Monday, May 18, 2009

Go directly to grey goo; do not pass Go; do not create post-scarcity economy.

Sylvain Martel of Canada's École Polytechnique de Montréal has led a team of scientists in creating functioning nanobots.  I don't simply mean neat proof-of-concept tricks (like the glowing kittens which demonstrate that we can successfully modify genes) - though they did that, too, when they managed to navigate blood vessels with MRI-guided bacteria last year.

Martel and his team have done it again, and this time, they mean business.  Now the crazy Canucks have created solar-powered robots only 300 microns (about one hundredth of an inch) on a side which are capable of directing swarms of bacteria with tiny EMPs.  Seriously, watch this video.  Yeah, the number-crunching is still mainly done on an external computer, but all that needs to be done is to develop aggregate parallel processing, and then even without genuine AI, we've got the makings of a grey goo scenario on our hands.

All kidding aside, this has tremendous potential for targeting otherwise inoperable things like tumors and what-not.  The danger of things getting out of hand is real, of course, as it always is with science that operates at the very edge of our ken - but I don't see this as any more dangerous than testing nuclear fusion, starting up the LHC, or putting satellites in space.

OK, back to humor:

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