Kinematic Self-Replicating Machines

© 2004 Robert A. Freitas Jr. and Ralph C. Merkle. All Rights Reserved.

Robert A. Freitas Jr., Ralph C. Merkle, Kinematic Self-Replicating Machines, Landes Bioscience, Georgetown, TX, 2004.


6.1 Initial Motivation for Study

Although the design of a molecular assembler has been feasible for many years and basic design issues have been addressed by Drexler [197-199, 208], Merkle [209-221], and several others [219-225, 228, 2322-2325], surprisingly little organized effort has been devoted to it. There exists, at the present time, no national program to design an assembler and no related university or academic projects, despite calls over the years for just such a national level effort equivalent in magnitude to the Manhattan Project or the Apollo Moon Program. For example, in 1992 Neil Jacobstein observed [3001]:

Revolutions in science and engineering all start from a set of insights on technical feasibility and payoffs. However, nothing much happens until people with access to resources commit to making something happen. Envisioning a fundamental advance in technology requires deep knowledge and insight, but making it happen requires access to vast resources, and systematic hard work sustained over a long period of time....The goal, I believe, should be nothing less than a peacetime Manhattan Project – an international collaboration of industry and government to really accomplish molecular manufacturing.

In the private sector, only a single company (Zyvex [2956]) has explicitly pursued molecular assembler design as a long-term objective. Even acknowledging that the time required to build the first prototypes is likely to be long, this state of affairs can only be described as astonishing. The potential payoff [199, 226-228], as measured by almost any rational metric, is so enormous that it would seem to justify an effort representing some non-negligible fractional percentage of the nation’s GDP (Gross Domestic Product) – especially since other organizations or countries might have more advanced, or better-targeted, programs to develop molecular nanotechnology and molecular assemblers. Molecular manufacturing may be the ultimate “disruptive technology” [3002].

In this Chapter we review both the arguments favoring a focused design effort and the arguments opposing such an effort, then identify specific goals for a well-focused future design effort.


Last updated on 1 August 2005