Today’s emergence of nano-micro hybrid structures with almost biological complexity is of fundamental interest. Our ability to adapt intelligently to the challenges has ramifications all the way from fundamentally changing research itself, over applications critical to future survival, to posing small and medium as well as truly globally existential dangers.

In this article I publish suppressed information that has been actually officially published, but is effectively kept unavailable (after being rejected from all higher impact factor journals in the relevant fields because the text is too critical, it was officially published [1], but the title, corresponding author list and text was altered, no proof copy having been given to the actual author, and it can also not be as normally downloaded, even for researchers who should have access. Since this text is highly interesting and relevant far beyond the narrow engineering sciences, I allow myself to actually publish the most interesting and critical parts (slightly edited) in a series of short posts. If citing, please cite [1] anyway in order to support the author.)

Touching on specific issues such as for example how complexity relates to the catalytic prowess of multi-metal compounds, I discuss the increasingly urgent issues in nanotechnology also very generally and guided by the motto ‘Bio is Nature’s Nanotech’. Technology belongs to macro-evolution; for example integration with artificial intelligence (AI) is inevitable. Darwinian adaptation manifests as integration of complexity, and awareness of this helps also in developing adaptable research methods that can find use across a wide range of research - so there is justification for all this even for a narrow minded engineering mindset.

Our approach is based on an analysis and philosophy concerning the evolution of nanotechnology, which must be seen in a wide context or otherwise it would not be proper thinking about evolution at all. General evolution as ‘algorithmic evolution’ [2] and sufficiently general to be self-explanatory/emergent as evolution of evolution [3,4], is fundamental, even a priori in the sense of being metaphysically necessary in physicalist descriptions, the ‘causal creation myth’ of anything finding itself embodied in its world.

Bio-centrist concepts seem more scientific, less nebulous, more strictly defined. However, such rejects for example macro-evolution in social sciences (the properly ‘materialist’ sociology) and must reserve the origin of biological evolution to the gods; there is nothing scientific about that.

Evolution is complexity-generating by being complexity-integrating. Evolution thus understood is not monotonous progress for isolated ‘species’ mainly delineated and identified by mere categorization. Fundamentally speaking, evolution is always “macro-evolution” trough and trough.

Today, this includes social issues such as the emerging ‘medical paradigm’, which transforms all areas, including such issues as converting the criminal justice system and mass-incarceration into potentially Orwellian mental healthcare and competitive cognitive enhancement.

Nanotechnology is hyped to be the crucial tool[5] enabling the medical paradigm technologically. Far from riding hype, the relevance of being aware of such lies also in the awareness of problematic issues, including that there indeed is much hype. We therefore present a general evaluation that is relevant to the current nano-science to nano-technology transition, about how the field evolves and how we adapt, which includes critique. One conclusion is that “artificial” computation is not optional. We are witnessing an inevitable and long ongoing fusion of human and ‘artificial’ information processing, cognition evolving, including that of social structures like the scientific community.

Nanotechnology and artificial intelligence (AI) are in some sense not new. Humans are nothing but robots that nature, via Darwinian evolution, happened to produce from self-assembling nano machinery.

Some people still question: “Are self-healing, self-aware robots possible via nanotech?” However, it is already accomplished; one such robot wrote this sentence.

Many kinds of such robots arose in nature, which goes on to produce more kinds, integrating the available. There is no fundamental difference; ‘natural’ selection involves systems eating each other while ‘artificial’ selection is less violent.

Computers would be no more conscious if Bill Gates had gone down to the production floor to eat obsolete prototypes.

Some give almost religious significance to the close coincidence between elemental abundances in biological bodies and that in the universe or earth’s crust for example. Is the universe made for us? The abundance is usually listed starting from the highest number of atoms, rather than mass abundance, and neglecting noble gasses and iron, so one usually lists hydrogen, oxygen, carbon and nitrogen (H, O, C, N). We do not give such arguments much credit,

but it is nevertheless a strange “coincidence” also in regards to that the next abundant element down the list would be silicon! Is the universe, if considered to be ‘made for’ anybody (in some sort of self-consistent self-creation), not made for us but rather for silicon based computing, perhaps cyborg societies?

That nature now manufactures systems via us being involved manufacturing and purposefully designing, thus justifying the label “artificial”, is nothing but the usual way nature works, namely playing around with what is already there and fastest able to adapt in the ‘red queen race’, to use biological terminology, meaning an accelerating co-evolution between systems and their general environment (= all the rest). In fact, evolution is the only efficient and sustainable way to construct and optimize in large dimensional design spaces, and such design spaces become important in nanotechnology.

