Special Note: Please note that this scenario is meant to be read as entertainment, not as an accurate prediction of the future. Also note that the viewpoints and opinions that may come across in this scenario are not necessarily the viewpoints and opinions of the author.
The Nanotech Age is a hypothetical age in the future covered in most forms of fiction. According to Raymond Kurzweil, the Nanotech Age is expected to begin in the range from 2025 to 2050. Using the logic that is typical of early 21st century people, the situation would reveal itself as the wealthiest people living in the wealthiest countries in the world receiving nanotechnology services before everyone else. Those fostering the Millennium Development Goals wish to use nanotechnology to bring forth increasing levels of development in third world countries. However, it may widely separate each of the developing countries in the Southern Hemisphere apart from each other in economic and technological development. As the developing countries join the developed countries in the Nanotech Age by leapfrogging past technologies that heavily pollute the environment, Jamais Cascio sees a possible need for a Developmental Nanotech Initiative to ensure that the benefits of nanotechnology are spread as widely as possible. Emphasis on getting nanotechnology to people who need it may be the priority of the initiative instead of trying to gain a profit margin. Prices of nanotech goods sold on the retail and wholesale markets may witness a marginal decrease as seen in the recent prices of most electronic equipment. Eventually, all goods may become almost free to purchase. This theory is called the cost-performance ratio and may play a role in the upcoming Nanotech Age and the Singularity.
Pollution may also be cleaned thanks to nanotechnology scrubbing away more than 200 years of toxins, chemicals, and other pollutants from our land, sea, water, and ozone layer. These elements were caused by industrialization and could be removed completely and permanently through the judicious use of nanobots designed to filter pollution from the pure air, pure water, or pure land. Once the pollution is neutralized, all threats of global warming and climate change may be eradicated permanently because Kurzweil never mentions them in his book The Singularity is Near. While conventional wisdom currently disagrees with nanotechnology completely eradicating pollution, those who follow Ray Kuzweil believe that anything can be solved using nanorobotics. Other places that nanotechnology can eradicate water pollution from include industrial hubs like Windsor (Ontario), Detroit (Michigan), and Nanticoke (Haldimand County, Ontario).
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It was accepted that the Information Age started during the 1990s; people were less aware about nanotechnology and more concerned with the nascent information technology being developed at that time. Innovations like the World Wide Web (invented in 1989) and e-mail (invented in 1971) would help people who shared a common interest in discovering nanotechnology to speak to each other with a level of unprecedented ease. At first, any information about nanotechnology was restricted to professional scientists, university professors, and hobbyists. Laymen were considered to have a lack of proper knowledge prior to the dawn of the 21st century. As the average consumer saw technological devices become smaller and cheaper, more people started to become curious about nanotechnology. More patents about nanotechnology-related inventions started to be processed at the United States Patent and Trademark Office and companies started seeing the benefits of nanotechnology in their products.
Technological and social change may speed up as we approach the Nanotech Age and the subsequent Singularity; making it a force that may have no resistance to it.
The rich-poor divide may gradually narrow itself as goods produced in nanofactories may be almost free to purchase thanks to being able to produce it in nearly unlimited numbers. These goods may also become more efficient and have enhanced features as the technology level goes up and the price of electronic goods come down. Kurzweil states the beginning of the Nanotech Age as the year 2025. An example of the narrowing of the rich-poor divide is the price of AIDS medications. Once costing thousands of dollars a year and inefficient, they now cost hundreds of dollars a year and are somewhat efficient in slowing down the spread of the AIDS virus and eventual outbreak of HIV. Another example would be a text-to-speech computer program that went from requiring months of training time and costing over $1000 to requiring minutes of training time and costing under $50.
The success of nanofactories can not be confidently predicted for any particular date and is not certain to be successful ever. Nathan Myhrvold said in 2001 that even though we have the concept of self-replicating molecules, this concept may be no closer to reality than Jules Verne's visions.
