Friday, January 5, 2007

Picture of the day

Artificial Brain Cells

Tim Fonseca, Artificial Brain Cells

The central cylinder of each Brainbot houses a computer that contains a storehouse of information equalling many large libraries, and instruments for recording "surface thoughts." Billions of these nanobots are in communication with one another, and with the brain cells, creating a secondary brain. I (*), personally, do not believe that it will ever be possible to download a "conscious" diesmbodied mind into a computer. However, it will be possible to place a robotic brain into a human skull, composed of billions of microscopic nanobots. This would give each human being two brains; an electro-chemical wet-brain, and a dry, purely electronic digital brain. When the two brains interact, a third brain may emerge with qualities for which we can only speculate. (RR: As was the previous image, this one is based on an interpretation of existing and potential nanoscale technology.)

(*) Artist, Tim Fonseca.

As with the previous picture, I will post the others in this series over time. To see it all now, visit the Nanotechnology Now Gallery.

Quote of the day

Anyone considering a new technology should at least ask the question: What are the long term consequences if this advance reduces costs to zero, or increases access so that everyone with a desire to do so, can use the technology? That might seem to be a giant 'societal' question of value only to economists and city planners, but it has applications closer to home. Any technology which creates abundance poses problems for any process which existed to benefit from scarcity.

From The problem with abundance By Peter de Jager

Smaller can be better

I’m stepping outside my guideline again today by bringing you more news. In this case, news about a 1 TB (1 terabyte = 1 trillion bytes or 1 thousand gigabytes) harddrive that will soon be available from Hitachi (1). Incidentally, they’re saying it will initially come in at a price lower than it’s predecessor, the 750 MB HD.

Why does this matter? It matters because there is a direct link between our ability to work with ever decreasing size regimes and our understanding of the nanoscale. If you have kept up with the science underlying nanotechnology you already know that a huge potential for new and improved products exists because at the nanoscale, materials often exhibit properties that are different than their larger versions. Think about all the wonderful advances we generally take for granted due to the relatively scant number of elements in the periodic table; now imagine an exponential increase in the number of properties we are able to incorporate into products.

It also matters because it is another step in what Ray Kurzweil calls “The Law of Accelerating Returns.” (2) Kurzweil states it thus “An analysis of the history of technology shows that technological change is exponential, contrary to the common-sense "intuitive linear" view. So we won't experience 100 years of progress in the 21st century -- it will be more like 20,000 years of progress (at today's rate). The "returns," such as chip speed and cost-effectiveness, also increase exponentially. There's even exponential growth in the rate of exponential growth.”

Coupled with the increase in processing power, also part of Kurzweil’s Law, and married to increasingly capable software, expect to see our understanding of the nanoscale increase, and as a corollary, an increase in computing power, which will lead to better materials and medical technologies…and on and on. A tidy little iterative interaction with massive potential.