In his BBC essay ‘End of Scarcity’ James Burke proposes that through the advent of Nano technology, more specifically the ‘Nano Factory’, we could be on the threshold of eliminating human want forever.
Nano technology is the science of making very very small things. We are talking about manipulating molecules and even atoms to make things/products. A Nono-meter is one billionth of a meter (width of 3 atoms)! Because of the industrial, medical and military potential of this technology USA and Europe have already invested almost 5 billion dollars into it.
Neil Gershenfield Director at the Centre of Bits and Atoms at the Fab Lab at MIT says we have a road map to making a ‘Replicator’ as in the fictional Star Trek- a microscopic self-reproducing machine that can make anything out of a small set of parts. James Burke adds that this Replicator or ‘ Personal Nano factory’ will allow us to build trillions of atomic scale robots who will work on production lines manipulating atoms to make molecules then doing the same to these molecules to make ‘stuff’… such as food, clothes, electronics etc. All this to be done in no time at all (nano-work time is much quicker than our work time) using only ‘dirt, air, water and a carbon rich material’ and using only solar energy.
Sounds too good to be true? It would be but were it not for the fact that the first Nano factory has already been built in Manchester university. Prize winner Prof David Lee of the Manchester University explained that their nano factory which is made up of only 150 atoms can be programmed to make things eg other nano factories.
But is this potential eradication of human want the ultimate Utopia that humans have been searching for? What would it mean for the social and economic fabric? Will holographic friends and relatives replace real people? Will we need to reproduce as a species any more? Will everyone get access to this technology? As a species can we ever be totally satisfied?
The consequences from this AI nano technology forms a part of my current art research and is part of the inspiration of my artwork at the next interim MA exhibition in January.