Roles in specific industries
Food and drug
In vitro meat may alleviate food shortages as meat for human consumption can possibly be collected from factory cultured animal muscle cells instead of live animals that consume animal feed made from corn. Due to a decreasing amount of farmers and a rising urban population, scientists employing the latest in genetic engineering figure out how to make an unlimited amount of meat without killing animals. Even extinct animals can be used to produce meat as cells cultured from the DNA. A Dutch project is developing commercial in vitro meat production. Jason Matheny said that they could make a burger now that would cost thousands of dollars per pound. Technology levels and demand may increase ; eventually causing the price of the in vitro hamburger to decrease until it is almost free to purchase. The cost-performance ratio may also play a role in reduce the price of in vitro meat. If measures aren't taken before the year 2025, the cod may eventually join the list of extinct creatures whose meat can only be harvested through the in vitro method. Allowing meat to be harvested and grown without a single animal being killed or harmed may appease most vegetarians and vegans. Rising grocery prices are caused by traditional farming methods that need fossil fuels and inefficient maintenance of natural resources that may never be renewed again. Traditional farming methods make it more feasible for farmers to grow plant-based foods as opposed to raising animal livestock to be slaughtered for meat. However, advertising and packaging costs dominate the price of prepared foods in developed countries while the cost of the commodity itself dominates the price in developing countries.
Scientists may eventually replace farmers as the most important member of the global community. Farmers, however, may continue to be useful in growing hydroponic vegetables that don't require soil. Once the Earth's soil is no longer necessary for growing vegetable crops, more of it can be used to support forests that supply people with oxygen.
A cure for cancer is expected to be found by the use of medicinal nanobots by then along with cures for malaria, the common cold, and AIDS. Currently, nanotech gene therapy has been able to kill ovarian cancer in mice without the bad side effects that cisplatin and paclitaxel cause; this technology could save 15000 women in the United States each year alone from dying of this disease. Nanotechnology may also be used to prevent dogs from getting fleas. By the start of the Nanotech Age, cancer tests may be done in pharmacies with devices that are built with nanowires to detect cancer proteins. The results promise to be highly accurate and the product promises to be inexpensive. They could take a very small amount of blood and detect cancer anywhere in the body in about five seconds - with a sensitivity that is a thousand times better than in a conventional laboratory test. Each nanowire detector is primed to be sensitive to a different cancer marker. The biggest advantage of the nanowire detectors is that they could test for anywhere from ten to one hundred similar medical conditions without adding cost to the testing device.
Sports and sports medicine
Nanotechnology may also play a role in athletic sports (i.e., soccer, football, baseball) in addition to motorsports (i.e., NASCAR, Formula One, drag racing, IndyCar Series) alike. Perhaps nanotechnology may make it possible for NASCAR Google Cup Series vehicles to drive at Talladega Superspeedway and Daytona International Raceway without having to use restrictor plates someday. Materials for new athletic shoes may be made in order to make the shoe lighter (and the athlete faster). In addition to this, the baseball bats of the future may be made with carbon nanotubes so that the bat can be lengthened without increasing the weight. Antimicrobial nanotechnology may protect and prevent players in the National Football League from illnesses caused by bacteria in common places (i.e., sport towels, yoga mats, exercise mats). The most important disease that this technology could intercept is Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (commonly known as MRSA).
Wet nanotech involves working up to large masses from small ones. It requires water in which the process occurs. It involves chemists and biologists trying to reach larger scales by putting together individual molecules. While Eric Drexler put forth the idea of nano assemblers working dry, wet nanotech appears to be the likely first area in which something like a nano assembler may achieve economic results. Pharmaceuticals and bioscience are central features of most nanotech start-ups. Richard A.L. Jones calls nanotechnology that steals bits of natural nanotechnology and puts them in a synthetic structure biokleptic nanotechnology. He calls building with synthetic materials according to nature's design principles biomimetic nanotechnology. Using these guiding principles should lead to trillions of nanotech robots, that resemble bacteria in structural properties, entering a person's blood stream to do medical treatments. Growing cells in culture to take advantage of their internal chemical synthesis machinery can be considered a form of nanotechnology but this machinery has also been manipulated outside of living cells.
