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If you are going to read one non-technical book on nanotechnology, this is the one. Drexler describes how a manufacturing technology could develop in which the basic parts are individual atoms precisely placed according to design, rather than handled in "unruly herds". He explains how we can think about technologies that have not yet been developed, and explores both the opportunities and the perils that these technologis will present, and discusses how we can prepare for their coming. Explore Engines on the web, but to have your own copy of the book, order here.
|Order the Paperback Reprint edition (1990) Engines of Creation|
From a book review in Foresight Update 32:
The introductory chapter on molecular engineering, written by Crandall, covers an impressive range of ideas and facts and introduces some novel perspectives. He begins by explaining measurement systems and physical scales, and then introduces atoms and molecules, giving both scientific basics and historical perspective, and segueing into the most relevant facts from biochemistry and molecular biology.
A section on "A Genealogy of Nanotechnology" presents the novel (and debatable) perspective that "The companion fields of nanotechnology and artificial-life studies can be usefully thought of as being the inside-out of each other. Each is dependent on and implicates the other; each is essentially useless and meaningless without the other." From this view, Crandall begins his treatment of the roots of nanotechnology with Schrödinger's 1944 essay, "What is Life?" and with von Neumann's work on automata.
Paralleling descriptions of the contributions of Feynman and Drexler, and the progress in diverse "top down" and "bottom up" fabrication technologies, are descriptions of progress in artificial life. A final section on "Research Frontiers" includes brief synopses of recent (circa 1995) work with scanning probe microscopes, nanotubes, biomolecules as motors and computational elements, rational design and directed evolution of molecules, evolution of software and genetic algorithms, self-replication, reversible logic and other computational architectures, and artificial membranes to encapsulate reacting molecules.
These summaries are not meant to provide sufficient depth to satisfy the technically inclined, but they give an excellent overview of the sorts of research currently leading, more or less directly, towards molecular nanotechnology. Indeed, Crandall's introduction achieves remarkable breadth of coverage in relatively few pages and, like the rest of the chapters in the book, is supplemented by copious notes and references. An interesting point for further consideration is the inherent tension between Crandall's view that the development of nanotechnology will require the evolution of a form of artificial life, beyond the direct control of human designers, and the position that Ralph Merkle has taken that, for the sake of safety, it is imperative that we not design self-replicating systems with any capacity to evolve.
The remaining chapters cover a fascinating range of potential applications of nanotechnology in everyday life. ...
This book provides an excellent introduction to nanotechnology. For those already familiar with the concepts, it makes more concrete the possible early stages of implementation and the effects upon everyday human life.
Complete book review in Update 32
the paperback edition of Nanotechnology :
Molecular Speculations on Global Abundance
Order the hardcover edition of Nanotechnology : Molecular Speculations on Global Abundance
From a book review in Foresight Update 51:
Douglas Mulhall has provided an excellent introduction to the emergence of molecular manufacturing and added one more powerful reason to the list of reasons why attempting to ban the development of nanotechnology would be a grave error. Mulhall proposes that we will need molecular nanotechnology and machine intelligence to survive various natural disasters that might happen sooner, and with more extreme consequences, than we would like to think."The relatively calm natural conditions that allowed our technological society to develop during past centuries may be more rare than we thought. They may end. ... a new survival imperative may inspire us to adapt to a universe that now appears more risky than we once thought."
As an environmentalist who is very aware of the disasters that Nature has visited on humanity in the past, and may visit again in the near future, Douglas Mulhall brings a unique perspective to environmental concerns about the development of nanotechnology. The "elephant in the room of environmentalism" is the fact that environmental groups ignore natural disasters except in the cases where human intervention seems to be making them worse. "The evidence suggests that if we continue to rely on existing ideas of 'living in harmony with nature' we may be thrown backwards centuries when disaster strikes. ... A war is going on between environmentalism and 'technologism.' This war may be distracting us from the true environmental challenge." This theme is restated throughout the book. "It's becoming clear that the more we learn about nature's extremes, the more we see that forestalling our perilous journey to a molecular age may relegate us to nature's dustbin."
