Merkle at the Singularity Summit 2007
February 2, 1952 |
|Fields||Public key cryptography, cryonics|
UC Berkeley (B.A., 1974)
|Thesis||Secrecy, authentication and public key systems|
|Doctoral advisor||Martin Hellman|
Co-inventor of public key cryptography
|Notable awards||IEEE Richard W. Hamming Medal (2010)
Computer History Museum Fellow (2011) 
If you think the technology is infeasible, you don't worry about what it might do and what its potential is.
If we attempt to block the development of new technology, we effectively have ensured that the most responsible parties will not develop them.
We are looking at a future where to a first approximation, everyone is wealthy.
A potato can grow quite easily on a very small plot of land. With molecular manufacturing, we'll be able to have distributed manufacturing, which will permit manufacturing at the site using technologies that are low-cost and easily available.
If we can reduce the cost and improve the quality of medical technology through advances in nanotechnology, we can more widely address the medical conditions that are prevalent and reduce the level of human suffering.
As in any technological revolution, there will be winners and losers. On balance, everyone will come out ahead, although there will be particular companies that will not be able to cope with a new environment.
Nanotechnology will let us build computers that are incredibly powerful. We'll have more power in the volume of a sugar cube than exists in the entire world today.
It looks as though yields of over 10 times what we can currently grow per acre are feasible if you control the CO2 concentration, the humidity, the temperature, all the various factors that plants depend on to grow rapidly.
Manufacturing takes place in very large facilities. If you want to build a computer chip, you need a giant semiconductor fabrication facility. But nature can grow complex molecular machines using nothing more than a plant.
Because of technological limits, there is a certain amount of food that we can produce per acre. If we were to have intensive greenhouse agriculture, we could have much higher production.
The laws of physics should allow us to arrange things molecule by molecule and even atom by atom, and at some point it was inevitable that we would develop a technology that would let us do this.
A molecular manufacturing technology will let us build molecular surgical tools, and those tools will, for the first time, let us directly address the problems at the very root level.
Today we see a human population of over 6 billion people, many of whom have serious medical conditions, which either can't be treated or cannot be treated economically.
One of the issues facing us today is that there are countries where there is a serious lack of resources, the standards of living are very low, and this creates a fundamental unease and discomfort in entire populations.
Food is available, but it cannot be shipped into an area, so the people in that area suffer the consequences.
The first approximation in this future that we're looking at is that everyone will be physically well off. They will have a great abundance in material goods, and I think that will soften some of the conflicts we see now.
Many people in the world today are not starving because there is an inherent inability to produce food, they are starving because they are caught in the middle of political fights and blockades that have been used as weapons.
We can grow crops less expensively because molecular manufacturing technology is inherently low cost.
One of the things that we can say with confidence is that we will have much lighter, much stronger materials, and this will reduce the cost of air flight, and the cost of rockets.
Disease and ill health are caused largely by damage at the molecular and cellular level, yet today's surgical tools are too large to deal with that kind of problem.
The new technologies that we see coming will have major benefits that will greatly alleviate human suffering.
Lighter computers and lighter sensors would let you have more function in a given weight, which is very important if you are launching things into space, and you have to pay by the pound to put things there.
If you look at the various strategies available for dealing with a new technology, sticking your head in the sand is not the most plausible strategy.
If you look at the human condition today, not everyone is well fed, has access to good medical care, or the physical basics that provide for a healthy and a happy life.
Machines built by human beings they will function correctly if we provide them with a very specific environment. But if that environment is changed, they won't function at all.
There are certain things that are inherently scarce. For example, there is only a certain amount of beachfront property in California. It is going to be scarce, it is going to be expensive.
One of the concepts essential to molecular manufacturing is that of a self-replicating manufacturing system. That concept has lagged behind in its acceptance.