SNDP and Nanotechnology
Why do I think SNDP (Simplified Nanotechnology Development Platform) is the key to the success or failure of nanotechnology?
Let's remember the early 1980's and the field of AI. On one side, there was the AI community with a great wealth of knowledge and some of the best labs and geniuses at MIT, Stanford, and Carnegie-Mellon, who initiated companies like Teknowledge to develop expert systems, Automatix to build intelligent sense perception for robots, and Artificial Intelligence Corporation (makers of Intellect) to simulate natural language communication. On the other side, there were people like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, who in company of the likes of Marvin Minsky, would not even count as computer literate. But the reality is that the first group hardly made any significant changes to the huge global development of IT, and at best their results were picked up, and used, by the successful companies of the second group. In fact, two decades later, some of the works of AI, are being picked up by Google, which has developed to what it is, thanks to the PC Revolution.
The reality is that the discussions of the AI community in early 1980's were not much different from the discussions of 1950 by Turing or even similar discussions of the field today. Yesterday, I wrote a review entitled Turing and AI [http://www.ghandchi.com/398-TuringEng.htm] , looking at Turing's 1950 paper, where it is not hard to see how all the topics of discussion in the AI community, are not really much different 55 years later today, from random element in computing to self-programming, from permissibility of discrete state machines to equating intelligence with human intelligence, from worrying about computers' ability to communicate feelings to possibility of self-reference and creativity for computers (or humans for that matter), which I have discussed in the aforementioned paper yesterday, and could as well have been discussed with Alan Turing in 1950.
There is nothing wrong with all the discussions and research of the AI community, and the successes of the developers of PC does not negate the genius and contributions of the AI scientists, on the contrary, the new PC's have provided better tools to be used by the AI community, and all other scientists and ordinary people around the world. Then, what is the issue?
With the start of Apple Computers, a new trend started in the computer industry, that made it possible for developers to develop, and users to use computers, without the need for having a huge infrastructure of a computer center of a big company to be available to them. No longer developing communication for this PC needed a Bell Labs. This made it possible for more and more people developing for PCs and more and more people using computers. With the advent of IBM PC, even the computer itself was an open architecture, which further gave incentives for other developers, not just making peripherals, input-output devices, but even CPU, memory, and all other components of the new computer, IBM PC, that became the de facto standard of all personal computers.
The nanotechnology has been in an excellent position in the last 5 years, where all those who have seen the commoditization of information technologies, and its exit from US which happened a lot faster than similar process in the auto industry, because of the lack of unions in the computer industry, and thus they all have been looking for the next thing to come, have been eagerly searching nanotech and other technologies such as biotech. Yet nanotech has kept in its academic circles and for outsiders who could have helped to start a boom to the nanotech, there has not been much to work with. It is like the pre-1983 years of computer science, which hardly had a mass of developers or power users, and was confined to academic elite and its extensions in the industries.
I will explain why a similar light-weight infrastructure platform for nanotechnology has not been developed , something comparable to the PC revolution! But let me first note that all nanotech experts., in the last decade, as far as working in the technology and not the science, are basically trying to create the final product, rather than making a light-infrastructure platform for nanotechnology, to enable armies of developers to develop for it, and huge crowds to use it. This needed platform is what I call SNDP (Simplified Nanotechnology Development Platform).
The nanotechnology should not follow the path of biotech which has a semi-academic structure, and has hardly grown in the last few decades, where it is almost nothing when compared to the growth of global IT. Maybe biotech does not have another choice, but biotech's approach for nanotech will be a suicide.
There has been another technology that had been as complex as nanotech, but had taken a PC approach to its development. That is the chip development technology. It has basically *three* crowds. The designers who use a small infrastructure, the size of a PC, as their workbench to develop designs with thousands of logic cells. Then there is the FPGA (field-programmable gate array) that can be reprogrammed, and after place and route of new builds received from the designers, can be used for testing and emulation. And builds can fail and be rebuilt, and the final build passing everything to be satisfactory, can go for spinning, which is costly and time-consuming.
Nanotechnology can take a similar approach. Let's say buy an SNDP system to develop an alternative for oil, and someone else buys an SNDP to grow bullet proof skin for human body. We should both be able to develop the whole logic, and only when ready, to pass it on to those who can emulate it, before the turn for those manufacturing the actual oil or skin alternatives. The SNDP is simply an input-output system with a minimal infrastructure requirements of a PC, where data is entered with input devices and the solution is passed onto the output devices, output devices that could be as simple as a DVD.
Currently each nanotech expert is trying to make one more research program successful. Those are great works, for example, making the nanotubes are moving very well, and will help to make the FPGA equivalent of the nanotech process, and even to make more choices for the final manufacturing of complex nanotech products nearer. But the stage that can be done by thousands of developers, is the first stage that requires an SNDP.
The SNDP should be so simple that one should be able to pick up one, from a store like Fry's Electronics, and it should have all kinds of molecular maps of everything, from oil to skin composition. Such a powerful base, can help a lot of people to be a nanotech professional, the same way that IT expanded in such a rapid move after the PC Revolution, that many with just a high school diploma became top developers for the PC's, something that was unheard of in the days of main frames.
I think what will be the determining factor for nanotechnology to win, is to offer an SNDP at a decent price of under $5000, and not trying to win one more argument with those who think nanotech can never be real. Just like AI, even after all the developments of computers, and all the intelligent tasks that computers actually do today, the discussions about their possibility is still like the days when Alan Turing was discussing the same issues, not to consider them a waste of time, but will not help the next glacial advancement of nanotech that can easily happen now, if an SNDP was available.
Sam Ghandchi, Editor/Publisher
April 15, 2005
Is Nanotechnology Real? آيا ننو تکنولوژي واقعي است؟
Turing and AI
Secularism & Pluralism-Essays
Future Human Evolution