NBIC - the converging disciplines of regenerative medical science
Sponsored by the National Science Foundation and the Department of Commerce, a major conference was held in December 3-4, 2001 examined the progress that could be achieved by combining the four NBIC fields; Nanotechnology, Biotechnology, Information technology and Cognitive science. Nearly a hundred contributors concluded that this technological convergence could vastly increase the scope and effectiveness of human activity, thereby improving human performance and well-being.
The first paragraph of the report, Converging Technologies for Improving Human Performance, proclaimed: "We stand at the threshold of a new renaissance in science and technology, based on a comprehensive understanding of the structure and behavior of matter from the nanoscale up to the most complex system yet discovered, the human brain. Unification of science based on unity in nature and its holistic investigation will lead to technological convergence and a more efficient societal structure for reaching human goals. In the early decades of the twenty-first century, concentrated effort can bring together nanotechnology, biotechnology, information technology, and new technologies based in cognitive science. With proper attention to ethical issues and societal needs, the result can be a tremendous improvement in human abilities, new industries and products, societal outcomes, and quality of life."
NBIC is currently the most popular term for emerging and converging technologies, and was introduced into public discourse through the publication of Converging Technologies for Improving Human Performance, a report sponsored in part by the U.S. National Science Foundation. Let's starts by understanding the fundamentals of each of the four converging fields (Sources: Wikipedia, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy; European Commission):
Nanotechnology is the manipulation of matter on an atomic and molecular scale; Nano (n) refers to the SI unit prefix for 10-9 (= 0.000000001). Therefore, one nanometer (nm) is one billionth of a meter. As an illustration of the scale of interest, a chain of 5 to 10 atoms is about 1 nm long and a human hair, about 80 000 nm in diameter on average. The earliest, widespread description of nanotechnology referred to the particular technological goal of precisely manipulating atoms and molecules for fabrication of macroscale products, also now referred to as molecular nanotechnology. A more generalized description of nanotechnology was subsequently established by the US National Nanotechnology Initiative, which defines nanotechnology as the manipulation of matter with at least one dimension sized from 1 to 100 nanometers. This definition reflects the fact that quantum mechanical effects are important at this quantum-realm scale, and so the definition shifted from a particular technological goal to a research category inclusive of all types of research and technologies that deal with the special properties of matter that occur below the given size threshold. It is therefore common to see the plural form "nanotechnologies" as well as "nanoscale technologies" to refer to the broad range of research and applications whose common trait is size. Because of the variety of potential applications (including industrial and military), governments have invested billions of dollars in nanotechnology research.
Biotechnology is the use of living systems and organisms to develop or make useful products, or "any technological application that uses biological systems, living organisms or derivatives thereof, to make or modify products or processes for specific use" (UN Convention on Biological Diversity). Depending on the tools and applications, it often overlaps with the (related) fields of bioengineering and biomedical engineering. For thousands of years, humankind has used biotechnology in agriculture, food production and medicine. The term itself is largely believed to have been coined in 1919 by Hungarian engineer Karl Ereky. In the late 20th and early 21st century, biotechnology has expanded to include new and diverse sciences such as genomics, recombinant gene technologies, applied immunology, and development of pharmaceutical therapies and diagnostic tests.
Information technology is the application of computers and telecommunications equipment to store, retrieve, transmit and manipulate data, often in the context of a business or other enterprise. The term is commonly used as a synonym for computers and computer networks, but it also encompasses other information distribution technologies such as television and telephones. Humans have been storing, retrieving, manipulating and communicating information since the Sumerians in Mesopotamia developed writing in about 3000 BC, but the term "information technology" in its modern sense first appeared in a 1958 article published in the Harvard Business Review; authors Harold J. Leavitt and Thomas L. Whisler commented that "the new technology does not yet have a single established name. We shall call it information technology (IT)."
Cognitive science is the interdisciplinary study of mind and intelligence, embracing philosophy, psychology, artificial intelligence, neuroscience, linguistics, and anthropology. Its intellectual origins are in the mid-1950s when researchers in several fields began to develop theories of mind based on complex representations and computational procedures. Its organizational origins are in the mid-1970s when the Cognitive Science Society was formed and the journal Cognitive Science began. Since then, more than seventy universities in North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia have established cognitive science programs, and many others have instituted courses in cognitive science.
NBIC is the convergence of those 4 distinct fields of scientific and technologic research that is expected to become transformational of human society, or transhumanism, through regenerative medical science. The goal of this site is to help you stay informed, and appreciated by your entourage for your knowledge of facts as they emerge through the regenerative science of this decade and beyond.
Over time no doubt there will be thousands of sites, blogs and forums holding similar information. The sites will both compete as well as be complimentary. Links from such sites will add to the extraordinary encyclopedic dimension of the Internet, thousands of sites/blogs/forums, professional as well as non-professional, each adding its brick to the edifice of human evolution.
The next human advancement will not mearly be evolutionary but outright revolutionary. The evolution has been ongoing in hundreds of labs in dozens of industrialized nations. But the regenerative revolution, or what is being called transhumanism, is about to break loose in the near future. It will hit us like a tsunami, creeping in on us quietly but with such force that the ground under our feet will jolt us in an unprecedented manner, year after year. Remember, we’re looking at 4 converging fields of cutting edge science and technology, each fairly wide on its own merits. A convergence on the verge of creating a nuclear reaction in regenerative medicine!
Let's consider Tissue Engineering; use of cells and molecules in artificial constructs that compensate for lost or impaired body functions.
The technique consists of using porous biomaterials seeded with cells. The grown tissue construct is then implanted into the body of the patient where it replaces the diseased tissues.
• Esophageal transplantation: seeding of autologous oral mucosal epithelial cells to create cell sheets
• Pulmonary arteries replacement
• Human thumb tissue regeneration
• Cartilage regeneration: PLGA/HA nanocomposites which enhance chondrocyte attachment, proliferation, response and tensile strength
• Tracheal replacement: cell sheet engineering to grow epithelial cells in vitro and to replace damaged cells using non-invasive methods
The converging sciences and technologies relating to the regenerative aspects of humans may sound like science fiction but it’s already now part of the real world, not some fantasy out of the figment of the imagination. The transformational part of the human journey on earth is so close at hand, ready to be deployed to allow the building blocks of transhumanism out!
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