Mulhall attributes much of the growing backlash against technology to concern over who controls the technology. Public distrust grows in part because scientists would rather communicate with the special interests who drive funding decisions than with the public. Productive debates on the value of molecular technologies will not happen "...until the scientific and technology communities are seen to more seriously acknowledge and address technology-induced misfortunes that fall upon ordinary persons and their children."
Complete book review in Update 51
|Order Our Molecular Future:
How Nanotechnology, Robotics, Genetics, and Artificial Intelligence Will Transform Our World
From a book review in Foresight Update 51:
If you have only one book about nanotechnology, this is a good candidate to be the one. Most of the people reading this review, of course, will have more than one book about nanotechnology; but many of you will have the occasion to recommend or buy a nanotechnology book for someone who does fit this description.
One reason for saying this is that the book is a nanotechnology library in miniature. It is approximately one-third introduction and overview and two-thirds reference material. The reference material includes timelines, a small "Who's Who" of nanotechnology, excerpts from everything from "Plenty of Room at the Bottom" to "Why the Future Doesn't Need Us" to official National Nanotechnology Initiative documents, and so forth. The lists of brief descriptions and pointers to further resources—companies, organizations, web sites—form a good foundation for someone who wants to do more research in depth.
Complete book review in Update 51
|Order Recent Advances and Issues in Molecular Nanotechnology|
The value of this pioneering work was perhaps best summed up by Ralph Merkle, in Foresight Update 15:
This is the unique value of Nanosystems, for it brings together in one place, for the first time, all the fundamental concepts needed to understand molecular manufacturing: what it can make, how it can work, how it can be achieved. Bringing together physics, chemistry, mechanical engineering, and computer science, it provides an indispensable introduction to the emerging field of molecular nanotechnology. For the technically knowledgeable, it provides an invaluable reference work which crosses the boundaries of several fields to bring together, in one convenient spot, the quantitative information required to analyze the performance of the molecular machines that will change our lives.
Complete article in Update 15
Ralph Merkle has a page on his Web site where he has compiled comments, excerpts from reviews, and the table of contents of Nanosystems.
Several chapters of Nanosystems are now available on the Web to help in previewing the book before placing an order.
This heavily illustrated volume of gives a good overview of the various fields contributing to molecular nanotechnology development. In addition to 18 chapters representing the talks and panel discussions from the conference, there are two appendices, which reprint:
Articles about this book, listing the chapter titles and
authors, appear in Update
12 and in Update
Writing in Biophysical Journal 65: 976-977 (1993), R. A. Ghanbari and D. E. Clapham, of the Mayo Foundation, say this of Nanotechnology: Research and Perspectives:
Nanotechnology represents the results of a first step toward integration, by bringing together an impressive interdisciplinary cross-section of researchers to discuss the practical problems involved in developing nanotechnology, as well as to chart a course for future development. ... Nanotechnology serves as a highly accessible introduction to an interesting and expanding field.
Prospects in Nanotechnology provides an
accessible introduction to nanotechnology, and to applications
and progress in related fields. There is also discussion of the
funding situation, technology policy, and hypertext as a
facilitating system for social problem solving and public debate.
To emphasize the diversity of topics covered, a few isolated highlights from Prospects in Nanotechnology:
An article about this book, listing the chapter titles and authors, appears in Update 21
Molecular nanotechnology has been defined as the three-dimensional positional control of molecular structure to create materials and devices to molecular precision. The human body is comprised of molecules, hence the availability of molecular nanotechnology will permit dramatic progress in human medical services. More than just an extension of "molecular medicine," nanomedicine will employ molecular machine systems to address medical problems, and will use molecular knowledge to maintain and improve human health at the molecular scale. Nanomedicine will have extraordinary and far-reaching implications for the medical profession, for the definition of disease, for the diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions including aging, for our very personal relationships with our own bodies, and ultimately for the improvement and extension of natural human biological structure and function.
