Optimistic Projections regarding the Future of Nanotechnology

Brian Buntz

February 19, 2016

3 Min Read
Optimistic Projections regarding the Future of Nanotechnology

At MD&M West, futurist Ray Kurzweil delivered a keynote address in which he predicted that nanotechnology would one day be used to link cloud computing to our brains, enhance our immune system, and possibly expand our lifespans--indefinitely.

Brian Buntz

Not everyone is convinced that Ray Kurzweil's predictions about the future of nanotechnology. But if the predictions are even partly true, they could change the course of human history by the 2030s.

Consider the global scare caused by the Ebola epidemic of 2014. In decades to come, such an outbreak could be thwarted or slowed by nanotechnology. "The immune system doesn't work well against cancer or viruses--it has all sorts of limitations," he said. "We can take that job and create nanorobots that can go against every pathogen. You could download new software from the Internet if there is a new pathogen that emerges."

Nanotechnology could feasibly be used to ensure the health of our body, restoring balance when needed, Kurzweil said. "If you think about what all of these organs in our body do, aside from the heart and the brain, they either put things into the bloodstream or they take things out of the bloodstream." Many disorders are caused when such organs fail to extract or deliver enough of substances such as insulin, glucose, etc. "Nanorobots can monitor the bloodstream for all of these substances and put in or take out substances. There is a scenario for virtually every disease and the aging process."

Finally, nanotechnology could be used to plug virtual directly into our nervous systems. "We are about to see a revolution emerge in virtual and augmented reality with devices we put over our eyes or ears or your hands for tactile virtual reality so you can hug someone from around the world," Kurzweil said. In decades to come, virtual reality will plug directly into our nervous system to  provide highly realistic full immersion VR and augmented reality, he predicted.

"The most important application will be to directly to connect our brain to the cloud. We have already done that in some limited cases like in Parkinson's diseases," Kurzweil said. "But once we have devices that are the same as blood cells, they can go inside the brain and through the capillaries non-invasively."

Kurzweil predicts such technology as being mainstream by the 2030s. "It won't be a direct connection to search engines and the cloud," he said. "We will literally expand the scope and capability of our brain."

Similar ideas are shared by MIT Media Lab founder Nicholas Negroponte, who also predicts that nanobots will directly interact with the brain in future decades. "The best way you interact with the brain is from the inside. If you inject tiny robots into the bloodstream, they can get very close to all of the cells and nerves and things in your brain. If you want to input information or read information, you do it through the bloodstream," he said in Big Think interview. "In theory, you could load Shakespeare into your bloodstream. The little robots get to various parts of the brain and they deposit little pieces of Shakespeare or little pieces of French if you want to learn how to speak French."

Nanobot image from Dawson College

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