How Far Are We From Nanobots

Nanobots inside cockroach

In terms of technologies for the future, nanobots, or nanorobotics, offer significant potential, but are still limited by a range of practical issues. Nanobots, which involve minuscule robots being placed within the body, or as devices for creating objects, could revolutionise medical science and how we think about networks and communication. Given the complexity of network technology and the speed of equipment available through companies such as comms-express, it’s arguable that speeds and the integration of networking into the body through nanobots is theoretically possible. However, are nanobots going to be a reality in the near future?

Nanobots represent a technology where sensors and robots can be potentially created on a microscopic scale for insertion into the body, where they can work on fighting disease and on making adjustments on a cellular level. Smart technology within the body could consequently help to detect and resist viruses and improve diagnosis accuracy. Although this version of nanorobotics is still at a preliminary stage, experiments are being carried out into using robotics for retractable needles and non-invasive surgeries.

Research carried out by projects such as the Human Body Version 2.0, as well as by Ray Kurzweil, has led to futurist claims over how we can become more advanced human beings through the reverse engineering of the human brain and the addition of nanobots to our bloodstreams. While even the most futurist-oriented groups see the practical reality of nanobots as being some way off, methodologies are being developed for how neuroengineering could potentially work and be enhanced by these technologies.

Experiments are also being conducted at MIT into ‘Smart Sand’ technologies; this involves using sand grain sized computers to duplicate objects. The Distributed Robotics Laboratory have been working on this project as a subtractive process, where blocks of sand can detach and form objects by responding to magnetic currents, and have achieved some early results with 2D objects.

Some broader questions remain, though, about the ethics of nanobots one of the more dramatic concerns is whether implanting humans with nanobots could lead to a ‘grey goo’ situation, whereby nanobots become infected with a computer virus and end up destroying matter. While this fear remains marginal, there are some significant questions that scientists have to consider in terms of making nanobots safe before even planning practical experiments on human bodies and animals.

So, for the time being, it’s unlikely that we’ll be seeing nanobots on a practical scale any time soon. However, some technologies that show promise for the complexity of advanced robots is available, which includes the Mars Rover. Research into MRI data and finding ways of creating automatic surgical tools and simulations similarly suggest that the groundwork is building for technologies that could inform a next generation of nanobot technology.