The Ghost in the Machine? Nanotechnology, Complexity, and Us
Nanotechnology’s influence in our daily life is reflected in mobile communication tools, medical diagnostics and new treatments, the use of data by companies and governments, and its accumulation in the cloud. Society reacts slowly to rapidly unfolding technological changes. Nanotechnology, with its atomic-scale capabilities in which much of the natural and physical world’s dynamics unfold, has the potential to make far more dramatic leaps than humanity has encountered in the past. Evolutionary changes—the natural world’s manipulation, such as through genes—and emergent changes—the physical world’s manipulation and autonomy, such as through artificial intelligence—can now be brought together to cause profound existential changes. The complex existential machines thus created have a ghost in them, and humanity needs to shape technology at each stage of the machine building so that it is an angelic ghost.