Feeds

Dismantling gas giants with nanotech

Anything seems possible in Arizona

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

The future is a different country; they do things more grandly there.

Last week, a small but impassioned band of forward thinkers gathered in Tucson, Arizona for the first conference of the Center for Responsible Nanotechnology. The Internet pioneers spent 20 years rejecting the idea of government regulation. But CRN's two founders and chief researchers, Chris Phoenix and Mike Treder, have been convinced for a decade that the potential of nanotechnology – by which they mean molecular manufacturing – is too dangerous powerful not to plan ahead.

Arthur Dent should have been listening to this

The week produced more questions than answers about what the world might look like if all of us had nanofactories in our homes.

Are humans going to be in charge or AIs, after humans have been successful at transferring themselves into an artificial substrate?

Will we need to work? If we don't, will we be retired – or unemployed? ("I've asked that for years," says Phoenix.)

Will families and value systems disintegrate because, no longer human, those things won't matter to us any more? (Yes, said Josh Storrs Hall, because "We will build it to care.")

How will we define what it means to be a person?

Should we replace photosynthesis? If, that is, we're able to develop better functionality. Do we build a planet-wide immune system? Surely, we'll need to be able to adapt quickly to newly developing viruses, just so no one person can wipe out the entire world.

How do we back up the ecology of present-day earth as we know it? And should we bother?

In fact, wouldn't it be better to move the entire thing off-planet for the final development stages? For safety's sake? Doug Mulhall, author of Our Molecular Future and an environmentalist with experience building water recycling and flood control facilities in Brazil and China, rounded out this idea by estimating that the asteroid belt could be deconstructed to provide 1,800 backup copies of Earth, each of which could become a different experimental biosphere. "And then if we break apart Jupiter and Saturn…"

You have never even really seen either planet properly, and have few prospects of actually going there, and you're not sure what asteroids are good for anyway, but you react with a sudden nostalgic affection for these endangered celestial bodies, as if they were polar bears sitting on melting ice.

These questions all seem more reasonable in the Arizona desert, perhaps because in an environment this harsh survival seems so miraculous that you can easily believe that anything could happen. That said, CRN is not based there: Phoenix and Treder work from San Francisco and New York, respectively. However, the conference's co-sponsor, Worldcare, is Tucson-based, and Biosphere 2 is less than an hour's drive away.

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
GRAV WAVE DRAMA: 'Big Bang echo' may have been grit on the scanner – boffins
Exit Planet Dust on faster-than-light expansion of universe
Mine Bitcoins with PENCIL and PAPER
Forget Sudoku, crunch SHA-256 algos
SpaceX Dragon cargo truck flies 3D printer to ISS: Clawdown in 3, 2...
Craft berths at space station with supplies, experiments, toys
'This BITE MARK is a SMOKING GUN': Boffins probe ancient assault
Tooth embedded in thigh bone may tell who pulled the trigger
DOLPHINS SMELL MAGNETS – did we hear that right, boffins?
Xavier's School for Gifted Magnetotaceans
Big dinosaur wowed females with its ENORMOUS HOOTER
That's right, Doris, I've got biggest snout in the prehistoric world
Japanese volcano eruption reportedly leaves 31 people presumed dead
Hopes fade of finding survivors on Mount Ontake
That glass of water you just drank? It was OLDER than the SUN
One MEELLION years older. Some of it anyway
Canberra drone team dances a samba in Outback Challenge
CSIRO's 'missing bushwalker' found and watered
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
The next step in data security
With recent increased privacy concerns and computers becoming more powerful, the chance of hackers being able to crack smaller-sized RSA keys increases.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.