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Monday, February 17, 2014


Nanotech future: goodbye poverty; hello healthier, longer lives

By Dick Pelletier
    Whether you fear it, welcome it, or think it's too crazy to be true, this most publicized science of all time promises a utopian future with a scarcity-free lifestyle for everyone on the planet, and healthcare miracles that could extend lifespan to the edge of immortality.

    To achieve this remarkable future, researchers must first create a tiny robot assembler that can grab individual atoms and molecules and organize them into items. Futurists at the Center for Responsible Nanotechnology believe that this nanotech breakthrough could be realized by as early as 2020.

    The next step is to build a Star Trek-like replicator machine called a nanofactory with billions of assemblers inside. This machine, which experts believe could be created by mid-2020s, will sit on countertops and make products similar to the way that life creates its miracles.

    Guided by Internet-delivered software, robot assemblers will pull atoms from supplied chemicals, or eventually, something as inexpensive as dirt, air, and water; then reposition those atoms, turning them into clothing, medicine, appliances, tonight's dinner; or even another nanofactory.

    Nanofactories could provide nearly all living essentials at little or no cost. Even people in third world nations living in remote locations will have access to this science as this versatile machine can be instructed to replicate inexpensive copies of itself.

    In their book, Revolutionary Wealth, Alvin and Heidi Toffler argue that we are on the verge of a post-scarcity time that will alleviate most of today's poverty. In an online essay, futurist Steve Burgess predicts that by 2025, nanoreplicators will launch an unprecedented era of abundance.

    Perhaps the boldest application of nanotechnology lies in healthcare. Most sickness, injury and stress can be traced to cellular malfunction. Current medicine does not allow doctors to treat selective cells.

    Today's medical solutions focus on treatments that often include negative side effects. Surgery saves lives, but it also causes trauma. Chemotherapy destroys cancer, but healthy cells die in the process; and far too often, the cancer returns.

    Enter nanotech. In clinical trials, doctors are injecting nanoparticles that seek out only cancer cells and destroy them without harming other tissues. In fact, the potential of nanotech encouraged a former National Cancer Institute director to challenge the group to eliminate all deaths from this dreaded disease by 2015.

    Later in this decade, nanomaterials will create lattices allowing stem cells to grow new body parts to replace aging and worn organs, bone, muscles, and skin. This will enable many older people to recapture their youthful form.

    At a recent conference, Pursuing the Longevity Dividend, anti-aging scientist Jay Olshansky said that "humanity is about to experience radical changes in medical technology, which will provide healthier and longer lives for everyone."

    Other nanomarvels include solar cells printed on Saran Wrap-like rolls, which by 2015, will convert rooftops into power generators. By 2020, nanomaterials will analyze vitals and display information on the skin like a temporary tattoo.

    By 2030, nanobots will visit every cell in our body to maintain perfect health and finally bring an end to humanity's greatest scourge – aging. Welcome to immortality!

    Can this incredible "magical future" unfold in such a rapid timescale? Positive futurists believe that it can.

This article appeared in various print publications and on-line blogs. Comments always welcome.

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