Sunday, November 06, 2005

Nanotechnology and Life

One of the conversations I follow closely (and occasionally with some amusement) is the definition of nanotechnology. As someone in the field, it is useful to know how people define nanotechnology and what makes nanotech special. A recent article by futurist Jeffrey Harrow (a discussion on the word “futurist” will follow some other day) makes interesting reading in this context. He talks about moving away from “tear down” manufacturing, and trying to learn from machines that know how to do that, i.e. the human body. I strongly believe what we learn from biology/life sciences will play a very important part in realizing those dreams. Proteins, DNA, viruses and other biological machines have already mastered “bottom up” design and can provide the template by which molecular manufacturing may some day be possible. But I would like to add a note of warning: the body is extremely complex and blindly mimicking biomolecular machinery is unlikely to work.

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