The Radical Future of Nanotechnology

Comments Off on The Radical Future of Nanotechnology
The Radical Future of Nanotechnology

In 1959, renowned physicist Richard Feynman gave a speech titled, "There's Plenty of Room at the Bottom," in which he talked about scientists one day being able to manipulate matter at the atomic level.1  In other words, they would harness the power to make substances literally from the ground up.  Although it seemed out of reach at the time, Feynman called it a development that "cannot be avoided."

A few years before Feynman's speech, computing pioneer John von Neumann designed an unusual constructor device.  Using a robotic arm driven by computer instructions, the proposed device could build a replica of itself by assembling a successive array of small and then gradually larger and larger parts.  Von Neumann, who like Feynman, had been part of the Manhattan Project behind the atomic bomb, died in 1955, the same year Eric Drexler was born.

When Drexler was about 25, he embraced von Neumann's concept, and integrated it with Feynman's idea to create a vision of what he called "nanotechnology."  He first expounded this vision in a 1981 research paper and, in 1986, his seminal book, Engines of Creation, further clarified and extended the concept.2 

Engines of Creation: The coming Era of Nanotechnology

Needless to say, the science of nanotechnology has transformed the early ideas of Feynman, von Neumann, and Drexler into a multi-billion dollar industry.  But, the impressive results-to-date have come from our preliminary explorations of just three rather elementary aspects of that vision:

  1. Nano-particles
  2. Nano-materials
  3. Very basic nano-circuit components

You might say that our exploration of the nano-world is roughly at the stage of geographic exploration at the time that Viking leader Leif Ericson first set foot in what would become America.  Drexler reminds everyone of this fact in his recent book, Radical Abundance:  How a Revolution in Technology Will Change Civilization.3 

Radical Abundance: How A Revolution in Nanotechnology Will Change Civilizationbecome a paid subscriber for full access.
Already a Trends Magazine subscriber? Login for full access now.

Subscribe for as low as $195/year

  • Get 12 months of Trends that will impact your business and your life
  • Gain access to the entire Trends Research Library
  • Optional Trends monthly CDs in addition to your On-Line access
  • Receive our exclusive "Trends Investor Forecast 2015" as a free online gift
  • If you do not like what you see, you can cancel anytime and receive a 100% full refund