Our Molecular Future: How Nanotechnology, Robotics, Genetics, and Artificial Intelligence Will Transform Our World

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What Alvin Toffler's Future Shock was to the 20th century, Our Molecular Future will be to the 21st century.

What will happen to our jobs, health care, and investments when the molecular revolution hits?
How might artificial intelligence transform our lives?
How can molecular technologies help us cope with climate changes, earthquakes, and other extreme natural threats?
Our Molecular Future explores some intriguing possibilities that answer these questions and many others. Douglas Mulhall describes the exponential changes that are about to be wrought by the nanotechnology and robotic revolutions, which promise to reduce the scale of computing to the nanometer—a billionth of a meter—while increasing computing power to almost unimaginable levels.

The resulting convergence of genetics, robotics, and artificial intelligence may give us hitherto undreamed-of capacities to transform our environment and ourselves. In the not-so-distant future, our world may include machines that scour our arteries to prevent heart disease, cars and clothes that change color at our whim, exotic products built in our own desktop factories, and enhancements to our personal financial security despite greatly accelerated obsolescence.

But while technology is making these fantastic leaps, we may also encounter surprises that throw us into disarray: climate changes, earthquakes, or even a seemingly improbable asteroid collision. These extremes are not the nightmare scenarios of sensationalists, Mulhall stresses, nor are many of them human induced. Instead, they may be part of nature's cycle—recurring more often than we've thought possible.

The good news is that this convergence of catastrophe and technological transformation may work to our advantage. If we're smart, according to Mulhall, we can use molecular machines to protect ourselves from nature's worst extremes, and harness their potential benefits to usher in an economic renaissance.

This visionary link between future technology and past disasters is a valuable guide for every one of us who wants to be prepared for the twenty-first century.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
When Mulhall sees the future, he pictures every home having a virtually cost-free desktop fabricator, not unlike an ink jet printer, that is able to create any three-dimensional object desired; he envisions being able to change the color of a car, or clothes, simply by speaking. Mulhall, who heads an environmental software consultancy, believes that nanotechnology, the ability to rearrange individual atoms, will lead to technological advances that will change every aspect of our world, including our own species. Mulhall' s exuberance, however, does not fully compensate for his repetitiveness and lack of specificity when he postulates that nanotechnology will lead to such leaps forward in computing power that we will soon create robots capable of independent thought, emotional response and reproduction. We will, he argues, soon be faced with a new species, Robo sapiens, and be forced to deal with the issue of "robot rights." Mulhall urges readers to foster this technology because he believes that it is the only way humans will be able to combat what he claims are the most pressing threats facing our species: massive earthquakes, immense tsunamis capable of inundating the entire east coast of North America and asteroid collisions of the sort that wiped out the dinosaurs. In the end, Mulhall's musings seem more science fiction than science; they are entertaining, but not particularly thought provoking. (Apr.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
From The Critics
Environmental and software consultant Mulhall speculates, in a somewhat scattershot manner, on the impact of certain advanced technologies on human society and its relationship with the natural world. A major theme running through the work is the dangers that natural disasters pose to humankind and the technological solutions that may mitigate those disasters. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781573929929
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books
  • Publication date: 8/28/2002
  • Pages: 300
  • Product dimensions: 5.61 (w) x 8.37 (h) x 1.03 (d)

Meet the Author

Douglas Mulhall is a sustainable development specialist and technology journalist. He has managed scientific institutes that pioneered adaptive technologies such as water recycling and flood prevention, in collaboration with governments, research laboratories, and multinational companies He has written articles for professional journals, newspapers, and magazines, including the Futurist and Nanotechnology magazine.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations 9
About the Title 11
Acknowledgments 13
Preface 15
Introduction. Collision of Futures 21
Pt. 1 The Molecular Age
Ch. 1 Singularity 27
Ch. 2 Molecular Building Blocks 30
Ch. 3 What Comes First and What Does It Mean for Each of Us? 52
Ch. 4 What Comes Next? Megatrends That Could Alter Our Lives 81
Ch. 5 The Nanoecology Revolution 113
Ch. 6 Reviving Tropical Islands 120
Ch. 7 Who's Driving the Molecular Machine? 124
Pt. 2 Nature's Time Bombs
Ch. 8 Are We Getting More or Less Vulnerable? 143
Ch. 9 Shaking Up Tokyo and the Globalized Economy 150
Ch. 10 So, You're Bored by Doomsday? 156
Ch. 11 An Elephant in the Room of Environmentalism 174
Ch. 12 Lost Messages from Ancient Times 180
Pt. 3 Blueprints for a Molecular Defense
Ch. 13 Why Go There? 189
Ch. 14 Tools for Defusing Time Bombs 191
Ch. 15 Lessons from Tokyo - Learning to Predict the Big One 217
Ch. 16 The Long Valley Caldera Defense - Avoiding a Dark Age 221
Ch. 17 How to Avert Armageddon - Have an Asteroid for Lunch 226
Pt. 4 Getting from Here to There
Ch. 18 The Right Questions 233
Ch. 19 Overcoming Cultural Amnesia 255
Ch. 20 Bypassing the Road to Hell 263
Ch. 21 Using Open Source 282
Ch. 22 Redesigning Democracy for Artificial Intelligence 286
Ch. 23 Liberating Each One of Us 293
Conclusion 311
App. A Isaac Asimov's Laws of Robotics 315
App. B Excerpt from Foresight Guidelines on Molecular Nanotechnology 316
Notes 317
A Brief Sampling for the Scientifically Inclined Reader 371
Index 377
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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 23, 2002

    Got NANO?

