Humanity has survived, and generally prospered, through various “ages” and “revolutions” over the last 10,000 years. They include the Agricultural Revolution, the Industrial Revolution and, most recently, the Information Age. We are now seeing the beginning of the GNR Revolution, standing for Genetics, Nanotechnology and Robotics.
The engine that is driving the GNR Revolution is the exponential growth in the power of our computers. Since 1958, Moore’s Law has successfully predicted that our computers will double in power (per square cm. and per dollar of cost) about every two years. In the 1990s it was thought that Moore’s Law would fail in the first decade of the new century. Scientists predicted that it would become impossible to fit more components onto a chip because of thermal noise. Human ingenuity has bypassed that obstacle, and now the “final” limit is a long way in the future – more than a decade away. Well before Moore’s Law “hits the wall”, our species will no longer be the highest intelligence on Earth. Our computers will have surpassed us. That fact alone gives us a lot to think about.
One, important, reason for the sustained success of the Moore’s Law prediction is that our computers have become the means of building better computers. In effect, our computers are self-improving. Not just faster – smaller.
Nanotechnology has become a reality. Using our ever-growing technical toolkit, and borrowing from Nature’s, we are on the threshold of creating the first “nanobots” ‒ tiny machines that are smaller than one micron (1,000 nanometers) in size. They could be smaller than a single living cell. The smallest could be smaller than the wavelength of light ‒ and therefore too small to be visible with the best optical microscopes.
Man has great hopes for nanobots. Enthusiasts like Ray Kurzweil, author of “The Singularity is Near”, foresee nanobots being injected into our bodies to target and destroy cancer cells. Further into the future nanobots could repair cell damage, including age-related damage. The road to immortality, even eternal youth, beckons.
But, as with all man’s inventions, there is a dark side. Over history, those concerned with killing have always been in the forefront when scientific breakthroughs have opened up new possibilities. Killer nanobots are a terrifyingly real possibility.
The biggest challenge in nanotechnology is mastering the techniques of production. It takes vast numbers of nanobots for them to have any consequence as a force for either good or evil. The experts agree that the only practical approach is to have nanobots make nanobots.
Self-replicating nanobots are coming…
The above text is from the introduction to my new book “The Nanobot Attack”. The book is a work of fiction, but its premise is very real. The setting is 2017, just seven years from the time of writing. Seven years has become a very long time when it comes to projecting technological change. Self-replicating nanobots may be here much sooner…
The storyline of the book has a lab in the Middle East, with connections to an Islamic extremist group, develop the ultimate WMD ‒ killer nanobots. On September 11, 2017 they launch an attack on multiple cities in the U.S.
That nanotechnology could produce sophisticated nanobots should not surprise anybody that has been following recent developments in that field ‒ and few would be surprised if such technology fell into the hands of Islamic extremists. Sadly, nobody would be surprised if the extremists were to rationalize that their God wanted them to use the weapon against the accursed infidels…
So “The Nanobot Attack “is not just a believable science fiction story, it is a commentary on the bizarre world that we live in, where the human population is divided into alienated religious “tribes” that, in extreme cases, can rationalize mass murder as something that will be approved by their God.
To dramatize the insanity of a world that makes such things possible, the book has the hero of the story, Luke Walker, escape the nanobot attack. His plane crashes off the shores of a remote Pacific island called Milao. On that island the hero discovers “another world”.
Luke Walker meets a beautiful islander (Gina) and falls in love. He says to Gina “I had no idea such a place could exist. If anybody had told me I wouldn’t have believed them. A place without cars, television, telephones or the internet – and yet a place that is, in the most important ways, a much better place to live. All those things that I was conditioned to think were necessities are revealed as not needed in your world.”
The island of Milao was colonized by a party of deists, fleeing religious persecution in Europe. The colonists assimilate with the Polynesian natives to form a community that flourishes without any of the material things that drive our world. Imagine a world without money!
But “reality” returns for Luke. The commander of a US nuclear submarine learns of his survival and Luke returns to the U.S. to fight the terrorist’s nanobots.
The rest of the story will be my secret for a while…. The book is due to be published early November, but interested readers can obtain a free copy (pdf file) of Part I of The Nanobot Attack by request (using the Comments feature at the foot of this article).