MIT's Gershenfeld: Desktop molecular machines within 20 years

The June 2005 Technology Quarterly report in the The Economist includes an update on the work of MIT’s Neil Gershenfeld (subscription required). There’s a summary of his fab lab project and some projections: “He admits that his far-flung fab labs are not the advanced molecular machines he foresees in the next 20 years on a desktop near you, but just clunky precursors.”“Dr. Gershenfled believes that the march he foresees towards personal fabrication will be a social revolution as much as a technological one — a democratisation of the ability to manipulate matter, just as personal computers have democratised the ability to manipulate information. Fabricators will, he says begin migrating from factory floors into every home, just as computers evolved from room-sized mainframes to the laptops and mobile phones that billions of people now use to run their lives…

“In time, he says, the separate, clunky machines of today’s fabs will morph into a single, universal fabricator that can make almost anything.

“Whether you believe that such a machine is just around the corner, or many decades away, its implications are truly mind-boggling. Fabricators would give people the power to make whatever comes into their heads and then share the plans over the internet — leading perhaps to a sort of Napster for real-world objects, or a new world of ‘open-source’ manufacturing.”

Indeed — familiar ideas to longtime Nanodot readers and Foresight members.–CP

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