    <p class='MsoNormal' style='TEXT-ALIGN: justify'> I just finished reading Douglas Mulhall's outstanding new book 'Our Molecular Future: How Nanotechnology, Robotics, Genetics, and Artificial Intelligence Will Transform Our World', and I highly recommend it. Put this one at the top of your list! </p> <p class='MsoNormal' style='TEXT-ALIGN: justify'> Mulhall clearly states a case about how molecular scale engineering [AKA nanotechnology], has the potential to save humankind from global catastrophe, both self inflicted and naturally occurring, and he does so without the use of hyperbole and inflated claims.</p> <p class='MsoNormal' style='TEXT-ALIGN: justify'> From super volcanos [like the one under Yosemite] and nuclear winter inducing asteroid strikes, to tsunamis, earthquakes, hurricanes and drought, mature MNT has the potential to protect us by both forecasting and mitigating -if not eliminating- their devistating effects.</p> <p class='MsoNormal' style='TEXT-ALIGN: justify'> In an easy to read format, with very few forays into geek-speak, Mulhall presents his well considered and thoroughly researched theories.</p> <p class='MsoNormal' style='TEXT-ALIGN: justify'> Overall, an excellent overview for those who wish to understand how disruptive and enabling technologies may save us from ourselves and from mother nature. And along the way you will learn a lot about how nanoscale technologies may enhance our lives, provide abundance for all, and greatly raise the standard of living for everyone. </p>

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 14, 2002

    More info about the book

    For more information about the book - excerpts, opinions etc. - go to the official website at: www.ourmolecularfuture.com

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 14, 2002

    Our Molecular Future Mapped: The Balancing of Skeptic & Visionary

    (Reviewed in Nanotechnology Magazine) The compelling message of this book is that disruptive molecular technologies might protect us from disruptive natural hazards. Douglas Mulhall explains that although we're powerless to prevent natural attacks right now, we may soon have the defensive tools. The book takes an enlightened approach to the technology-ecology interface by exploring what the environment may do to us, rather than only what our technology may do to the environment. In so doing, the book defines one of the great challenges of our time:  how to use nanotechnology to adapt to big earth changes. This work makes a few groundbreaking contributions. It's the first book to link nanotechnology with protection from natural hazards such as tsunami (that threaten much of America's coastline and so far we haven't been able to do much about), earthquake (that threaten our high-tech infrastructures), and climate-related phenomena such as hurricane and drought (that cause havoc every time they hit). This alone is a revolutionary approach to the natural disaster paradigm. On top of that, building from K. Eric Drexler's work of many years ago, it's an intriguing assessment of the ecological implications, and a must-read for environmentalists. Mulhall's work focuses on scenarios, questions, and strategies, rather than absolute predictions or answers. He readily accepts that because the future is approaching with such speed and uncertainty, predictions are foolish. Yet he also makes us put on our thinking caps by postulating how our lives might be altered. This is a refreshing departure from works that try to claim a monopoly on what the future 'will' look like. A year ago, it might have been easy to dismiss this combination of futuristic technology and disaster preparedness as over the top. Regrettably, some reviewers still try to marginalize this genre. That's unfortunate, because September 11 has shown us that we have to redefine the word 'impossible', and pay more attention to how the improbable happens more often than we think. For skeptics who may say that robots with feelings and Homo sapiens with downloadable thoughts are a bit wacky, Mulhall gives a convincing comparison of where we were at the end of the 19th century compared to where we are now. He describes how someone in 1899 might react just as badly to being told that a man would golf on the moon in 1969, as someone today might react to being told that we'll be able to download the human mind in our lifetimes. Through such comparisons, he takes us a step closer to realizing that we have to start thinking the unthinkable if we want to avoid being caught napping by the future. With extensive footnoting, Mulhall gives lay readers a roadmap to works that have details about the diverse areas he touches on. This makes the text sufficiently authoritative without being too heavy. One drawback is that the book title doesn't reflect what a good deal of the text is about: adapting to natural hazards. Nevertheless, it's an impressive walk through a lot of territory, and great start for everyone who wants an overview of a science-enabled super-era that we're about to enter.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 20, 2002

    Fascinating glimpse into the future

    Rarely does one find a book with as many insights into the future as Our Molecular Future. Page after page there are concepts which are entirely foreign to you before reading them, and then seem so self-evident after you have understood them. Clearly, not everything that is depicted in the book is going to come to pass in our lifetimes. However, this was the best book I have read for years. Not since Godel, Escher, Bach have I thought so much while reading!

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