Is a person crazy if the things that only they can see are real? Book in progress.
|Professor Reynolds stood at the podium near the front of the crammed lecture hall. A portly, bearded man in his late sixties, Reynolds was regarded highly on campus. His courses always had a waiting list and his best students were known to easily get good jobs at all the top technology companies. Getting an A in one of his classes was almost as good, or better, on a student's resume than a degree was in some scientific circles.|
He had come to the college in the mid eighties to teach emerging robotic technologies and had made a formidable reputation for himself doing so. His resume included governmental research projects as well as working for several leading edge computer and technological companies, three of which he co-founded. Usually an outgoing individual, he always became tight-lipped regarding his government years.
He looked out over the students as they listened, portable recorders capturing every word.
“Back in the fifties, when people were just getting started with computers, the components used in creating one were so big they had to be stored in giant rooms. It was not uncommon for technicians of the day to walk around inside these big, simple computers monitoring components and cooling transistors with giant fans. Today, thanks to technological advances in manufacturing and design, we have fantastic devices that fit in our pockets that can do the work of a thousand of those computers in a fraction of a second.”
The phone in his pocket chimed in agreement and he reached in to shut off the ringer as a few chuckles filtered from the audience.
“So the obvious question is where do we go next? Some have taken the idea of shrinking computers to a whole new level literally. They have been able to make computers out of molecules. Some of the smallest units of matter we know of today. How is this possible? It doesn’t matter if a computer can help you with your grammar, play your favorite music or movie, store your entire family photo album or help you with your finances. All computers essentially are, are a series of yes and no switches. Each switch telling the computer the status of something either as on or off. Provide enough switches, fast enough and to us it appears that the computers are definitely more than the sum of their parts.”
A set of double-doors in the upper left corner of the hall opened and two men in black suits quietly entered. They let the door close behind themselves and stood next to it watching the lecture. The professor noticed one of the men talking into his wrist.
Reynolds continued. “With miniature computers, dubbed nano-computers or nano-bots, these computations can be calculated on a molecular level. This presents us with what appears to be almost unlimited possibilities as well as many potential issues. Studies are already underway to use nano-technology to do everything from keeping our clothing from wrinkling to filtering hazardous pollutants from our air and water. But, being so new, can we really control technology at this level? What were to happen if it escaped? Particles that small could travel across the globe in a matter of weeks and wreak havoc with ecosystems and organisms all over the planet. And what about us? With particles on a scale such as this, we would breath them in and have them multiplying within us before we even knew anything was happening. We wouldn’t even have to breath them in, they’d be so small they would pass directly through the pores in our skin. Things to consider as we push further with this technology.” Dr. Reynolds glanced at the two men in the corner then scanned the rest of the audience. “Any questions?”
A student near the front of the hall raised his hand.
“How can a nano-bot do anything useful?”
“A nano-bot cannot do anything of great significance by itself. But a million or a billion? Think about the eciton burchelli or as you may know her, the common army ant. If you were to stumble across one you might come out of the experience with at most a painful sting, but if you come across a million, well when they’re done with you only your family dentist would be able to tell for sure it was you. Nano-technology’s key to success, or failure, is that it's modeled after the behavior of insect societies. No one insect in a colony is all that dangerous or useful but working together they can be a formidable opponent. They can build giant twenty foot high dwellings able to withstand the harshest weather like the African Termite or lay waste to vast tracts of forest like the army ant.
“But aren’t there governmental regulations in place already to help prevent problems from occurring?”
Reynolds looked again at the two men. “I have nothing against the government but let’s take a look at the facts shall we? When any new technology is developed it seems that they are the last to set any protocols as to how to police it, sometimes not doing so until something bad occurs. Take a look at the birth of the internet. There are still regulations being voted on for the policing of that which, by technological standards, is old news. In the meantime things like identity theft and internet fraud occur on epidemic scales. Waiting for rules or having individual companies police themselves are luxuries we simply cannot have when it comes to nano-technology.”
Reynolds glanced at the clock in the corner of the hall.
“That’s all for today. Please remember that your mid-terms are due no later than this coming Thursday. You can drop them off by my office or hand them in at the lab center. Have a good day.”
He began to make his way toward the desk across from the podium as the students funneled toward the exits. The two men began descending the stairs on their way to intercept him. The phone vibrated in his pocket and he pulled it out reading the number. It was the same one as before. He pushed the talk button and put the device to his ear.
“Hello, yes.” He looked up as the two men came closer. The last student was just leaving as they reached him. “I see. I’m glad you called. Thank you.” Reynolds hung up and pocketed the phone. He made his way around the desk to meet the men, a fake smile forming on his face.
“How may I help you gentlemen?”
The taller of the two spoke emotionlessly at him. “Dr. Reynolds. Mr. Ledner requests a word with you. Could you please come with us sir?”
Dr. Reynolds smile faded. “Yes, of course.” He said. He followed the men out of the hall.
Continued in Chapter Four
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