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MIT’s Gershenfeld: Desktop molecular machines within 20 years

The June 2005 Technology Quarterly report in the The Economist includes an update on the work of MIT’s Neil Gershenfeld (subscription required). There’s a summary of his fab lab project and some projections: “He admits that his far-flung fab labs are not the advanced molecular machines he foresees in the next 20 years on a desktop near you, but just clunky precursors.”“Dr. Gershenfled believes that the march he foresees towards personal fabrication will be a social revolution as much as a technological one — a democratisation of the ability to manipulate matter, just as personal computers have democratised the ability to manipulate information. Fabricators will, he says begin migrating from factory floors into every home, just as computers evolved from room-sized mainframes to the laptops and mobile phones that billions of people now use to run their lives…

“In time, he says, the separate, clunky machines of today’s fabs will morph into a single, universal fabricator that can make almost anything.

“Whether you believe that such a machine is just around the corner, or many decades away, its implications are truly mind-boggling. Fabricators would give people the power to make whatever comes into their heads and then share the plans over the internet — leading perhaps to a sort of Napster for real-world objects, or a new world of ‘open-source’ manufacturing.”

Indeed — familiar ideas to longtime Nanodot readers and Foresight members.–CP

4 Responses to “MIT’s Gershenfeld: Desktop molecular machines within 20 years”

  1. Branden Says:

    This really didn’t have much to do with the story… I got this idea to use lithographic type processes to spray atoms into layers to make nanomachines. Thanks, I just had to get that out.

  2. zn Says:

    seems like MIT can make something out of nothing , sounds good to me. and lithopgraphy? wouldnt all that pressure squash the atoms? maybe not, who knows.

  3. Will Ware Says:

    It’s too bad the cited story requires a subscription, many people (like myself) won’t want to subscribe just to hear about this. But there is other stuff about Gershenfeld’s effort. One is his “FAB” book (ISBN 0465027458, check or Amusingly, the reviews on Amazon are very polarized; people mostly either love the book or hate it.

    What’s really interesting is to read an Indian newspaper story about the third fab lab in India:

    Articles tend to paint Gershenfeld’s idea as utopian or impractical or controversial. There’s no new science or technology here. Even the sociology isn’t very new. It’s great that he’s doing it, but anybody sufficiently imaginative and well-funded could have done this fifteen or twenty years ago. So it’s too bad that it didn’t happen a lot sooner; if it had, we’d be much further ahead with it by now.

    The fab lab (and later, the personal fabricator) is interesting because it gives us a taste of a world of mature nanotech, without subjecting us to all the possible risks of that world. In the past five or ten years we’ve seen discussions of intellectual property, piracy, and reverse-engineering enter the intellectual mainstream, and a lot of bright young minds are pondering the social, legal, and technical merits of open-source software. These are good things.

  4. Daniel hazelton Waters Says:

    Mark my words

    Nanotech takes off around the very moment quantum computers do.

    I expect quantum computing to start taking off in 2007 – 2013.

    This is much sooner then mainstream science predicts but…

    Quantum Computing will occur at an even faster rate then moores law actually it will be an order of magnatude higher.

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