They are so small we cannot see them — but they will change our lives immensely.
Imagine a coffee table that you got bored of — change it to an art deco wonder on a whim. Or did that yellow paint on the wall turn out to be a bad idea? No sweat. Let the Foglets change it for you in an instant.
Let’s get this straight, before you think you ended up in a Harry Potter movie.
How Nanorobots will change our lives
We’re talking about Foglets or Utility Fog pioneered by J. Storrs Hall decades ago. Foglets consist of a swarm of nanobots that can take the shape of virtually anything, and change shape in an instant.
In an essay originally published way back in 1993 the nanotech pioneer laid down the details of a technology that 25 years later is poised to deliver on his early promise and will change our lives profoundly.
What is nanotechnology?
“Nanotechnology is based on the concept of tiny, self-replicating robots”, explains Storrs Hall. “The Utility Fog is a very simple extension of the idea: suppose, instead of building the object you want atom by atom, the tiny robots linked their arms together to form a solid mass in the shape of the object you wanted?
“Then, when you got tired of that avant-garde coffee table, the robots could simply shift around a little and you’d have an elegant Queen Anne piece instead.”
But how can a coffee table instantly have a completely different look?
Each robot has an “antenna arm” and the color and reflectivity of an object like a coffee table are the results of the properties of these antenna arms which operate in the micron wavelength region.
Each robot could have an “antenna arm” that it could manipulate to vary those properties, and thus the surface of a Utility Fog object could look just about however you wanted it to, explains the nanotech genius.
Change your home in a second
So you won’t need a decorator in the future. Rather than painting the walls, you could coat them with Utility Fog and they can be a different color every day, or act as a floor-to-ceiling TV.
Even better: you can make the entire wall out of the Fog and you can change the floor plan of your house to suit the occasion. You want to have a party tonight? Get rid of the hallway and make the sitting room bigger. Add a bar for the night. And a stage for the band.
You will never have to make up your mind again and hope that you didn’t make an expensive mistake — all can be undone in moments.
If you make the floor of the Fog it will never get dirty; it can look like hardwood but feel like foam rubber. And it will allow you to extrude furniture in any form you desire.
“Indeed, your whole domestic environment can be constructed from Utility Fog; it can form any object you want (except food) and whenever you don’t want an object any more, the robots that formed it spread out and form part of the floor again,” says Storrs Hall.
Robots will inhabit our bodies
But the robots don’t stop there — they’ll come and live inside our bodies.
Ray Kurzweil, Google’s director of engineering, is a well-known futurist. He foresees that our bodies will become melded to technology with nanobots inhabiting out bodies by 2030. While flowing through our arteries, these microscopic robots will keep us healthy and transmit our brains onto the cloud.
With nanotechnology we can create devices the size of blood cells. Don’t forget, biology itself is a perfect example of nanotechnology. Think about it, the key features of biology are at the molecular level, right?
Nanobots will be able to go inside our bodies and keep us healthy by destroying pathogens, correcting DNA errors, killing cancer cells and so on and even go into the brain, and interact with our biological neurons.
“If that sounds futuristic, there are already neural implants that are FDA-approved so there are people walking around who have computers in their brains and the biological neurons in their vicinity are perfectly happy to interact with these computerized devices,” says Kurzweil.
Nanotechnology is superior to biology
Biology has one big drawback, one huge limitation that nanotechnology doesn’t have. Biology is built on a limited set of materials –- everything is built out of proteins and that’s a limited class of substances. With nanotechnology we can create things that are far more durable and far more powerful.
One scientist designed a robot red blood cell that’s a thousand times more powerful than the biological version.
What does that mean for you and me? Well, with those blood cells in your body you’d be able to sit at the bottom of your pool for four hours or run an Olympic sprint for 15 minutes without taking a breath!
An appealing or scary thought? How do you think robots and nanotechnology will impact our lives? Share your thoughts in the comments below!