Doctor Ralph Merkle introduces us to a family of medical nano-bots capable of operating inside our bodies and repairing damages at the cellular level. A matter of decades, he says, and he plans to be around for it. During our conversation we noticed he was wearing a bracelet. And we asked him about it…..Sit down before you watch this.
MERKLE: What we are talking about is a medical technology that can intervene at the level where the damage has occured and repair that damage. One of the examples of a medical nanorobot would be a respirocite. This would simply be a device, it would be maybe a micron in size, that’s very very small, and it would be injected along with billions and billions of others into your circulatory system and it would carry oxygen. Like your ordinary red blood cells it’s an artificial red blood cell. And an artificial white blood cell would be in the circulatory system and when it identified a pathogen, a bacteria that shouldn’t be there, it could sweep it in and crunch it up, digest it and spit out the remains, and the remains would be in this case, harmless small molecules that would not irritate the body. It could do this very much faster than ordinary white blood cells, So it could deal with infections more rapidly, and more effectively. There are things like cancer, where the question is how do you identify cancer cells? One of the things that the medical nanorobots provide is an on-board computer, then you can use very complex decision-making to say that’s a cancer cell. We’re some decades, how many decades depends on how much focused effort we put into developing the core technology required to manufacture respirocites. What we would need to build would be a nano factory, in other words, we need to build the manufacturing facilities to build respirocites.
CRISTINA: Now what about what we consider the end of life is it truly the end of life?
M: Years ago, people said, ‘you’ve stopped breathing, you must be dead’. Then we said, ‘oh, your heart stopped, you must be dead’. ‘Oh, your brainwave stopped, you must be dead’. This is all, not really quite accurate. When we start looking at medical nanorobots, when we look at this new technology we start to say, you know, we could really repair tissue even when that tissue is not functioning. As a consequence, our definition of what is living and what is non-living changes over time. We could even revive people who have been cryopreserved using today’s technology. There are at least two organizations in the U.S., I happen to be a member of one, which is Alcor. If in fact I should suffer a heart attack or if I should be found in unhealthy condition why, Alcor would be promptly notified and I would be cryopreserved. Then I would awaken in a future where there would be very advanced technology and hopefully there would be an opportunity to find out what has happened to all of this science and all of this technology which I hope is going to be developed.