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A billion monkeys, Part 2

by Rudy Nadler-Nir

Molecular monkeys scouring around inside your body…

“Breakthrough of the Year 2001” – a selection of the most relevant scientific inventions published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science – listed various scientific milestones, including making public the detailed sequences of the human genome, “correcting” cells that cause cancer, and the international statement holding humans responsible – at least partially – for global warming.

But the real winners, say the list’s compilers, are scientists who worked on the smallest computers ever invented. Called nanocomputers, these are molecule-size processors that can float in our bodies, testing for various information – and initiating action. The name is indicative of the technology’s potential – a nanometer is one billionth of a meter (it’s about 3 – 4 atoms wide).

No wonder the American Association for the Advancement of Science is bewitched – this is a powerful facility that turned on major IT players – from HP to IBM to Lucent. Making microscopic, molecular wires, switches and processors mean that future doctors could ask us to swallow nanocomputers that will collect information about our bodies.

These nanocomputers could test, for example, the sugar level in our blood and respond with internal injections of Insulin. Vanity nanocomputers could test our exposure to harmful sun rays and coat the outer layer of our skin with the required sun-screen.

Molecular monkeys scouring around inside our bodies will surely generate even more information. Aside from the moral and legal questions this type of information “harvesting” and storage will surely raise, nanocomputers are destined to turn the economy on its head – just as the printing press did.

Will we have a second industrial revolution? Probably. It will be acutely reliant on information, with nanoeconomy and nanotechnology as driving forces. Questions like “Still building cars when you could grow them?” will dominate our thinking. Atoms and molecules can be made to interact with each other – allowing you to grow your car, your shirt, your house. Using the correct technology and software, you’d be able to make any food, create any raw material and clone perfectly any product.

In addition to unlimited availability – your product could also have a self-obliterating facility – you may have no more garbage, no more pollution; as soon as you finished your food, it disintegrates (minus the portions you save for your cat.)

Our monkey’s parable is almost unrecognisable in its nanosuit – we now have multibillion tiny computers using themselves — and other computers, at a never-ending technodance. Never mind writing Shakespeare’s sonnets – nanotechnolgy will have the ability to create the bard himself.

* Related links:

1. Special Issue: Breakthrough of the Year
2. How Much Information? – EMC-funded University of California at Berkeley study
3. The Parable of the Monkeys – selected quotes
4. The Nanocomputer Dream Team

Rudy Nadler-Nir is an independent e-strategist and Brain-for-Rent. Check Rudy’s personal web site, at or email him at mailto:

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The Big Change is a business strategy blog and newsletter published by Arthur Goldstuck, managing director of World Wide Worx, a leading technology research organisation based in Johannesburg, South Africa.

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