Have you ever watched a child carefully taking apart their favourite toy, only to find that they can’t for the life of them put it back together again? It’s a phenomenon that’s as old as humpty dumpty and as old as the enlightenment.
We’re remarkably good at pulling things apart. Scientists have been doing it for hundreds of years – looking at smaller and smaller pieces of our world. Every time we thought we’d found the smallest bit, it in turn was revealed to be made of ever more minute components like so many Russian dolls. But while we may have been able to take the universe apart, until now we haven’t had the first clue how to put it back together again. With the new alchemy of nanotechnology, we’re set to reverse this trend – to create what hitherto has only been able to be reduced.
Working at the nano scale, the boundaries between scientific disciplines are increasingly blurred – a phenomenon known as ‘convergence’. When we add the Bits of information technology with the Atoms of molecular manufacturing, tie them up with Neurons and cutting edge cognitive sciences, and then add Genes to throw a bit of life into the party, the whole thing’s likely to go off with a BANG! The typically lyrical, Canadian based ETC Group has labelled the convergence of these powerful technologies The Little BANG Theory.
The hyper-optimism with which nano and biotechnologies are being promoted has an almost religious zeal. Perhaps we’re witnessing the birth of a new creationism?