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BEAM ME UP A BURGER, SCOTTY!
Dinner from Sony – made atom by atom, molecule by molecule
Dateline: 9 February 2010
Pushing the trolley around the supermarket looks soon to become a thing of the past. You can now make almost anything you want, custom-built, right in your kitchen, using the new Sony Nano Assembler.
This gizmo is a microwave look-alike - at least superficially. By using the atoms available in your garbage, the Sony P1 is able to assemble anything - from a fresh lettuce to a spare part for your car.
The development is set to have a huge impact on consumer behavior. Wal-Mart has announced it will target to become an information business, replacing its food counters with a space age web site from which you can download the blueprints for all its food products - at less than 10% of the cost of the physical equivalent.
Like many new products, the performance of the Sony P1 disappoints. It is slow - it takes more than five minutes to assemble a crisp lettuce. Right now the product still costs more than three personal computers, but Sony expects the costs of these devices to drop by more than 30-40% per annum. It will also get faster; in three years, Sony expects the time to create a full meal to be down to minutes.
The new version of the P1 already being prototyped on the International Space Station, has new software features that will be available on the earth-bound version within 12 months.
You'll be able to choose from six types of lettuce, complete with however many dewdrops you fancy!
Published 21 August 2003
Hazardous Thinking At Work
Despite appearances to the contrary, FutureWorld cannot and does not predict the future. Our MindBullets scenarios are fictitious and designed purely to explore possible futures, challenge and stimulate strategic thinking. Use these at your own risk. Any reference to actual people, entities or events is entirely allegorical. Copyright FutureWorld International Limited. Reproduction or distribution permitted only with recognition of Copyright and the inclusion of this disclaimer. Public domain image.
ANALYSIS >> SYNTHESIS: How this scenario came to be


Nanoscience – manipulating and building devices atom-by-atom and molecule-by-molecule – is startling in its potential.

Imagine a box of Lego bricks, then think of these as ‘atoms’ that you could put together to make a molecule. Two hydrogen atoms and one atom of oxygen make water – the molecule H20. Early nanoassemblers worked on the molecular level: they picked up molecules and built more complex materials out of that.

But the dream was to perfect the making of commercial nanoassemblers that could perform this process at an atomic level. Nano scientists envisioned the picking up of atoms to create molecules that may not even exist in Nature. These might be new materials or ones copied from an atomic-level blueprint which could be downloaded to an assembler via the Internet.

Timeline

1999: First nanotechnology laboratory

The $34 billion food giant, Kraft Foods, start the first nanotechnology research laboratory. Aware that conventional food science won’t keep the company competitive, and keen to maintain its leadership position, Kraft is amongst the first of the big food companies to begin nano research.

2000: NanoteK created

Kraft forms a consortium, NanoteK, which comprises leading universities and national research laboratories. Physicists, engineers and molecular scientists, not food scientists, carry out the development and research that might yield cutting-edge food technology. Several groups study nanoparticles that encapsulate certain flavors, colors or nutrients, and which could be zapped by a microwave or some other method, to deliver their payload. NanoteK’s focus is on the customization of food products.

2002: UK invests in nanoscience

Nanoscience is getting serious attention. Governments around the world spend $2 billion on nanotech research this year. Building on the UK’s excellent scientific track record, the British Science & Innovations Minister announces a £90 million cash injection to aid nanotechnology research and facilities, following the government report, ‘New Dimensions for Manufacturing – a UK Strategy for Nanotechnology’.

2003: NASA prototype

NASA prototypes a molecular nanoassembler in the Space Shuttle program for the production of selected spare parts in space. Production is limited to the use of two metals and two plastics.

In food science, industry and academia can see the potential to build very well defined food structures from organic and non-organic materials through nanoassembly. Some have a vision of an abundant food supply to poorer countries: the generation of food by non-biological means using advanced nanotechnology, would ensure nutrition in countries with limited resources. For others it is the customization and personalization of products – foods that recognize a person’s profile, nutritional needs and allergies.

2005: Nanoassembler commecialised

NASA and a consortium of private enterprises commercialise a molecular nanoassembler. Research is underway to develop atomic level assemblers. Multi-disciplinary networks of companies across the scientific spectrum band together to build a common architecture that can be used across all industries.

2006: Major failures

News reports of some major failures create negative publicity but the success of commercial molecular assemblers in the automotive and yachting world spur further investments. The public remains unconvinced.

2007: Hollywood blockbuster

A major Hollywood sci-fi blockbuster features the design ideas of Sony, IBM and Dyson, including their versions of the application of nanoassemblers. The hype starts at the premiere and does not wane. The high cost of early machines still limits their usage but their presence in the homes of glitterati assures continued demand. The idea of food manufactured to your specific designs captures the imagination of the media and public alike – even though the practical reality is still some years off.

2008: Impact on retail companies

The food retail companies have begun to understand the implications nanoscience will have on consumer behavior. The likes of Marks & Spencer and Wal-Mart target to become information businesses, by replacing some of their food counters with space age web sites.

