Operative Name: Butcher
Assignment: Provide personal assessment of nanotechnology, and its implication on future operations.
Location: Jinx Laboratories [Classified]
Weapons: Jinx true-64 bit Unix Computer obtained from the Digital Equipment Corporation, and a limited supply of Coca-Cola Classic.
Personal Note: Damn you LB! We're way out of our league on this one. I wish that for once the higher ups would see fit to divert a little more funding to the labs, instead of constantly earmarking the cash for urban exploration and covert ops. That being said, what follows is my report on nanotechnolgy, as you requested.
Recently those hacks at the Times reported that some researchers at Hewlett-Packard had taken some time out from their busy days usually spent making printers, and had created a circuit the size of a single molecule. The importance of this achievement should not be understated. Gentlemen and gentlewomen, I believe the age of nanotechnology is quickly coming upon us. We must prepare.
For those of us new to the subject, a brief introduction is in order. What exactly are we talking about? What does it mean to have a circuit the size of a molecule? What are the implications of such a discovery?
Simply put, nanotechnology is a matter of scale. It deals with ranges of up to about 1000 nanometers. To give that some perspective, a 10 base sequence of DNA in its B configuration has an average length of about 3.4 nm . Our current ability to work on this level could be classified as clumsy at best, as current methods of manufacturing and molecular manipulation typically deal in ranges that are orders of magnitude larger.
Ralph C. Merkle, one of the co-inventors of public key cryptography and researcher in the field of nanotechnology, has likened current molecular manufacturing techniques to "trying to make things out of LEGO blocks with boxing gloves on your hands". Once the boxing gloves come off, then you are able to piece the building blocks together in whatever fashion you like. Computer chips, no longer limited to sizes achievable via photolithography, will operate at speeds billions of times faster than the ones we have today. Robots the size of single molecules will be able to perform surgery on a molecular level. And we will eventually be able to make pretty much whatever we want to out of dirt.
one billionth (10_9), from Greek nanos meaning dwarf.
In the following section, the highly trained Jinx research team will examine the areas that will be revolutionarily changed by this new approach: biotechnology, computers and manufacturing.
At present, we can take a vector like a virus and use it to insert new DNA fragments into a host cell. Such a technique capitalizes on the mechanisms that have evolved over millions of years of natural selection. But if we were able to assemble the DNA from scratch, or reconfigure the DNA in vivo using nano-sized robots, it would allow a degree of control that is not presently available.
Nano-robots could also destroy tumor cells molecule by molecule, could target and destroy viruses, and greatly increase human life span and quality of life. And self-replication would allow these surgical nano-bots to be produced cheaply and easily.
The downside of all this is that people, in general, already live far too long anyway. The world hardly needs any more old ladies rolling around on their Rascals, and even ultra-small robots can do nothing the spiritually bankrupt feeling shared by the majority of the world's populace. No, tiny robots can't disguise the fact that we live our lives praying to a blind idiot god, who offers no hope of purpose or salvation.
[Classified Note: Another potential complication comes from the potential for nano-bots that effect chemical changes in the brain, resulting in a form of mind control. It is our belief that certain rogue elements within the Christian Right have already begun an ambitious program of research in this area.]
The potential here is seemingly limitless. Computers performing at speeds nearly unimaginable today, produced at a cost of next to nothing, and becoming an integral part of everyday existence. The enhancements that are not possible through genetic manipulation alone will be realized through the organic melding of man and machine. Cybernetic enhancements will be commonplace, and will no longer be reserved for special operatives. The computers of today will be made to look like the worthless pieces of crap that they really are.
Of course, such advancement will inevitably lead to the further stratification of society into those who have an understanding of and access to Technology, and those who do not. Persons who do not understand the science around them will become mere drones in the service of the Great Machine. But the possibility of such a fate befalling any member or associate of the Jinx organization is completely laughable.
This new technology will also afford us with the capability to perform the number of mathematical operations required to simulate a completely realized virtual world, with the requisite dragons, spells and magical items. Our current research indicates that we should be able to raise our strength and charisma attributes to near immortal levels, giving our agents the edge over our pathetic, orc-ish enemies, so to speak.
Artificial intelligence will advance far beyond the realm of expert systems and neural networks. New forms of synthetic life will arise that are more human than even we ourselves are. These synthetic beings will be utilized as nearly infallible concierges and assassins.
In the far future, our scientists will become so adept at molecular manufacturing techniques that dictating the precise atomic makeup of the world around us will be no more difficult than a performing Fourier transforms at various series of chirp rates.
By rearranging the atoms in common substances like dead flowers and rocks, we can make cars, food, human organs, and powerful particle-beam weapons. Synthetic chicken will be no different than real chicken. Plastics will be unimaginably durable. The sea of waste that flows from our landfills like a great Tsunami will be instantly transformed into lovely diamond broaches. Reality will be mankind's playground.
The final drawback to this is that we'll all be completely insane. The human mind does not accept the casual manipulation of the very fabric of reality with particularly great aplomb. And the odds are nearly 1:1 that an overworked grad student will unknowingly initiate a chain reaction that opens a door into the anti-matter universe, allowing the daemonic creatures within to escape their other-worldly prisons, and feast upon the flesh of the innocent.
Nanotechnology could lead mankind to greater zeniths of achievement than ever before imagined. It could also drive us further into the depths of hubris and insanity than we thought possible. We here at Jinx laboratories realize that with great power comes great responsibility, and we shall endeavor to make the science fiction of today the science-fact of tomorrow.
Give us more money.