[Neil Gershenfeld] is accelerating a set of connections that packs computer intelligence into materials and materials into self- reproducing things.
—Future Mutation: Technology and the Evolution of Species
Some of us remember the old Star Trek series which introduced the Replicator into the minds of a whole generation in the late 60’s. At that time it was a fanciful idea of replicating anything in the universe out of thin air. A cup of coffee, a meal, a martini… Of course there were under the hood complex theoretical physics and engineering involved which went untold and unexplained in the TV series.
The notion of a replicator works by rearranging subatomic particles, which are abundant everywhere in the universe, to form molecules and arrange those molecules to form the object. For example, to create a pork chop, the replicator would first form atoms of carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, etc., then arrange them into amino…
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