Ray Kurzweil on the Future of Nanotechnology

Question: How will nanotechnology help us live longer?

Kurzweil:    Nanotechnologies are broad concept, it’s simply refers to technology where the key features in measuring the small number of nanometers.  A nanometer is the diameter 5 carbon atom so it’s very close to the molecular level and we already have new materials and devices that had been manufactured at the nanoscale.  In fact, chips today, the key features are 50 or 60 nanometers so that is already nanotechnology.  The true promise of nanotechnology is that ultimately we’ll be able to create devices that are manufactured at the molecular level by putting together, molecular fragments in new combinations so, I can send you an information file and a desktop nanofactory will assemble molecules according to the definition in the file and create a physical objects so I can e-mail you a pair of trousers or a module to build housing or a solar panel and we’ll be able to create just about anything we need in the physical world from information files with very inexpensive input materials.  You can… I mean, just a few years ago if I wanted to send you a movie or a book or a recorded album, I would send you a FedEx package, now I can e-mail you an attachment and you can create a movie or a book from that.  On the future, I’ll be able to e-mail you a blouse or a meal.  So, that’s the promise of nanotechnology.  Another promise is to be able to create devices that are size of blood cells and by the way biology is an example of nanotechnology, the key features of biology are at the molecular level.  So, that’s actually the existence proof that nanotechnology is feasible but biology is based on limited side of materials.  Everything is built out of proteins and that’s a limited class of substances.  With nanotechnology we can create things that are far more durable and far more powerful.  One scientist designed a robotic red blood cell it’s a thousand times more powerful than the biological version so, if you were to replace a portion of your biological red blood cells with this respirocytes the robotic versions.  You could do an Olympic sprint for 15 minutes without taking a breath or sit at the bottom of your pool for 4 hours.  If I were to say someday you’ll have millions or even billions of these nanobots, nano-robots , blood cell size devices going through your body and keeping you healthy from inside, I might think well, that sounds awfully futuristic.  I’d point out this already in 50 experiments in animals of doing exactly that with the first generation of nano engineered blood cell size devices.  One scientist cured type 1 diabetes in rats with the blood cell size device.  Seven nanometer pores let’s insulin out in the controlled fashion. At MIT, there’s a blood cell size device that can detect and destroy cancer cells in the bloodstream.  These are early experiments but keep in mind that because of the exponential progression of this technology, these technologies will be a billion time more powerful in 25 years and you get some idea what will be feasible.

The true promise of nanotechnology, says Ray Kurzweil, is that "we’ll be able to create just about anything we need in the physical world from information files with very inexpensive input materials."

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