Another exponential process is miniaturization. We’re showing the feasibility of constructing things at the molecular level that can perform useful functions. One of the biggest applications of this, again, will be in biology, where we will be able to go inside the human body and go beyond the limitations of biology.
Rob Freitas [a senior research fellow at the Institute for Molecular Manufacturing] has designed a nanorobotic red blood cell, which is a relatively simple device — it just stores oxygen and lets it out. A conservative analysis of these robotic respirocytes shows that if you were to replace 10 percent of your red blood cells with these robotic versions you could do an Olympic sprint for 15 minutes without taking a breath or sit at the bottom of your pool for four hours. It will be interesting to see what we do with these in our Olympic contests. Presumably we’ll ban them, but then we’ll have the specter of high school students routinely outperforming Olympic athletes.
A robotic white blood cell is also being designed. A little more complicated, it downloads software from the Internet to combat specific pathogens. If it sounds very futuristic to download information to a device inside your body to perform a health function, I’ll point out that we’re already doing that. There are about a dozen neural implants either FDA-approved or approved for human testing. One implant that is FDA-approved for actual clinical use replaces the biological neurons destroyed by Parkinson’s disease. The neurons in the vicinity of this implant then receive signals from the computer that’s inside the patient’s brain. This hybrid of biological and nonbiological intelligence works perfectly well. The latest version of this device allows the patient to download new software to the neural implant in his brain from outside his body.
These are devices that today require surgery to be implanted, but when we get to the 2020s, we will ultimately have the “killer app” of nanotechnology, nanobots, which are blood cell-sized devices that can go inside the body and brain to perform therapeutic functions, as well as advance the capabilities of our bodies and brains.
A not too lengthy article which is very much worth your time if you are not familiar with Ray Kurzweil’s message to the world, which is about exponentially accelerating progress.