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November 29th, 2007
Is artificial life moving any closer?
Bernadette Bensaude-Vincent gives a brief history of nanotechnology and its key analogies, drawn from molecular biology. In 1961, Richard Feynman was intrigued by the possibility of increasingly tiny assemblers. Eric Drexler hopes to emulate organic molecules in more enduring form. But the present bull market for nanotech seems to have devolved into innovations in materials science, rather than a quest to create tiny self-replicating machines. The same thing happened with artificial intelligence and neural network theory — high aspirations became mired in frustration, then subsumed by lower-level research and industrial buzzwords, lofty goals redefined.
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