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Nanotech in Leaps and Bounds

Professor of creative writing at Oregon State University in Corvallis, Marjorie Sandor, talked about her latest work compiling stories from the deeply unsettling to the possibly supernatural and why we love tales that delve into our increasingly unstable sense of self, home, and planet. In the first hour, bestselling author Juan Enriquez discussed how man is in a different phase of evolution and the future of life on the planet is now in our hands.

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Nanotech in Leaps and Bounds

Show Archive
Date: Tuesday - January 21, 2003
Host: George Noory
Guests: Douglas Mulhall, Jim Berkland

"We may be the stepping stone to an entirely new type of species that either co-exists with us or replaces us," said Douglas Mulhall, George's guest on Tuesday night. Mulhall, an expert on the transformative role of nanotechnology and artificial intelligence believes there could be a sudden evolutionary leap to a new augmented or post-human, perhaps in the next 50 years.

But in the more immediate future he foresees "rapid prototype" machines enabled with nanotechnology that could produce products in our homes on a wide-scale. Instead of a future with scarce supplies we could have the opposite problem of an "economy of overabundance," Mulhall expounded. Concerned that our greatest difficulty though may lie in a sudden cataclysm from nature, he discussed how these new technologies could be used to create such things as a tsunami warning system spread out across the ocean floor. Not surprisingly, the military has been developing tools and weapons based on some of the super-strong materials this science is yielding. One example Mulhall mentioned is the "exoskeleton," which would be worn like clothing, add to the strength of the muscles, monitor body functions, and administer treatment in the case of a wound.

Colliding into the Future

Douglas Mulhall writes that there is often a thin line between science and science-fiction in a recent article he penned for The Futurist . In fact, he says that a number of things that he had posited for the future had already come to pass by the time his book, Our Molecular Future, hit the shelves. Among those developments were:

  • Super-strong building materials---aerogels that use nanotechnology
  • Malaria genomes--- may lead to lifesaving vaccine
  • Nanobacteria discovery--- suggesting heart disease may be treatable infection
  • AI computers--- beating stockbrokers at their own game

"These leaps constitute the kernels of a new molecular economy," Mulhall writes. But the problem with such fast flying future developments is that there is sometimes a public backlash against them due to fears of the new and untested. But "the rationale for proceeding with such risky technologies," Mulhall explains, "may to be to win the race against nature's next onslaught be it climate flip, volcanic eruption or asteroid hit."

Quake Warning

In the first half-hour of the show, Jim Berkland, an earthquake warning expert who claims to have a 75% accuracy rating, spoke about the 7.8 quake in Mexico that had happened earlier that evening. He connected the quake with the recent full moon, high tides and solar activity. Berkland said there had also been a jump in the reports of missing animals that he believes are reacting to magnetic field changes that occur before the actual quake.

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