Skylar Tibbits, a researcher at MIT, presents a fascinating preview of the wonders and possibilities of molecular manufacturing. In the future, we won’t make things—they’ll make themselves. It’s a concept called self-assembly.
Self-assembly is a big concept. Instead of building something (a table, a car, a building), we can create nano-materials that will build themselves.
Some call the self-assembly concept early stage, but it’s been around for some time. Eric Drexler, author of the seminal work, Engines of Creation, wrote about it in 1986. In 1987, the Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to Cram, Pedersen and Lehn for their work in building large molecular structures from self-assembling parts.
Self-assembly sounds freaky-deaky. It is. But it also has humanity-changing potential—both positive and destructive, as Drexler notes in chapter 11 of his book titled, Engines of Destruction.
Tibbits shows us, in this TED talk, three in-the-lab projects that hint at what a self-assembling future might look like.