Despite its focus on many potential futures, this book is also
based on present realities and our natural past.
In 2003, The Futurist Magazine carried a cover story
about Our Molecular Future that answers this question: is
it science, or science fiction? Here are some examples:
--Desktop factories, artificial retinas, molecular sized motors,
genetic computing, and materials that slow light to zero: these
--The logarithmic rate of increase in computing power is a fact.
Robotic pets that respond to voice commands are a fact: not science
--Imagine a world where we can print self-illuminating pictures
and solar cells from our home printer, build buildings with materials
that are exponentially stronger than today's steel, and engineer
our kids to our own specifications. Science fiction? Discoveries
that make these futures possible were announced in April, 2002,
a few weeks prior to this book being published.
--A nanostructured alloy with a "theoretical best strength"
four times greater than steel has been invented by scientists at
the Idaho National
Energy and Environment Laboratories.
--Self-illuminating, printable materials have been invented by
lesbian couple has engineered their child to be deaf like they are,
thus generating a storm over the rights of gay couples to have children,
the rights of the disabled, and the morality of designer babies.
--Moreover, imagine one of the most powerful nations incapacitated
by an earthquake. This happened in 1923 when the Great Kanto Earthquake
flattened Tokyo and crippled the Japanese economy. Earthquakes of
such magnitude occur on a regular basis. They pose real threats
to present day Japan and the globalized economy. They are not science
--A tsunami that engulfed the west coast in 1700 is borne out by
--The earthquake that made the Mississippi flow backwards in 1815
is well established.
--The climate changes that brought years without summer between
536 and 540 a.d. are recorded in tree ring samples.
--A thousand foot high wave that swept trees from a mountain in
Alaska in 1958 has been verified through stark photographic evidence.
These are real. They have occurred. They constitute the foundations
for this book.
This book makes the case that if we ignore the reality that is
exploding around us, we may find ourselves in the same position
as New York City did when they built their emergency command post
in what they thought was the most impregnable place in Manhattan:
the World Trade Center.
The impossible has happened. Let's get used to it.
Nevertheless, this book does not claim that the scenarios
described therein actually "will" occur. It is probable,
as the title suggests, that these technologies will transform the
world that we live in, but the book takes pains to emphasize that
we face many possibilities in that transformation.
Among those possibilities is that such a transformation may never
occur, or may be seriously delayed. We may be thrown back rather
than forward if big natural disruptions cripple our capacities.
Thus, an enlightened molecular future is by no means guaranteed.
This book focuses on strategies for defending against known
natural hazards, rather than on specific solutions.
The task of specific solutions is left to those who are qualified
to do that: the scientists. Their works are heavily footnoted and
referenced in the text, for readers who wish to know more about
how these technologies work.
In the words of one individual quoted in this book:
"If it doesn't sound like science fiction, then it's probably
Douglas Mulhall February 11, 2003