16 Mar 1995 05:06

Machines the size of molecules, built atom-by-atom --- the way living things are. Only they'd be designed to do what we want them to, not to survive come Hell, high water or drought. They could in principle do anything living things do, and more. (Thus for instance: repair themselves; reproduce themselves; repair people's bodies; turn sunlight into power; grow food; break rocks; build cities; raise cities to the ground; dig tunnels; move rivers; deforest continets; reforest continents; cause disease; prevent disease; wage war; read books aloud; play catch; purr when rubbed behind the ears; design machinery; build rockets; colonize space.) Their arrival will ever-so-slightly turn the world upside down.

Update, 13 March 2004: At some point in the last ten years I've come to no longer believe that.

Strongly, strongly recommended: K. Eric Drexler, Engines of Creation