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Stages of Nanotechnology

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Icon 26 got me thinking. How do you separate the many stages of

nanotechnology? What will nanotech's eras be? A lot of that depends if we
leverage mechanisms in existing biological systems (top down) or build things
from scratch (bottom up). I assumed that some biological structures where copied
but needed to be carefully built in a bottom up approach. This assumption is
based on the often overlooked but major advantage of more normal scale
mechanical structures, predictability.
Mind you if I get this obviously wrong that does not mean the science in the book
will be incorrect. I purposefully avoided the slog down to the atomic scale and
step by step progress to an autonomous nanite. It may have been quite boring to
be realistic.
I'm sorry if some of the later stages seem morbid, but in my opinion that is the
path humanity is headed down right now. I hope it can be changed.
Nanotech in a controlled environment.
1. Nanomaterials - Something as simple as chemical engineering with
samples at the nano scale qualifies as a nanomaterial.
• We are here in 2007.
• This is treated as the next step in traditional centralized
manufacturing nothing really new here
2. Smart nanomaterials - I take this to mean nanomaterials with
custom molecules that are both reactive to stimuli and whose reactions
are reversible and can be performed many times.
• Some may argue we are here in 2007.
• Some later materials will include super solar panels, and LCD
style displays on cheap stickers. The eyeglasses in the book use
transparent stickers on glasses for a binocular integrated display.
3. Nanotech Builder - Mechanical apparatus capable of building
structures that needs solid state direct control. Something like a
nanoscale arm that is controlled by a much larger computer.
• This will be the final generation of technology used to build
computer chips. Computer chips using todays archtectures will
permanently top out in speed a few years after the these are first
used in chip mass production.
• Nanotech Builders will be used to cheaply mass produce smart
4. Nanite - an independent vessel capable of taking simple commands
and building complex things with them in a highly controlled conditions.
• The companies MIR and Datahold from "Thicker Than Blood" have
the world thinking that this is state of the the art.
• This is the last stage that doesn't directly challenge centralized
manufacturing and subsequently governments.
• Early nanites will probably be first built to simplify the scaling
problems of signaling between builders and larger scale controls.
• Early nanites will probably require a vaccum.
• They will have a simple on board computer and command
5. Replicating Nanite - Nanite that can build another copy of itself in a
controlled environment.
• A system of dissimilar nanites may be required to build more
nanites. They will be replicating so long as the entire system can
be replicated.
• By obtaining a complete system of these nanites (transported in
a controlled environment), and understanding the signaling used
to talk to them a group of specialists could perpetuate the flock
• Governments tightly control manufacturing plants recognizing the
threat to themselves. Natural environment nanite development is
banned and driven underground.
Nanotech in natural enviorment.
1. Shielded Nanite - Nanite shielded from the the chemical reactions
and heat in a natural environment. Shielded Nanites can function
normally below room temperature and above 98.7 Fahrenheit. They
should also be able to function immersed in some fluids of the same
temperature range.
• While these can be used in natural environments, they must be
built in a vacuum environment by vacuum only nanites.
• The focus will probably be on operation inside the blood stream
first. The medical implications are enourmous.
• Governments continue develop shielded nanites for use in
• In the book, MIR thinks this the state of the art.
2. Shielded Nanite with Replication - Shielded nanites that can
produce more nanites with the same capabilities as the originals. They
will need a special soup to replicate.
• This completely commoditizes almost all manufacturing.
• Governments, economies, and currencies will endure a radical
shift away from central manufacturing and most trade will
collapse within a few years.
• People will quickly design superpowers for themselves.
• Intellectual property, commodities, land, and most especially
skills will dwarf other asset classes.
• The group of heroes in the book discover this ability in the
nanites they commendeered.
• Massive wars will be fought as governments fight to perpetuate
• Most non-intracellular disease is cured.
• Social norms are completely rewritten.
• Software nanite viruses are passed around via adjoining
networked systems
• Sabotage of supplies infect many people with hardware nanite
viruses. The first large scale die offs occur. Huge monolithic
government programs are created to vaccinate citizens against
nanite hardware viruses. Large numbers of humans physically
isolate themselves instead.
• Untaxed food, water, shelter, and energy become very cheap for
some, creating a massive population boom.
3. Autonomous Nanites - Shielded Nanite that can function and
replicate in natural environments so long as component materials are
• Intravenous replication. Nanite models are passed from
generation to generation like genetic material.
• Self perpetuating nanite viruses cause massive die off for people
without access to expertise in supplemental immune systems.
Poor decision making in choosing and maintaining immune
systems, like trusting monoculture, results in additional massive
die offs.
• Self medicating becomes common.
• Enormous population growth to fill in for lost dead.
• Governments begin to reform around new social norms and