To understand its implications, try to imagine a medical device that roams through the human body to find and destroy tiny clusters of cancerous cells before they can spread. Or a box the size of a sugar cube that holds the entire contents of a public library. Or materials ten times lighter than steel that are ten times stronger. Nanotech will result in greatly improved efficiency in almost every aspect of life. It will have both commercial and military uses. It can be used to create powerful weapons and tools of surveillance.

So it comes with benefits and risks. Nanotechnology implies not just better products, but a much improved manufacturing process. With nanotech, building products becomes as cheap as the copying of files on a computer.

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This explains why it is sometimes seen as “the next industrial revolution”. The power of nanotechnology will be contained in a personal Nano factory that can be placed on a countertop or desktop. It will have miniature chemical processors, computing, and robotics, with which it will produce a wide-range of items quickly, cleanly, and inexpensively. Products will be built directly from blueprints. Thus, high-quality products can be made cheaply. It can also make new Nano factories equally quickly and inexpensively and cleanly.

In just a few weeks a dozen Nano factories could become billions. Therefore it is both a powerful and potentially dangerous technology.

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