This book will be published in four volumes over the course of several years. Readers wishing to keep abreast of the latest developments may visit the nanomedicine website maintained by Foresight Institute and may visit http://www.nanomedicine.com, the first commercial Internet domain exclusively devoted to nanomedicine. To date, the author has expended approximately 19,000 man-hours, plus approximately 1,000 man-hours by reviewers, a total of approx. 10 man-years of effort.
Volume I may now be viewed online at http://www.nanomedicine.com/NMI.htm
Order Nanomedicine, Volume I
The safety, effectiveness, and utility of medical nanorobotic devices will critically depend upon their biocompatibility with human organs, tissues, cells, and biochemical systems.
In this second Volume of the Nanomedicine technical book series, we broaden the definition of nanomedical biocompatibility to include all of the mechanical, physiological, immunological, cytological, and biochemical responses of the human body to the introduction of artificial medical nanodevices, whether "particulate" (large doses of independent micron-sized individual nanorobots) or "bulk" (nanorobotic organs assembled either as solid objects or built up from trillions of smaller artificial cells or docked nanorobots inside the body) in form.
Volume IIA may now be viewed online at http://www.nanomedicine.com/NMIIA.htm
Order Nanomedicine, Volume IIA
This book offers the first comprehensive general survey and review of the voluminous theoretical and experimental literature pertaining to physical self-replicating systems, including molecular assemblers and nanofactories.
The Table of Contents may be viewed online at http://www.MolecularAssembler.com/KSRM.htm
Order Kinematic Self-Replicating Machines
From a book review in Foresight Update 33:
The First Immortal, by James L. Halperin, is a thoroughly engaging story of a plausible future for humanity. It is firmly anchored in our current knowledge of science--there is no fantasy, no need to postulate some ad hoc discovery of new physics or some far-fetched technology with no basis in current science. The story starts early in the 20th century, flows through our real world to the present, and evolves by small and plausible changes into a startling vision of the first 125 years of the next millennium.
The protagonist is one Dr. Benjamin Franklin Smith, born in 1925, an independent thinker as a teenager, with a faith in science and the advance of technology that leads him to consider the possibilities of conquering aging and death. Nevertheless, he lives for the most part a fairly ordinary life for a man of his times: surviving a Japanese P.O.W. camp in WW II, raising a family, becoming a successful physician, and then, almost accidentally stumbling upon cryonics and signing up a few years before dying of a heart attack in his early sixties.
Smith's cryonic suspension catalyses conflict among his surviving family members, which the novel explores as it traces the changes in society and technology. The story unfolds as seen through the eyes of Smith's descendants over the decades until advances in nanotechnology allow Smith's revival eight decades after his death and suspension. Not stopping with the hero's return to life, Halperin explores the various dramas among Dr. Smith and his family members across six generations as they adjust to and find meaning and purpose in a world that the older of them could not have imagined.
... If you are new to the memes of nanotechnology, life extension, and cryonics, this novel will open your eyes to staggering possibilities made real through application to the lives of believable characters. If you are familiar with these ideas, you can enjoy comparing your conception of the coming decades with the author's. ...
Complete book review in Update 33
Also, visit Halperin's own The First Immortal Web site, which offers the prologue and first chapter from the novel, "future news" extracts from the novel, an opinion poll, comments, and links to other information on nanotechnology, cryonics, and related subjects.
In The First Immortal many of the most troubling questions about how nanotechnology might be used or abused are settled off-stage by the advent of world government, made possible (and benign) by the development of an infallible lie-detector that leads society to surrender privacy in return for security and prosperity. These developments are treated in detail in Halperin's earlier novel The Truth Machine, which thus serves as a companion novel to The First Immortal, although either novel stands on its own. Halperin also maintains a Web site on The Truth Machine.
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