Dr. Ralph C. Merkle is celebrated as an inventor of the encryption technology that allows secure transactions over the Internet. But that was a long time ago. These days, he is better known as a leading theorist of molecular nanotechnology, the still unperfected art of building machines that are little bigger than atoms.
Nanofactories will churn out everything from rocking chairs to rocket ships, superior to any ever made, at "the cost of potatoes and wood," in Dr. Merkle's words. Nanocomputers will interface directly with the brain, vastly increasing human intelligence. And nanobots will cruise through bloodstreams, banishing disease and debility.