Mysterious Shape-Shifting Matter

Create anything you want instantly!

Spewing out from the bowels of technology is shape-shifting matter that recombines and assembles at will.  Matter that is constructed from the atomic level into virtually anything!    Imagine the future!  Everything is programmable, downloadable, editable, and printable from your health, home furnishings, friendships, motor vehicle, and even your clothing.  Would you like a cozy couch but can't afford one?  Very soon you will have access to the technology that will build the couch you want from the atoms up.  This is the dream of those who work on “programmable matter.”

Have you have seen the movement calling for Tiny Homes?  In the crowded cities of the future, could houses be replaced by single, Omni Room apartments?  It would save space and perhaps resources too. Yes, it is part of Agenda 21 (2030) to leave a small footprint on this earth but there is another trend afoot.  Who will need a modest or larger home when you can live an extravagant life in a virtual manor? All you need is to walk through the gate into your customized world.

According to Max Tegmark, his recent book, computational programmable matter is as easy as 1, 2, and 3!

Life 1.0 is single-celled organisms like bacteria; here, hardware is indistinguishable from software. The behavior of the bacteria is encoded into its DNA; it cannot learn new things.

Life 2.0 is where humans live on the spectrum. We are more or less stuck with our hardware, but we can change our software by choosing to learn different things.  Much like managing space on your smart phone, your brain’s hardware will allows remember or process only a certain number of info packages, but you can learn new behaviors without changing your underlying genetic code.  It is called old fashioned discipline. 

We are transitioning from Life 2.0 to Life 3.0 today.

Life 3.0 is the game-changer where creatures can change both their hardware and software. This is true artificial intelligence—one that can learn to change its own base code, leading to an explosion in intelligence. Morphing into AI may have some benefit but there are downsides that one faced with decision should evaluate.  Perhaps through technology and other gene-editing techniques, we could be using our “software” to doctor our “hardware” before too long but what happens to your eternal soul?

Professor Skylar Tibbits at MIT engineering manufacturing individual gadgets Professor Skylar Tibbits uses 4D printing which he describes at a recent a TED Talk, and the website for his research group, the Self-Assembly Lab, excitedly claims, “We have also identified the key ingredients for self-assembly as a simple set of responsive building blocks, energy and interactions that can be designed within nearly every material and machining process available. Self-assembly promises to enable breakthroughs across many disciplines, from biology to material science, software, robotics, manufacturing, transportation, infrastructure, construction, the arts, and even space exploration.”

Naturally, their projects are still in the early stages, but the Self-Assembly Lab and others are genuinely exploring just the kind of science fiction applications we mooted.

Imagine whole factories becoming totally automated cutting manufacturing costs!  As AI seeps into every occupation who will have jobs?  What happens to your identity when you no longer work?  What will you do with your time?  Will you be relevant to AI or irrelevant?  Continuously throughout history, surplus populations were killed off. 

Making Shape Shifting Matter a Reality

Futurists imagine foglets as the tiny nanobots that will be capable of constructing anything from raw materials, somewhat like the Santa Claus machine.  The lines between reality, magic, and fantasy will become indistinguishable.   Programmable matter that can respond and adapt to its surroundings could be used in all kinds of industrial applications. We could envision a future where at your very command anything could be created.

There are challenges to making programmable matter a reality.  The creator must be adept at fine detail work and have a vision.  We will see the ability to rearrange matter begin with small; manage things, which is a very biblical concept.  It will be like using Lego's or Lincoln Logs, only now we will use atoms or nanoparticle size, to build a creation while research hammers away at complex application such as shape-shifting humans into AI and virtual dimensions.  Not only does the matter artist need to be concerned with the actual matter one also needs to factor in the glue, or the ties that bind the matter together.  As you can see it is not an easy task to achieve. 

Early steps toward creating this kind of matter have been taken by those who are developing modular robots. There are plenty of different groups working on this, including MIT, Lausanne, and the University of Brussels.

Robots are being fashioned with 'brain-like' features while the exterior mold can be shaped and shifted to structure the entire system.  Ten of these modular 'brain' robots have been manufactured.

You can imagine that with machine learning algorithms, such swarms of robots might be able to negotiate obstacles and respond to a changing environment more easily than an individual robot.  They can arrange themselves to allow a bullet to pass through without causing harm and then rearrange themselves into a different configuration entirely.

The trend towards building humanoid shaped robots the emerging trend is let robots 'evolve' for their task is more useful.  These robots will be seen in things such as disaster management and first responders where a situation is unpredictable and adaptability is key.

While manufacturing as we know it transforms before our very eyes behind the scenes trend is chipping in every conceivable object. In the not to distant future seems certain that inanimate objects are about to get a lot more animated. 


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Celeste has worked as a contractor for Homeland Security and FEMA.  Her training and activations include the infamous day of 911, flood and earthquake operations, mass casualty exercises, and numerous other operations.  Celeste is FEMA certified and has completed the Professional Development Emergency Management Series.

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Celeste grew up in a military & governmental home with her father working for the Naval Warfare Center, and later as Assistant Director for Public Lands and Natural Resources, in both Washington State and California. 

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