The Age of Living Machines

Very optimistic & interesting talk at Smithsonian today. The speaker neuroscientist Susan Hockfield, former president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, talked about her book, “The Age of Living Machines: How Biology Will Build the Next Technology Revolution.” I bought the book at the event. Bad form not to buy the book if you attend the event, but in this case I look forward to reading it.

The author explained that the last century was a physics-engineering period. Physics figured out enough of how things worked to make it possible to put it to practical use. The next century will be a bio-engineering period with similar wonders but from this new form.

She went into some history. Our electronic revolution is remarkably new. It was only in the 1930s that it started in earnest.

She talked about Vannevar Bush. I have read about him many other places and if you have not I suggest you do. He was a truly visionary man. There is likely no single individual more responsible for the fantastic scientific, industrial & technological advance in post-war America.

After that, she gave some examples of possible advances. One involves using a virus to made batteries at the nano-level. Another was biological water filtration. There are lots of examples. Most will not pan out, but some will and they will be be glorious.

Government has a strong role to play in funding basic research. Nobody else can do this. It is too risky for private firms. Private firms spend a lot on R&D, but they are much more interested in the D – development part.

The lecture makes me think that it will be along the lines of a couple other books I read – “The Innovators” by Walter Isaacson & “The Inevitable” by Kevin Kelly.

I bought the book at the presentation and read it. It was an easy read, but there was not much more than in the lecture.

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