The Nanotech Age is a hypothetical age in the future covered in most forms of fiction. According to Raymond Kurzweil, the Nanotech Age is expected to begin in the range from 2025 to 2050. Using the logic that is typical of early 21st century people, the situation would reveal itself as the wealthiest people living in the wealthiest countries in the world receiving nanotechnology services before everyone else. Those fostering the Millennium Development Goals wish to use nanotechnology to bring forth increasing levels of development in third world countries. However, it may widely separate each of the developing countries in the Southern Hemisphere apart from each other in economic and technological development. As the developing countries join the developed countries in the Nanotech Age by leapfrogging past technologies that heavily pollute the environment, Jamais Cascio sees a possible need for a Developmental Nanotech Initiative to ensure that the benefits of nanotechnology are spread as widely as possible. Emphasis on getting nanotechnology to people who need it may be the priority of the initiative instead of trying to gain a profit margin. Prices of nanotech goods sold on the retail and wholesale markets may witness a marginal decrease as seen in the recent prices of most electronic equipment. Eventually, all goods may become almost free to purchase. This theory is called the cost-performance ratio and may play a role in the upcoming Nanotech Age and the Singularity.
Pollution may also be cleaned thanks to nanotechnology scrubbing away more than 200 years of toxins, chemicals, and other pollutants from our land, sea, water, and ozone layer. These elements were caused by industrialization and could be removed completely and permanently through the judicious use of nanobots designed to filter pollution from the pure air, pure water, or pure land. Once the pollution is neutralized, all threats of global warming and climate change may be eradicated permanently because Kurzweil never mentions them in his book The Singularity is Near. While conventional wisdom currently disagrees with nanotechnology completely eradicating pollution, those who follow Ray Kuzweil believe that anything can be solved using nanorobotics. Other places that nanotechnology can eradicate water pollution from include industrial hubs like Windsor (Ontario), Detroit (Michigan), and Nanticoke (Haldimand County, Ontario).
It was accepted that the Information Age started during the 1990s; people were less aware about nanotechnology and more concerned with the nascent information technology being developed at that time. Innovations like the World Wide Web (invented in 1989) and e-mail (invented in 1971) would help people who shared a common interest in discovering nanotechnology to speak to each other with a level of unprecedented ease. At first, any information about nanotechnology was restricted to professional scientists, university professors, and hobbyists. Laymen were considered to have a lack of proper knowledge prior to the dawn of the 21st century. As the average consumer saw technological devices become smaller and cheaper, more people started to become curious about nanotechnology. More patents about nanotechnology-related inventions started to be processed at the United States Patent and Trademark Office and companies started seeing the benefits of nanotechnology in their products.
Technological and social change may speed up as we approach the Nanotech Age and the subsequent Singularity; making it a force that may have no resistance to it.
The rich-poor divide may gradually narrow itself as goods produced in nanofactories may be almost free to purchase thanks to being able to produce it in nearly unlimited numbers. These goods may also become more efficient and have enhanced features as the technology level goes up and the price of electronic goods come down. Kurzweil states the beginning of the Nanotech Age as the year 2025. An example of the narrowing of the rich-poor divide is the price of AIDS medications. Once costing thousands of dollars a year and inefficient, they now cost hundreds of dollars a year and are somewhat efficient in slowing down the spread of the AIDS virus and eventual outbreak of HIV. Another example would be a text-to-speech computer program that went from requiring months of training time and costing over $1000 to requiring minutes of training time and costing under $50.
The success of nanofactories can not be confidently predicted for any particular date and is not certain to be successful ever. Nathan Myhrvold said in 2001 that even though we have the concept of self-replicating molecules, this concept may be no closer to reality than Jules Verne's visions.
Roles in specific industries
Food and drug
In vitro meat may alleviate food shortages as meat for human consumption can possibly be collected from factory cultured animal muscle cells instead of live animals that consume animal feed made from corn. Due to a decreasing amount of farmers and a rising urban population, scientists employing the latest in genetic engineering figure out how to make an unlimited amount of meat without killing animals. Even extinct animals can be used to produce meat as cells cultured from the DNA. A Dutch project is developing commercial in vitro meat production. Jason Matheny said that they could make a burger now that would cost thousands of dollars per pound. Technology levels and demand may increase ; eventually causing the price of the in vitro hamburger to decrease until it is almost free to purchase. The cost-performance ratio may also play a role in reduce the price of in vitro meat. If measures aren't taken before the year 2025, the cod may eventually join the list of extinct creatures whose meat can only be harvested through the in vitro method. Allowing meat to be harvested and grown without a single animal being killed or harmed may appease most vegetarians and vegans. Rising grocery prices are caused by traditional farming methods that need fossil fuels and inefficient maintenance of natural resources that may never be renewed again. Traditional farming methods make it more feasible for farmers to grow plant-based foods as opposed to raising animal livestock to be slaughtered for meat. However, advertising and packaging costs dominate the price of prepared foods in developed countries while the cost of the commodity itself dominates the price in developing countries.
