The Ministry of Research, Science and Technology have collated the material from their nanotechnology workshop held in Wellington earlier this year. Summary documents, primers and video footage at Nanotech Workshop 2009 – MoRST.
The Science & Religion Today blog picked up on some interesting things recently.
This seems all the rage at the moment – will we have chameleonware/chameleonware (from Neal Asher’s Polity books), changeling nets (Babylon 5) or invisibility cloaks (Harry Potter) at some point?
An impressive piece of engineering. A single carbon-nanotube molecule that serves simultaneously as all the essential components of a radio — antenna, tunable band-pass filter, amplifier and demodulator. Wow!
Links to a couple of images I saw recently on Mondolithic Studios’ web site.
Different Futures. The choices we make now affect those who follow.
Dark Energy. Resonates for me with William Blake’s lines from ‘Auguries of Innocence’, as well as with the dreams of the nanotechnologists.
To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.
Related stuff – Mondolithic search results on Greenflame.
After managing to find this week’s NZ Listener (it gets delivered 7 days before the week it’s for, and often gets misplaced) I see the lead article is on the accelerating pace of technological change. A quick skim though highlights that it picks up on genetics, robotics and nanotechnology in the typical popular fashion. I’ll go back and read it in depth later today. Still, maybe an accessible article on those technologies. See New Zealand Listener | Issue 3454 | July 22-28 2006.
I was struck by the cover this week too. Very like Herzfeld’s book cover below, and you can find similar images at most online stock photo sites by searching for things like “robot” and “cyborg”.
Picked up a copy of Digital People: From Bionic Humans to Androids by Sidney Perkowitz this week from the university bookshop. It looks quite interesting and I admit that once I saw the blurb on the back about science fiction movies – just after I’d edited some similar ideas in my introduction – I was keen to get it. From the back,
Robots, androids, and bionic people pervade popular culture, from classics like Frankenstein and R.U.R. to modern tales such as The Six Million Dollar Man, The Terminator, and A.I. Our fascination is obvious and the technology is quickly moving from books and films to real life.
Digital People examines the ways in which technology is inexorably driving us to a new and different level of humanity. As scientists draw on nanotechnology, molecular biology, artificial intelligence, and materials science, they are learning how to create beings that move, think, and look like people. Others are routinely using sophisticated surgical techniques to implant computer chips and drug-dispensing devices into our bodies, designing fully functional man-made body parts, and linking human brains with computers to make people healthier, smarter, and stronger.
Anyway, what is interesting in another way about this book is how it’s published. If you go to the publisher’s web site you can order a paper copy, buy a PDF (they have paper + PDF combos), buy a PDF of a chapter, sample a PDF, and search or browse the full text of the book.
Your book, delivered how you want it. Cool.
A few articles out recently that pick up on the potential of nanotechnology for the purposes of human therapy and enhancement.
Popular Mechanics has an article Redefining The Human: The Upgradable You which covers a range of technological developments relating to nanotechnology among other things.
The forever techno-optimistic Ray Kurzweil has an article in the latest Science and Theology News – Trends hint at a golden era of nanotechnology. Kurzweil see technology as part of the process of evolution, and follows the line of thought that human beings are in effect “nature’s technology.”
Then again working through indirection, biological evolution used one of its creations to usher in the next stage of evolution, which was technology. The enabling factors for technology were a higher cognitive function with an opposable appendage, so we could manipulate and change the environment to reflect our models of what could be. The first stages of technology evolution â€” fire, the wheel, stone tools â€” only took a few tens of thousands of years.
Kurzweil cites the synthetic red blood cell research noted in the Popular Mechanics article too.
And lastly, there’s an older article at the British Centre for Bioethics and Public Policy that looks at nanotech from within a Judeo-Christian framework. See CBPP – Going all the way? – cybernetics and nanotechnology (Philippa Taylor, April 2004) (and the closely related PDF “From Fiction to Fact: Christian Perspectives on Future Developments in Bioethics: Nanotechnology and Cybernetics” CBPP briefing series: No. 3, Philippa Taylor, Summer 2003).
Betterhumans.com posting Nanotech restores sight to blind hamsters points to articles that describe the use of nanotechnology to help regenenrate severed optic nerves in hamsters.
Spent an hour and a half this afternoon watching the documentary Synthetic Pleasures (1996) by Iara Lee as part of my research and also to get some discussion questions for Monday’s lecture on being or becoming human in Western technoculture. Couldn’t get hold of a copy in NZ so ordered it in from overseas post-haste.
IMDB’s plot summary says
Conceived as an electronic road movie, this documentary investigates cutting edge technologies and their influence on our culture as we approach the 21st century. It takes off from the idea that mankind’s effort to tap the power of Nature has been so successful that a new world is suddenly emerging, an artificial reality. Virtual Reality, digital and biotechnology, plastic surgery and mood-altering drugs promise seemingly unlimited powers to our bodies, and our selves. This film presents the implications of having access to such power as we all scramble to inhabit our latest science fictions.
That’s a fairly good summary. In places the movie drags a little and 8-9 years on it’s looking a little dated but there’s some really interesting material in there for discussion. What it means to be human, on the place/role of the body (consumer/consumed), on dreams of immortality and freedom from the flesh, as well as the bizarreness of people in general.