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Friday, September 7, 2018

Microstory 925: Nanotechnology

Let me start this off by explaining that nanotechnology does not exclusively deal with teeny tiny robots. Those are a big [sic] part of it, but they don’t tell the whole story, and are only being studied in some of the fields that can benefit from the subject as a whole. Nanotech refers to the manipulation of technology at nanometer scales, which can still always be incorporated into larger devices, like your phone. There’s this concept known as Moore’s Law, and in order to stop this from getting too technical, it basically means that computer processors are getting smaller and smaller all the time. Nanotechnology allows us to get so incredibly small that, not only can your phone itself be smaller, but it can be more powerful, allowing you to perform more complex tasks, faster. But again, that’s not all there is. Nanomedicine will do wonders for the development of cures for an array of diseases. You see, when it comes to your body, it’s all about the processes happening at miniscule scales, in the background, that you aren’t even conscious of. Little cells are floating around you, interacting with each other, and foreign objects, and performing the duties they’ve been programmed to carry out. This is what allows us to fight off diseases, while at the same time, it is the exploits in these microscopic systems that allow pathogens to take advantage of us in the first place. Our microbiome is under constant external threat, and certain cells are consistently required to learn to deal with dangers they’ve never seen before. But what if we could subvert all that? What if, when a new disease comes along, artificial cells could be the ones to attack the invaders, and heal the patient, just by more efficiently mimicking cells that evolved to do that for you. Highly specialized superserums can be injected in the early days, but as technology marches on, we will one day just have an army of these nanoregulators inside of us that can be updated over the air at the click of a button. You can request new resistance using an app on whatever device people are using in those days, or maybe there will be some central server that blasts a security patch to everyone all at once. Of course this all comes with risks.  What if someone figures out how to hack this? What can they program your system to do against your will? How far can they go? Can they order your body to literally start attacking itself? Can patches be reversed, or otherwise corrupted? What long-term effects would this regimen have on your system? Could it have a negative impact on your body’s natural functions, or those of your descendants? I don’t claim to have all the answers, which is why I love that thousands—maybe millions; what do I know?—of people are all working together to figure this all out before anything bad happens.

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