Kirk L. Kroeker "Technology, too, obeys the law of responding, of answering a call at whose origin we are encountering so much static." -- Avital Ronell

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Living Machines

By Kirk L. Kroeker

Researchers of molecular computing and communication are focusing on the type of breakthroughs needed to make the vision of ultrasmall, biocompatible computers a reality.

Physicists have long postulated the idea that machines would become so sophisticated one day that scientists would be able to build increasingly smaller and more sophisticated devices until, at an advanced stage, entire computational systems would be able to operate inside the boundaries of a device no larger than a single cell. One early example of this type of speculation was a landmark 1959 lecture titled “Plenty of Room at the Bottom.” In the lecture, delivered at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), Nobel laureate Richard Feynman talked about engineering circuits at the molecular level, with the idea being to build a tiny set of tools that would be able to build an even smaller set of tools, and so on, until scientists reach the point at which they can create circuits consisting of a mere seven atoms.

(This article appeared in CACM, vol. 51, no. 12, Dec. 2008, pp. 11-13.)

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