In a recent interview with Good magazine online, noted futurist Ray Kurzweil spoke of nanotechnology and it’s wildest applications. He noted that virtual reality in the near future could be given a tremendous boost through the use of nanotechnology. Instead of utilising some kind of device (ie; a bulbous headset as seen in many Hollywood science-fiction films), “nanobots” could be directly injected into the brain, fooling the neurons into believing that the recipient was indeed travelling to some exotic locale, when in reality, their physical being was still in the comfort of their own home, slothing in their favourite armchair clutching a beer.
Whilst this all sounds like something lifted straight from the mind of Philip K. Dick, the rise of nanotechnology since the 1980s has been profound. It has scared many and, reluctant to applaud this seemingly wonderous scientific advancement, have been vocal critics of the lack of oversight and non-existant research into the potential hazards of the technology. For nanotech concerns the study of materials on such a mindbogglingly small scale (in comparison, on the nanoscale, one nanometre is one billionth of a metre – or the size of a marble to that of the Earth) that the established properties of said materials begin to get fuzzy. For example, at such a scale where gravity is no longer relevant and where molecules can be manipulated into self-assembly, it would seem obtuse to not give serious consideration to all possible risks. But instead, the pursuit of the control of matter on the atomic scale and creation of nano-machines has proceded unfettered, appearing to be lead by the ironic assertion that what we can’t see can’t hurt us.
It is believed that nanotech will one day render us all immortal, our bodies cursing with miniature robots repairing the inevitable decay of species. It has been reported (although, to this author’s knowledge, not substantiated) that certain corporations are already using nanobots, in particular, European food processors. Nanobots were reportedly added to processed foods, acting to preserve food in packaging for far longer periods than what is currently achievable. However, since the naked eye cannot see these nanobots, where do they go once the package of food is opened and consumed. Can they feasibly find new material in the garbage bin and begin to reassemble into a new machine with a new modus operandi? Considering the ramifications of interaction between nanomaterials and biomaterials are unknown, it seems pertinent to examine these issues before we are faced with strange biological, ecological and environmental dilemmas.
by Max Drake
(Freelance writer and artist for GritFX.)