practically invisible
(Garfinkel 104).

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

3-D (5). Which is a big step towards
the processing of information that nanotech requires. Although
there are still unanswered questions from
some of the scientific community, researchers believe that they
are moving forward and will one day be
able to produce nanomachines.

One such machine is regarded as a
replicator. A replicator, as it\'s name implies, will replicate;
much like the way in which genes are able
to replicate themselves (Drexler, "Engines" 23). It is also
believed that once a replicator has made
a copy of itself, it will also be able to arrange atoms to build
entirely new materials and structures
(Dowie 5).

Another perceived nanomachine is
the assembler. The assembler is a small machine that will
take in raw materials, follow a set of
specific instructions, re-arrange the atoms, and result in an
altogether new product (Darling 53).

Hence, one could make diamonds simply by giving some assemblers
a lump of coal. Drexler states that
the assemblers will be the most beneficial nanites for they will build
structures atom by atom ("Engines" 12).

Along with the assemblers comes its