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Curtis Shephard
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 opposite, the disassembler.
The disassembler is very similar to the assemblers, except it works backwards. It is believed that these
nanites will allow scientists to analyze materials by breaking them down, atom by atom (Drexler,
?Engines? 19). As a result of the enhanced production effects of assemblers Drexler believes that they will
be able to shrink computers and improve their operation, giving us nanocomputers. These machines will
be able to do all things that current computers can do, but at a much more efficient level.
Once these nanomachines are complete they will be able to grasp molecules, bond them together,
and eventually result in a larger, new structure (Drexler, ?Engines? 13). Through this and similar
processes the possibilities of nanotech are endless. It is believed that nanites could build robots, shrunken
versions of mills, rocket ships, microscopic submarines that patrol the bloodstream, and more of
themselves (Stix 94). Hence, their is no limit to what nanotech can do, it could arrange circuits and build
super-computers, or give eternal life (Stix 97). Overall Drexler contends; ?Advances in the technologies
of medicine, space, computation, and production-and warfare all depend on our ability to arrange atoms.
With assemblers, we will be able to remake our world, or destroy it? (?Engines? 14).
In a more specific spectrum, are the impacts nanotechnology could have on the area of
production. Nanotechnology could greatly increase our means of production. Nanites have the ability to
convert bulks of raw materials into manufactured goods by arranging atoms (DuCharme 58). As a result
of this increased efficiency, DuCharme believes that this will become the norm in producing goods, that
this whole filed will now be done at the molecular level (34). Thus, nanotech could eliminate the need for
production conditions that are harmful or difficult to maintain (Roland 31). Moreover, the impact that
nanotech will have on production ...

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Keywords: nanotechnology meaning, nanotechnology examples, nanotechnology in medicine, nanotechnology engineering, nanotechnology upsc, nanotechnology products, nanotechnology in agriculture, nanotechnology applications

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