The Current Nanorevolution

Prince Charles and environmentalists warn of the possible dangers of nanoparticles entering the human body. Eric Drexler and Richard Smalley argue about the feasibility of “molecular manufacturing”. Recent science fiction novels warn of nanobotic swarms and gray goo that will devour the Earth. But where are we today? Is nanotechnology science fiction?

The current state of the art is no where near the visions of opponents and proponents. Yet, regardless, nanotechnology is revolutionizing the world. Nanotechnology is here, TODAY. The biggest use of nanotechnology is as nanoparticles to help enhance existing products, such as sunscreen and makeup. Nanotechnology is being used to demonstrate the building of cheap solar cells on flexible materials like plastic, the removal of heat from hot microprocessors, and dense and nonvolatile memory. The first products using nanotechnology as such mechanical and digital components are expected sometime next year. Work is ramping up for working models of assemblers, the proposed building blocks for a future of unlimited productivity.

It is telling that opponents of nanotechnology no longer argue that such technology is science fiction. Instead, they are at this very moment putting together the first proposals for new laws and restrictions to curb or even ban nanotechnology. Studies have been launched to determine the effects of nanotechnology on the environment and inside people. On the other side, new projects to accelerate the development of nanotechnology are reaching the funding stage. Profits for some existing nanotechnology companies are doubling every year.

All this is happening while only a small percentage of the public actually knows what nanotechnology is. Science and progress never require consensus. The time by which policy lags behind the state-of-the-art in technology is now measured in years. The point? Debate, laws, pros and cons are all really just background noise to a technology that is perhaps progressing faster than our current ability to deal with it.

Published by

Richard Leis

Richard Leis is a writer and poet. His first published poem, "Roadside Freak Show," arrives on August 21, 2017 in Impossible Archetype.  His essays about fairy tales and technology have been published on Tiny Donkey. Richard is also the Downlink Lead for the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) team at the University of Arizona. He monitors images of the Martian surface taken by the HiRISE camera located on board the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter in orbit around Mars and helps ensure they process successfully and are validated for quick release to the science community and public. Once upon a time, Richard wrote and edited the science and technology news and commentary website Frontier Channel, hosted the RADIO Frontier Channel podcast, and organized transhumanist clubs. Follow Richard on his website (richardleis.com), on Goodreads (richardleis), Twitter (@richardleisjr), and Facebook (richardleisjr).