I think that the best way for us to discuss the issue of technology is to create a topic for each specific technological field and than join everything in an unified timeline.
Today, I want to talk about Nanotechnology.
I think that it’s pretty clear that this will be a real game-changer, but we have no way of knowing how powerful will it actually be.
Some science-fiction writers depict universes in which nanotech is so advanced that we can create almost aything out little more than thin air, while others are quite more conservative.
As Fractal Cosmos is a worldbuilding project that spans through several dozens of years, we can perfectly portray both extremes. Nanotechnology will very limited in the beggining but than those limitations will gradualy whidraw as times passes by.
In my opinion the driving factors in the evolution of this technology will be the size and the capacity of self-replication.
I propose that we adopt a three-stage scenario:
Stage 1 (2030-2045)
Nanotech starts becoming a part of our reality, but it’s still in its humble begginings.
It’s used mainly for medical purposes (detecting deseases, repairing damaged tissues, destroying cancer cells, assinting surgical procedures, etc), althought it’s already used to create some pretty useful new materials for several purposes.
The nanodevices are far smaller than biological cells but they aren’t small enough to manipulate matter on the molecular scale yet.
Self-replication of nanomachines is still a very distant concept.
Stage 2 (2045-2065)
It’s the age of molecular nanotechnology. Most families own now Matter Compilers which can create almost anything if given an adequate supply of basic molecules.
The economy is largely transformed by this major revolution.
The first self-replicating nanomachines start appearing, but their self-replication is still rough.
Stage 3 (2065- onwards)
Nanaotechnology can now shape matter on the atomic scale.
Self-replication has become a reality.
What do you think of this approach?
There are also other things related to nanotech that I would to discuss with you:
- In Neal Stephenson’s The Diamond Age we are introduced to an interesting dichotomy between two antagonical technologies: the Feed and the Seed. The Feed is a centralized network that provides Matter Compilers with the basic molecules that they use to create stuff, while the Seed is a technology that can create almost anything without being connected to any Network, it extracts all the raw materials it need from nature itself. I think that this dichotomy fits very well in our Second Cold War scenario. The X bloc would pursue the Seed technology because it’s decentralized, while the C bloc would stick strongly to the Feed.
- We should introduce a few nanoplagues in our timeline, but nothing apocalyptic. Just some local disasters that would kill lots of people but not lead to the end of the world. This disasters would sparkle controversy over the issue of nanotech, leading many governments to impose limits on the self-replication capacities of nanomachines.
- nanotechnology will certainly be used for war purposes in the future. We shouldn’t ignore that.