They see it working like this: the Sony P1 Nanoassembler connects direct to your Internet or Hypernet connection. If it’s a Cos lettuce you fancy, you click on the menu and select a supplier – Marks & Spencer, for example. The purchase is approved via your mobile phone PIN number at 10% of the price of the physical lettuce. Within seconds M&S downloads the molecular blueprint for the Cos lettuce. Assembly begins right in front of you, atom by atom.

But it’s not only the food companies that benefit. Think of the potential for spare automobile parts! If you need a new gasket for your vintage BMWz4, you can arrange the order within minutes on the BMW website, place the payment, download the molecular blueprint and watch the gasket assembly start. Then all you need is the open road!

2010: Sony P1 launched

Sony launches their first P1 – their first commercial product that they believe will establish the new standard for household appliances.

Scenario Matrix
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Wolfgang Grulke   Eric Drexler becomes an industry outcast
Wired Magazine of October 2004 carries an ironic story by Ed Regis on how Eric Drexler (he who dreamed up molecular machines and coined the term nanotechnology) has been shoved aside by US Big Science. Read "The Incredible Shrinking Man" at www.wired.com

Posted: 31 October 2004 at 22:34 Delete Reply to this comment
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Wolfgang Grulke   3D printing - beyond expensive cartridges
As you will have discovered from using your ink-jet printer, the real cost is not in the hardware but in the expensive print cartridges. Ditto for the new field of 3D printing. It's nice to see this story that allows the recycling of spare plastic as an input material. It really is reminiscent of one of our earliest MindBullets (2003) in which Sony announced a nano-printer for the home that would use "spare atoms" from your garbage to create almost anything.
A FuturesForum post (titled: "3D printing - beyond expensive cartridges") refers to this MindBullet. The full FuturesForum post can be read here: http://www.futureworld.org/PublicZone/FuturesForum/BlogDetails.aspx?PostID=d9cd0900-1c99-4f2e-bbd0-693521cdbbf4


Posted: 16 January 2013 at 11:14 Delete Reply to this comment
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Wolfgang Grulke   How time flies...
We published our first MindBullet almost ten years ago, on 21 August 2003. The subject was 4D printing in the home - a subject that is now just entering media consciousness! They said we were "crazy". Yes, but were we being crazy enough?!

4D printing is building things at an atomic (quantum) level, as opposed to 3D printing which is essentially building things one molecule at a time.
A FuturesForum post (titled: "How time flies...") refers to this MindBullet. The full FuturesForum post can be read here: http://www.futureworld.org/PublicZone/FuturesForum/BlogDetails.aspx?PostID=da2cf79d-1cbf-4a48-8817-e4690f3e3f78


Posted: 5 June 2013 at 09:09 Delete Reply to this comment
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Wolfgang Grulke   3D printing at The Science Museum London
When a leading-edge technology appears at a museum you may think it's all over, yet it's impact hasn't even begun!
A FuturesForum post (titled: "3D printing at The Science Museum London") refers to this MindBullet. The full FuturesForum post can be read here: http://www.futureworld.org/PublicZone/FuturesForum/BlogDetails.aspx?PostID=ea3b0af9-2cd9-41eb-b663-7a533412364c


Posted: 1 September 2013 at 10:11 Delete Reply to this comment
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Wolfgang Grulke   An interesting week for 3D printers!
The week started with a story on UK detectives breaking up a gang who were using 3D printers to make functioning guns and ended with a report that works by Rembrandt and Van Gogh were being reproduced EXACTLY with 3D printers by scientist at Delft university.

http://www.designboom.com/art/oce-3d-printer-creates-identical-reproductions-of-fine-art-paintings-09-30-2013/

Just think of the second-order implications of this trend initially highlighted in our very first MindBullet ten years ago. What is 'real' will never be the same again!
A FuturesForum post (titled: "An interesting week for 3D printers!") refers to this MindBullet. The full FuturesForum post can be read here: http://www.futureworld.org/PublicZone/FuturesForum/BlogDetails.aspx?PostID=3909756a-0057-46d6-a588-b6a07d313979


Posted: 27 October 2013 at 11:08 Delete Reply to this comment
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Wolfgang Grulke   Print your food!
It had to happen! The theme of our first-ever MindBullet reaches the marketplace with a 2014 launch planned.
A FuturesForum post (titled: "Print your food!") refers to this MindBullet. The full FuturesForum post can be read here: http://www.futureworld.org/PublicZone/FuturesForum/BlogDetails.aspx?PostID=5d98f8f3-31ea-40cd-8f3c-9008eb756ccc


Posted: 28 December 2013 at 10:36 Delete Reply to this comment
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Neil Jacobsohn   Printing anything you want from atoms
Ads I said in a previous post - fact is increasingly becoming stranger than fiction! Read the MindBullet alongside, written by FutureWorld founder Wolfgang Grulke way back in 2003 - and then read the attached article...
A FuturesForum post (titled: "Printing anything you want from atoms") refers to this MindBullet. The full FuturesForum post can be read here: http://www.futureworld.org/PublicZone/FuturesForum/BlogDetails.aspx?PostID=e94eca2a-df1e-4405-b11e-2cf5757cbcff


Posted: 26 June 2016 at 11:33 Delete Reply to this comment
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