Update on the emergence of DNA nanobots and nanocomputers.
The Human Body Version 2.0 project features none other than arch-Transhumanist Ray Kurzweil as its main proponent. The goals have been openly stated for some time:
In the coming decades, a radical upgrading of our body’s physical and mental systems, already underway, will use nanobots to augment and ultimately replace our organs. We already know how to prevent most degenerative disease through nutrition and supplementation; this will be a bridge to the emerging biotechnology revolution, which in turn will be a bridge to the nanotechnology revolution. By 2030, reverse-engineering of the human brain will have been completed and nonbiological intelligence will merge with our biological brains.
Working toward the first Posthuman: courtesy of Ray Kurzweil and the Lifeboat Foundation
In fact, the reverse engineering of the human brain has already been announced to be well under way via new microchips and accompanying software. And, while full nanobot rewiring of the brain is not expected before 2020, Phys.org has reported that our DNA has been successfully targeted by nanobots “for drug therapy or destruction.”
Taking this even one step further, Ray Kurzweil said in a new interview with The Wall Street Journal (see below) that our extension into non-biological realms will include nanobot computers that will enter our brain and connect us to Cloud computing.
From science fiction horror, directly to the human body, the nanobots are no longer speculation. Also unlike science fiction, they won’t arrive via immediate worldwide takeover — they are already here, and will be introduced incrementally, as Kurzweil has previously stated:
It will be an incremental process, one already well under way. Although version 2.0 is a grand project, ultimately resulting in the radical upgrading of all our physical and mental systems, we will implement it one benign step at a time. Based on our current knowledge, we can already touch and feel the means for accomplishing each aspect of this vision. (emphasis added)
Researchers from Columbia University have developed a fleet of molecular nanorobots that can deliver drugs to specific cells and also identify certain genetic markers by using fluorescent labeling. After such identification, a chain reaction can be initiated:
On cells where all three components are attached, a robot is functional and a fourth component (labeled 0 below) initiates a chain reaction among the DNA strands. Each component swaps a strand of DNA with another, until the end of the swap, when the last antibody obtains a strand of DNA that is fluorescently labeled.
At the end of the chain reaction—which takes less than 15 minutes in a sample of human blood—only cells with the three surface proteins are labeled with the fluorescent marker.
Naturally, this type of targeted therapeutic approach could prove beneficial, as the researchers highlight — especially for cancer treatment which sweeps up healthy cells along with malignant ones, very often doing more harm than good (if one were to choose the establishment medical route).
This is always how new technologies are sold to the public, however, and it would be naive not to consider the darker applications as well.
Direct brain modification already has been packaged as “neuroengineering.” A Wired article from early 2009 highlighted that direct brain manipulation via fiber optics is a bit messy, but once installed “it could make someone happy with the press of a button.” Nanobots take the process to an automated level, rewiring the brain molecule by molecule. Worse, these mini droids can autonomously self-replicate, forcing one to wonder how this genie would ever be put back in the bottle once unleashed.
Here is one scenario offered by Kurzweil for how these nanobots could enter our bodies:
A significant benefit of nanobot technology is that unlike mere drugs and nutritional supplements, nanobots have a measure of intelligence. They can keep track of their own inventories, and intelligently slip in and out of our bodies in clever ways. One scenario is that we would wear a special “nutrient garment” such as a belt or undershirt. This garment would be loaded with nutrient bearing nanobots, which would make their way in and out of our bodies through the skin or other body cavities. (emphasis added)
That might seem to offer a level of participatory choice — to wear or not to wear the garment — but Kurzweil reveals that the nanobots will eventually be everywhere:
Ultimately we won’t need to bother with special garments or explicit nutritional resources. Just as computation will eventually be ubiquitous and available everywhere, so too will basic metabolic nanobot resources be embedded everywhere in our environment.
In a recent interview with The Wall Street Journal, Kurzweil highlights why Google has taken an interest in nanotechnology and the possibilities he sees for humans as they increasingly become non-biological and form direct connections with computers, augmenting and/or supplanting our natural processes as we head into the era of cyborgs and beyond:
And of course once our neocortex is uploaded to the Cloud, it positions Google perfectly for searching our every thought and pre-thought. While this might sound like an impossible amount of information to upload, let alone interconnect and search, it is being announced that researchers have designed the first nanocomputer that can push beyond the concept of Moore’s Law, which imposes a theoretical limitation on the expansion of computer processing power.
The team designed and assembled, from the bottom up, a functioning, ultra-tiny control computer that is the densest nanoelectronic system ever built.
A technical paper has been published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on the research.
The ultra-small, ultra-low-power control processor—termed a nanoelectronic finite-state machine or “nanoFSM”—is smaller than a human nerve cell.
In their recent collaboration they combined several tiles on a single chip to produce a first-of-its-kind complex, programmable nanocomputer. (Source)
It shouldn’t be seen as coincidence that these developments are happening simultaneously. What appears on the surface to be discoveries in entirely different fields are coalescing rapidly as we approach the theoretical date of The Singularity – the full merger of human and machine – estimated to occur between 2029-2045.
Despite the benign language of futurists, we know that a concerted effort is already underway to manage and predict human behavior for a whole range of potentially anti-human applications. As our free will is also targeted like the cells of our body — for drug therapy or elimination — ethical concerns must be voiced loud and clear. Scientists seem content with opening Pandora’s Box, then worrying about negative consequences later … and that is only if we assume that their intentions are benign from the beginning. One should take time to examine the history of military experimentation on human populations to see all of this through a very different lens.
At the very least, instead of the fully realized vision of Human Body 2.0, this might be Big Pharma 2.0 — a new phase where conventional drugs are incrementally replaced by nanodrugs and nano-fleet delivery systems. Coupled with applications that directly enter our brain to connect us to the computer matrix, we are rapidly entering an entirely new human paradigm.
The funding is already there, and a massive amount of money is waiting to be made by companies like Google. Here again, for those who might only see the bright side to this technology, we ought to question who is really in control of it.