Thanks to a post from Michael Anissimov, today I came across an interesting article by Michael Berger on the Nanowerk web site that proposes some definitions for and distinctions among forms of nanotechnology. Although the entire article is worth reading, the part that intrigued me most was its explanation of the difference between two forms of bottom-up nanotechnology: self-assembly and molecular assembly. Self-assembly is the practice of arranging molecules into patterns that will subsequently result in desired forms and functions based on our knowledge of naturally occurring molecular interactions. Molecular assembly, on the other hand, is the theoretical practice of creating molecules atom by atom as if in a very small factory.
Although I'm not an expert in nanotechnology, I'll dare say that I don't see a hard distinction between self-assembly and molecular assembly in forms my imagination leads me to consider feasible. As presented by Berger, molecular assembly sounds like the attempt to force atoms into forms and functions against their will, so to speak. It seems that, even if we could do that, the resulting molecules would be unstable, at best. Thus, if atomically-precise fabrication of stable molecules is possible, it seems reasonable to suppose that it would be so only within the constraints of forms and functions that are congruent with atomic tendencies. I wager that expert advocates of molecular assembly recognize this, despite what I understood as Berger's suggestions to the contrary.
At the end of the article, Berger writes the following:
"Here is some food for thought: if nature can grow and operate incredibly complex systems such as humans, maybe our technological future is 'wet' – where factories seem like archaic, crude flintstone-like tools, 'machines' are really more like organisms, and we 'grow' everything we need. That would be 'green' and environmentally compatible technology in the truest sense. And nobody will talk about 'nanotechnology' anymore."
. . . food for thought, indeed. This seems like a good step toward reconciling the differences that Berger originally outlined between self-assembly and molecular assembly. In the same way that self-assembly relies on the natural tendencies of molecules, molecular assembly would rely on the natural tendencies of atoms. Perhaps I'm missing something here, and would like to be corrected if any reader understands these concepts better than I.
Finally, I'd like to point out an interesting analogy between Mormon ethics and the feasible forms of nanotechnology described in the article. Mormon scripture and tradition hold that enduring power results from persuasion rather than force, and that this limitation applies to God quite as much as it applies to us. Joseph Smith described God as an emergent being that found himself within a chaos of spirit matter, and thereafter sought to institute laws to organize the spirit matter to become more like himself. He further claimed that the creative acts of God are accomplished through organization and persuasion, allowing spirit matter to act according to its agency within provided environments, rather than seeking to remove its agency. Mormons anticipate that the give and take between individual agency and divinely-instituted environment will tend to develop us into beings like God. This sounds to me a lot like the idea of working to leverage, rather than work against, the natural tendencies of atoms and molecules to achieve the forms and functions we desire (and they "desire", by implication).
Question: What will computers be like in the year 2033, when I'm 35 years old?
Hypothesis: From experience and research, I think they'll become more powerful.
Experience: My old computer is slow, but my new computer is fast!
Research: I used the Internet to find the power of old computers.
|Computer Name (Processor Name)||Year||Speed (IPS)||Price||Adjusted Price||Speed (IPS) / $1,000|
|Busicom 141-PF (Intel 4004)||1972||60,000||$500||$2,600||23,077|
|R2E Micral (Intel 8008)||1973||60,000||$1,700||$8,300||7,229|
|SCELBI-8H (Intel 8008)||1974||60,000||$1,000||$4,600||13,043|
|Altair 8800 (Intel 8080)||1975||640,000||$700||$2,900||220,690|
|Apple I (MOS Technology 6502)||1976||430,000||$500||$1,900||226,316|
|Commodore PET 2001 (MOS Technology 6502)||1977||430,000||$600||$2,100||204,762|
|Tandy TRS-80 (Zilog Z80)||1978||580,000||$600||$2,000||290,000|
|Tandy TRS-80 (Motorola 68000)||1979||1,000,000||$1,000||$3,100||322,581|
|Tandy TRS-80 (Motorola 68000)||1980||1,000,000||$700||$2,000||500,000|
|IBM PC (Intel 8088)||1981||330,000||$1,565||$3,900||84,615|
|IBM PC (Intel 8088)||1982||330,000||$1,265||$2,800||117,857|
|IBM PC jr (Intel 8088)||1983||330,000||$700||$1,500||220,000|
|IBM PC AT (Intel 286)||1984||2,700,000||$6,000||$12,300||219,512|
|Compaq DeskPro 286 (Intel 286)||1985||2,700,000||$4,500||$8,900||303,371|
|Compaq Deskpro 386 (Intel 386)||1986||6,000,000||$5,000||$9,500||631,579|
|Compaq Deskpro 386 (Intel 386)||1987||7,000,000||$6,500||$12,100||578,512|
|Compaq Deskpro 386 (Intel 386DX)||1988||8,500,000||$10,300||$18,600||456,989|
|Compaq Deskpro 386 (Intel 386DX)||1989||8,500,000||$8,000||$13,900||611,511|
|Compaq Deskpro 486 (Intel 486)||1990||20,000,000||$14,000||$24,200||826,446|
|Compaq Deskpro 486 (Intel 486)||1991||20,000,000||$3,200||$5,000||4,000,000|
|Dell Dimension 486DX (Intel 486DX)||1992||54,000,000||$2,100||$3,200||16,875,000|
|Compaq Deskpro Pentium (Intel Pentium)||1993||100,000,000||$3,200||$4,700||21,276,596|
|Apple Power Macintosh 6100 (PowerPC 601)||1994||35,000,000||$1,800||$2,500||14,000,000|
|Acorn Network Computer (ARM 7500FE)||1995||35,900,000||$400||$500||71,800,000|
|Dell OptiPlex GX Pro (Intel Pentium Pro)||1996||541,000,000||$2,500||$3,400||159,117,647|
|Apple Macintosh G3 (PowerPC G3)||1997||525,000,000||$2,000||$2,600||201,923,077|
|Micron Millenia 450 (Intel Pentium II)||1998||855,000,000||$1,900||$2,400||356,250,000|
|Dell OptiPlex GX 110 (Intel Pentium III)||1999||1,354,000,000||$1,200||$1,500||902,666,667|
|Gateway Select 1200 (AMD Athlon)||2000||3,561,000,000||$2,500||$3,100||1,148,709,677|
|HP Workstation i2000 (Intel Itanium)||2001||6,000,000,000||$7,000||$8,300||722,891,566|
|HP Pavilion 752n (AMD Athlon XP 2400+)||2002||5,935,000,000||$1,200||$1,400||4,239,285,714|
|Gateway 700GX (Intel Pentium 4 Extreme Edition)||2003||9,726,000,000||$3,300||$3,800||2,559,473,684|
|Dell Inspiron 500m (Intel Pentium M)||2004||1,959,000,000||$1,200||$1,300||1,506,923,077|
|Dell XPS 260 (Intel Pentium 4)||2005||18,000,000,000||$1,800||$2,000||9,000,000,000|
|Dell XPS 410 (Intel Core 2 X6800)||2006||27,079,000,000||$2,500||$2,600||10,415,000,000|
|Dell Precision T7400 (Intel Quad Core Xeon)||2007||37,000,000,000||$1,600||$1,600||23,125,000,000|