Scientists may eventually replace farmers as the most important member of the global community. Farmers, however, may continue to be useful in growing hydroponic vegetables that don't require soil. Once the Earth's soil is no longer necessary for growing vegetable crops, more of it can be used to support forests that supply people with oxygen.
Currently, nanotech gene therapy has been able to kill ovarian cancer in mice while avoiding the side effects of cisplatin and paclitaxel; it is speculated that this technology could save 15000 women in the United States each year if the treatment proves effective and safe in humans.
Research on nanoelectronics-based cancer diagnostics could lead to tests that can be done in pharmacies. The results promise to be highly accurate and the product promises to be inexpensive. They could take a very small amount of blood and detect cancer anywhere in the body in about five minutes, with a sensitivity that is a thousand times better than in a conventional laboratory test. These devices that are built with nanowires to detect cancer proteins; each nanowire detector is primed to be sensitive to a different cancer marker. The biggest advantage of the nanowire detectors is that they could test for anywhere from ten to one hundred similar medical conditions without adding cost to the testing device.
Sports and sports medicine
Nanotechnology may also play a role in sports such as soccer, football, and baseball. Materials for new athletic shoes may be made in order to make the shoe lighter (and the athlete faster). Baseball bats already on the market are made with carbon nanotubes which reinforce the resin, which is said to improve its performance by making it lighter. Other items such as sport towels, yoga mats, exercise mats are on the market and used by players in the National Football League, which use antimicrobial nanotechnology to prevent illnesses caused by bacteria such as Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (commonly known as MRSA).
Wet nanotechnology (also known as wet nanotech) involves working up to large masses from small ones. It requires water in which the process occurs. The process also involves chemists and biologists trying to reach larger scales by putting together individual molecules. While Eric Drexler put forth the idea of nano-assemblers working dry, wet nanotech appears to be the likely first area in which something like a nano-assembler may achieve economic results. Pharmaceuticals and bioscience are central features of most nanotech start-ups. Richard A.L. Jones calls nanotechnology that steals bits of natural nanotechnology and puts them in a synthetic structure biokleptic nanotechnology. He calls building with synthetic materials according to nature's design principles biomimetic nanotechnology. Using these guiding principles should lead to trillions of nanotech robots, that resemble bacteria in structural properties, entering a person's blood stream to do medical treatments. Growing cells in culture to take advantage of their internal chemical synthesis machinery can be considered a form of nanotechnology but this machinery has also been manipulated outside of living cells.
Curbing fossil fuel usage
Decreasing our use of plastics and concentrating household cleaners with more material per bottle may also reduce the number of trucks on the road. More than 60000 trucks have been removed off the road as a result of this environmental measure with five million fewer gallons of diesel fuel being used by the company. Fossil fuels are also used to make plastic. The world's supply of fossil fuels may run out by the year 2080 if the usage of fossil fuels are not either reduced or stopped. Our society may not necessarily fall back into the Stone Age or into World War III due to the lack of oil in the world; coal may supply the world's electricity for hundreds of years more before we need to be totally dependent on wind, solar, and nuclear fusion energy sources. Nanotechnology may bypass the use of fossil fuels and focus on making renewable energy more efficient and affordable to the people. Should the use of plastics still be necessary after the oil reserves run out, the new ingredient to make them would most likely be fructose.
Fossil fuels may eventually become obsolete even with fewer trucks on the road shipping plastic products to retailers and wholesalers. Fossil fuels may eventually be replaced by renewable fuels like solar that don't rely on fossil fuels in order to maintain their sustainability. As technology improves and sources of fossil fuels start to run out of natural resources, solar power becomes more cost efficient. This is because companies may seek alternative sources of power in order to escape extremely high price of oil that the companies may be forced to charge in the future. Just 0.3% of the nearly infinite amount of solar energy may be needed to power everything in the future. Solar panels created through nanocomposite materials may be more efficient at gathering the needed sunlight than solar panels created through conventional materials.
Economy and the workforce
Ray Kurzweil has speculated in The Singularity is Near that people who work in unskilled labor jobs for a livelihood may become the first human workers to be displaced by the constant use of nanotechnology in the workplace, noting that layoffs often affect the jobs based around the lowest technology level before attacking jobs with the highest technology level possible. It has been noted that every major economic era has stimulated a global revolution both in the kinds of jobs that are available to people and the kind of training they need to achieve these jobs, and there is concern that the world's educational systems have lagged behind in preparing students for the "Nanotech Age".
It has also been speculated that nanotechnology may give rise to nanofactories which may have superior capabilities to conventional factories due to their small carbon and physical footprint on the global and regional environment. The miniaturization and transformation of the multi-acre conventional factory into the nanofactory may not interfere with their ability to deliver a high quality product; the product may be of even greater quality due to the lack of human errors in the production stages. Nanofactory systems may use precise atomic precisioning and contribute to making superior quality products that the "bulk chemistry" method used in 20th century and early 21st currently cannot produce. These advances might shift the computerized workforce in an even more complex direction, requiring skills in genetics, nanotechnology, and robotics.
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