Curbing fossil fuel usage
Decreasing our use of plastics and concentrating household cleaners with more material per bottle may also reduce the number of trucks on the road. More than 60000 trucks have been removed off the road as a result of this environmental measure with five million fewer gallons of diesel fuel being used by the company. Fossil fuels are also used to make plastic. The world's supply of fossil fuels may run out by the year 2054 if the usage of fossil fuels are not either reduced or stopped. Our society may not necessarily fall back into the Stone Age or into World War III due to the lack of oil in the world; coal may supply the world's electricity for hundreds of years more before we need to be totally dependent on wind, solar, and nuclear fusion energy sources. Nanotechnology may bypass the use of fossil fuels and focus on making renewable energy more efficient and affordable to the people. Should the use of plastics still be necessary after the oil reserves run out, the new ingredient to make them would most likely be fructose.
Fossil fuels may eventually become obsolete even with fewer trucks on the road shipping plastic products to retailers and wholesalers. Fossil fuels may eventually be replaced by renewable fuels like solar that don't rely on fossil fuels in order to maintain their sustainability. As technology improves and natural resources start to run out, solar power becomes more cost efficient. This is because companies may seek alternative sources of power in order to escape extremely high price of oil that the companies may be forced to charge in the future. Just 0.3% of the nearly infinite amount of solar energy may be needed to power everything in the future. Solar panels created through nanocomposite materials may be more efficient at gathering the needed sunlight than solar panels created through conventional materials.
Safety and security
During this time, people may allegedly also be able to upload their brains on to the Internet and an artificial intelligence unit may be able to patrol all of Europe for suspicious criminal activity (including European discussion groups, European websites, and European file servers). Eventually, artificial intelligence may be monitoring other continents on the face of the Earth using robotic police officers armed with non-lethal weapons to replace the human patrolman on the daily neighborhood beat. These weapons may include tasers that have been proven to be less lethal than the traditional pistol used by 20th century police officers. Robot police officers would have instant access to a person's criminal record, motor vehicle record, and tax information; thus identifying him or her as the suspect in a criminal investigation. Drunks and people with aggressive tendencies can be detected in large areas; spawning the appropriate action for the robot officer in charge of controlling the situation. Commands might be to question them on the spot, arrest them while delivering the suspect his or her Miranda warning, or shoot them with a non-lethal taser shot and ask questions when the suspect re-emerges from unconsciousness at the police station.
Economy and the workforce
People who work in unskilled labor jobs for a livelihood may become the first human workers to be displaced by the constant use of nanotechnology in the workplace. Layoffs often affect the jobs based around the lowest technology level before attacking jobs with the highest technology level possible. Even had the current global economic slowdown never occurred, nanotechnology would have forced employers to permanently downsize their population base of blue collar employees. It is a given fact that the global economic activity may eventually return to the levels it would have achieved had the recession of the late 2000s never happened; even the Great Depression was a mere blip in the growing economic activity of the world in the previous 100 years. Every major economic era has stimulated a global revolution both in the kinds of jobs that are available to people and the kind of training they need to achieve these jobs. The world's educational systems have lagged behind in preparing students for the Nanotech Age.
However, jobs are getting less physical and more mental as the technology levels improve. Eventually, work may resemble more like play rather than the traditional back-breaking physical work of earlier centuries. Nanotechnology may be dominant in all sectors of the manufacturing industry. Nanotechnology may eventually replace conventional factories with nanofactories once the economy is viable enough due to their small carbon and physical footprint on the global and regional environment. These nanofactories may be programmed to create additional nanofactories for the cost of nothing but the raw materials and necessary programming once the original project is successful. The miniaturization and transformation of the multi-acre conventional factory into the nanofactory may not interfere with their ability to deliver a high quality product; the product may be of even greater quality due to the lack of human errors in the production stages. Nanofactory systems may use precise atomic precisioning and contribute to making superior quality products that the "bulk chemistry" method used in 20th century and early 21st currently cannot produce.
As a result, the huge factories that currently exist in the early 21st century may be demolished and re-wilded into forests. Just like the Information Age diverted the majority of the working adult population from manual labor in factories to jobs involving computers in offices, the Nanotech Age would shift the computerized workforce in a more complex direction. In addition to simple accounting and clerical duties, white-collar computer jobs would expand into work involving genetics, nanotechnology, and robotics. Women currently outnumber men in the workforce due to the most recent recession to hit the male-dominated manufacturing and automobile sectors, making it possible that the labor force of the Nanotech Age may be female-dominated. Society may refocus itself to recognize the wife as the primary breadwinner while the husband is the homemaker and the caregiver of the children.
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