Emergent strata, for example multi-cellular organisms and social structure, adapt faster than the strata they emerge from. They therefore do not only emerge in the first place but also turn around to enslave the lower strata, slowing its evolutionary ‘progress’ (or better, ‘drift’), leading to ‘legacy systems’ (such as vestigial organs).

The fastest adapting layer is now the distributed computational substrate, including the internet. Scoff at this as unimportant hype compared with whatever much more substantial, scientific, or serious you may feel you are engaged in, and see yourself be ‘naturally selected’ away!

Guided by that biology is nature’s nanotechnology, nanotechnology must learn for example from biomedical research, because true nanotechnology now leaves its pioneering nanoscience phase and starts to rapidly increase the complexity of produced structures into the realm of nano-nano and nano-micro compounds with very many degrees of freedom and interdependent parameters. In other words, we approach biological complexity [6,7].

Nanotech must thus be put into a wider context. For example, although organisms can easily be evolved to synthesize metallic or anyway highly complex compound-materials such as teeth, and although some metal complexes such as hemoglobin and even metal crystals (for example in the magnetic sense organs of birds) are already naturally employed, nature has apparently never touched metallic crystals as bio-catalysts; and for good reasons: they are so reactive that nature’s systems could never before handle them. Metal nanoparticles are often advertised for their anti-microbial action [8].

However, globally existential threats leave no alternative to radical technological adaptation. It is too late to ‘go green’ except via a novel take on what constitutes ‘green’, including synthetic biology. Our nanotechnology is how nature embraces metallic nano-crystals into the biosphere.

Increasing overpopulation and the top heavy age distribution of the human population demand radical technological adaptation if we want to prevent human suffering on an unprecedented scale. Required adaptation to rapid environmental changes needs nanotechnological capabilities that are equivalent to biological ones in terms of rapid adaptation by efficient means to design complex nano-structures.

The development of nanometer scale catalysts [9], especially for energy applications [10], is one of the most important topics because of the increasing necessity of energy efficiency globally. Electro-catalysts are key ingredients for the development of new electrochemical power sources such as direct formic acid fuel cells. For these and many other applications, much attention is paid to metallic nanoparticles and larger nano-micro hybrid structures because of their many useful electro-optical, magnetic and catalytic properties, to name but a few, that find applications in numerous fields such as bio-sensing, surface enhanced Raman spectroscopic (SERS) detection, , optical and micromechanical devices, magnetic recording, and so on.

Again, little of this is news to Mother Nature, who has done similar a long time ago, namely adapting efficiently through developing an astounding variety of nanometer sized reproducers and catalysts, which we call enzymes. The main difference is the increasing importance of metallic particles with complex shapes [11, 12].  The properties of enzymes depend mostly to their shapes that the enzymes fold into. Also with today’s nanotech catalysts, shape and generally structure play an increasingly important role, say via porosity [13], high index surfaces and lattice dislocations, metal-metal interfaces and metal-matrix support interactions [14], but certainly also shape changing, i.e. truly nano-mechanical systems [15, 16], in the future.

It is thus important to efficiently analyze the structure of complex nano-micro compounds. In the light of the above, what are the key problems that are shared widely across the nano-materials research community? For one, compared with biology and medical research, which are both concerned with nature’s nanotechnology, our artificial nanotechnology lacks the ability to deal with the almost biological complexity.

This series continues with the title
"Complexity and Optimization: Lost in Design Space,"
"Magic of Complexity with Catalysts Social or Metallic,"
"Emergent Parameters and High Throughput Screening"
before finally getting to
"Critique of Nanotech: The most dangerous Science least carefully done"
and perhaps I also add
"A flexible, evolving approach to computing."

[1] S. Vongehr et al., Adapting Nanotech Research as Nano-Micro Hybrids Approach Biological Complexity. Journal of Materials Science&Technology 32(5), 387-401 (2016)
doi: 10.1016/j.jmst.2016.01.003

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[12] T. Kijima, T. Yoshimura, M. Uota, T. Ikeda, D. Fujikawa, S. Mouri and S. Uoyama, Noble-Metal Nanotubes (Pt, Pd, Ag) from Lyotropic Mixed-Surfactant Liquid-Crystal Templates. Ang. Chem. Int. Ed., 2004, 43, 228-232.

[13] N. Menzel, E. Ortel, R. Kraehnert and P. Strasser, Electrocatalysis Using Porous Nanostructured Materials. ChemPhysChem, 2012, 13, 1385-1394.

[14] Y. T. Law, T. Skala, I. Pis, V. Nehasil, M. Vondráček and S. Zafeiratos, Bimetallic Nickel-Cobalt Nanosized Layers Supported on Polar ZnO Surfaces: Metal-Support Interaction and Alloy Effects. J Phys Chem C, 2012, 116, 10048-10056.

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