Feeds

Dismantling gas giants with nanotech

Anything seems possible in Arizona

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

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.

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
MARS NEEDS WOMEN, claims NASA pseudo 'naut: They eat less
'Some might find this idea offensive' boffin admits
LOHAN crash lands on CNN
Overflies Die Welt en route to lively US news vid
Comet Siding Spring revealed as flying molehill
Hiding from this space pimple isn't going to do humanity's reputation any good
Experts brand LOHAN's squeaky-clean box
Phytosanitary treatment renders Vulture 2 crate fit for export
No sail: NASA spikes Sunjammer
'Solar sail' demonstrator project binned
Carry On Cosmonaut: Willful Child is a poor taste Star Trek parody
Cringeworthy, crude and crass jokes abound in Steven Erikson’s sci-fi debut
Origins of SEXUAL INTERCOURSE fished out of SCOTTISH LAKE
Fossil find proves it first happened 385 million years ago
Human spacecraft dodge COMET CHUNKS pelting off Mars
Odyssey orbiter yet to report, though - comet's trailing trash poses new threat
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.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.