With much progress being made in nanotechnology, the future of computers has two directions: nanotechnology and cells. Nanotechnology is the engineering of a system at the molecular scale. These processes are either "bottom-up" or "top-down".
"Bottom -up" is the construction at the atomic level one atom at a time while "top-down" is using precise tools to achieve nanotechnological scales. Nanocomputing will give rise to four possible types of computers: electronic nanocomputers, biochemical and chemical nanocomputers, mechanical nanocomputers, and quantum nanocomputers. Nanotechnology allows for much smaller devices to be built without wasting space because it is built one atom at a time. For instance, silicon transmitters will be based on carbon nanofibers which are faster, smaller, and consumes less energy.
Advances in nanotechnology will have a significant impact on the environment, energy, healthcare, and medicine. There may be a future involving "nanobots" which would assemble products at the atomic scale and can turn one material into another, self-replicating, and being injected into the human body to repair disease at the cellular level.
Nanotechnology is projected to be generating trillions of dollars in the near future, with many companies already reaping the benefits. A patent moratorium may soon be in place to aid growth in the field. As wonderful as this new technology is, we must remember to keep in mind the pros and cons.
The pros of nanotechnology are that it will allow humans to create anything faster, smaller, and better. It will help stop disease and aid in energy. But, the cons are that a strong set of ethical standards will be needed to govern the new technology. For example, nanorobots can fall into the wrong hands and be used against us instead of for us, which must be taken into consideration.
So, when can we expect to see these advances? Well, we don't know. But, we are currently on our way to the last and fourth generation which takes place 2015-2020 and that is molecular nanosystems: molecular systems by design, atomic design, and emerging functions. So in the very near future we will be reaping the benefits from nanotechnology and will begin taking ethics into much more consideration as it advances.
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