Experiments by a Harvard team led by physicist Eric Mazur have shown the feasibility of using sharply focused laser light to perform surgical procedures from outside the patient, including destroying small structures inside cells without otherwise affecting them.46 "It's a microscopic James Bond type of scenario," according to project contributor and Harvard cell biologist Donald Ingber. "It generates the heat of the sun, but only for quintillionths of a second, and in a very small space." The team has already demonstrated the ability of performing their laser-based nanosurgery from outside an animal and successfully manipulated the sense of smell of the worm Caenorhabditis efegans.
genetic code, since these computers will he able to share their information. One major advantage of this approach is that undesirable replication processes—for example, of pathological viruses or cancer cells—could be shut down quickly.
Intelligent cells. A hybrid scenario involving both biotechnology and nanotechnology contemplates turning biological cells into computers. These "enhanced intelligence" cells could then detect and destroy cancer cells and pathogens, or even regrow human body parts such as organs and limbs. Biochemist Ron Weiss from Princeton has modified cells to incorporate a variety of logic functions that are used for basic computation.47 Boston University's Timothy Gardner has developed a cellular logic switch, another basic building block for turning cells into computers.48 And scientists at the MIT Media Lab have developed ways to use wireless communication to send messages, including intricate sequences of instructions, to computers inside modified cells.49 By attaching gold crystals comprising fewer than 100 atoms to DNA, they were able to use the gold as antennae and selectively cause the double-stranded DNA to unzip without affecting nearby molecules. The technique could ultimately be used to control gene expression through remote control. Weiss points out that "once you have the ability to programme cells, you don't have to be constrained by what the cells know how to do already You can programme them to do new things, in new patterns."
We are also making exponential progress in understanding the principles of operation of the human brain. Our tools for peering inside the brain are accelerating in their price-performance, and the ability to see small features and fast events. An emerging generation of brain-scanning tools is providing the means for the first time to monitor individual interneuronal connections in real time in clusters of tens of thousands of neurons. We already have detailed models and simulations of several dozen regions of the human brain, and we believe that it is a conservative projection to anticipate the completion of the reverse engineering of the several hundred regions of the brain within the next two decades. This development will provide key insights into how the human brain performs its pattern recognition and cognitive functions. These insights in turn will accelerate the development of artificial intelligence in nonbiological systems such as nanobots. With a measure of intelligence, the nanobots in our bloodstream, bodily organs, and brain will be able to overcome virtually any obstacle to keeping us healthy. Ultimately, we will merge our biological thinking with advanced artificial intelligence to expand vastly our abilities to think, create, and experience.
OUR PERSONAL JOURNEYS
"Tojight a disease after it has occurred is like trying to dig a well when one is thirsty or forging a weapon once a war has begun. "
—The Yellow Emperor's Classic of Internal Medicine
Before we embark on our Fantastic Voyage together, beginning with chapter 4, we would like to reveal a bit of our personal histories. In this chapter, we each explain how we arrived at the point where sharing this health information became a priority for us and how our lives intersected to create this book.
Was this article helpful?