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« Nanotech Arms Races | Main | Rob Freitas Speaks »

July 01, 2004


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The Center for Responsible Nanotechnology is, for me, one of the best examples of the intersection of activism and anticipation. The CRN founders -- Mike... [Read More]


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Janessa Ravenwood

I'd say DARPA's budget just got a bump upward. Civilian defense contractors will likely be looking into this as well real soon. We DID tell you that this was inevitable. Didn't expect to see this blatant an announcement for at least a few more years, though.


i'm sure india doesn't want to kill other countries and end humanity; you point out articles where they are interested in nanotech for food and such other stuff.

As for other countries, well, is crn to late?

Janessa Ravenwood

India's target is Pakistan, but I don't think they want to end humanity.

jim moore

India is not just concerned with Pakistan, China is also a considered a potential threat.

I think that at a minimum the militaries of at least 12 countries will conduct a preliminary feasibility studies of MM / nano-factories in the next 6-12 months (if they haven't done so already). If these studies say MM is doable crash development programs will begin shortly after. (this may be what is already happening in India)

Janessa Ravenwood

Jim: Good point, I forgot about their OTHER hostile neighbor. Though, again, I confess that this phase is happening a bit sooner than I thought. One possible side effect, if DARPA or some other country's equivalent comes out and says "Yup, looks like it can be done." then what does that do for the pro-MNT movement (that is, us)?

David McCauley

This is very interesting. I think a good place to look now is India's rivals. No one else would be watching more closely.

You can tell when a country is developing nuclear weapons because their nuclear scientists stop publishing papers... I think the same would happen with any covert nano-development. Is anyone here familiar with any of India/Pakistan/China's nanotechnology research leaders? I think it would be good to see who's publishing now... soon those records might start to disappear... and it never hurts to know the people who might create the first nano-powers.

Looking at Kalam, I think there are a few positive signs. By far the best is that he declared it publicly... it will be those reacting to India that will create truly covert programs (if they don't exist already... and if they do, they will go into high gear). Also, Kalam is a Muslim... that might help things with Pakistan, but I say that hesitantly because I know almost nothing about the subtleties of Pakistani/Indian politics. Kalam is also described as having a developed philosophy (combining science and religion... and thinking about their interaction will do that). I therefore think that the most dangerous would not be Kalam's program, but those started before or after, in secret. I'll have to read more about Kalam and India now though, before I set any of my ideas up as even semi-permanent...

As far as what we should do... other than keeping a careful eye on things... perhaps get into some of the public nano-tech efforts. Someone could start a nanotech consortium... ala liftport (http://www.liftport.com/) to combine some of the myriad nanotech companies popping up. And I would say that if any government entity, especially DARPA, said it could be done (publicly), I would expect it to already be done... or at least a covert program to already be in existance.

Svidinenko Yuriy

How I know, to build simplest nanorobotic device we need a good-trained professional team equipped with modern nanotechnology tools. In this case in terms of 20 or 30 years this team can made simplest warfare nanorobot. But this process needs funding! What we can see in USA: lot of small and large companies invests in nanotechnology, government launches programs. Money is the main booster of any development.

What we can see in India? Does it has so much money to start nanotechnology programs which can lead to nanorobotic development? I think it is political trick to get world's respect (espacionally to Pakistan's point of view). Lot of small and large companies don't invest in nanotechnology - it's very dangerous in this country and connected with many risks.

I think that Kalam don't understand HOW REALLY NANODEVICE CAN BUILD! This is political trick, nothing more.

Mike Deering

India is the largest democracy in the world, and politically very stable. It has been modernizing its social cultural system rapidly. Despite territorial conflicts with hostile neighbors India has refrained from the use of excessive military force and prefers diplomacy to deal with its opponents. India has a rapidly modernizing economy and its citizens enjoy a high standard of personal and political freedoms. If I made a list of counties that I would like to see MM developed in first, India would be very high on that list.

George Killoran

This year the United States will have a military budget of close to $400 billion. One CRN estimate states that a molecular manufacturing plant could be built in five years with a cost of $10 billion. Our military understands the importance of being the first to build a molecular manufacturing plant. To be second is to be last. As necessity caused the United States to developed the first atom bomb, so will necessity cause the United States to build the first molecular manufacturing plant. I believe this will be completed in less than 5 years.

Patrick Clifford

Last month I sent some Nanotechnology articles to
Indian peace-and-environmental Activist, Arundhati Roy.

I've also been mentioning Nanotech on Wisconsin Public Radio. We need Affordable Housing not "toys for the rich" as Freeman Dyson puts it.

michael vassar

Don't Panic
Sorry about the lack of large friendly red letters.
This is not such a novel development. Shimon Perez started a fund-raiser aiming at a $600,000,000 Israeli military nano project over a year ago, and Ross Perot believed in nano back in 1999. The thing is, the current "mainstream" conception of nanotech mixes Drexler's vision with that of the nano-business alliance, taking the goals from Drexel but the means from the nano-business alliance and arbitrarily discarding eliments that make people uncomfortable or which sound utopian on the unsubstantiated grounds that they are unrealistic.
Remember the book "nanocosm" for one example of this sort of confusion, or look at the similar but somewhat more technical (really!) GURPS: Transhuman Space for a similar conflation of different ideas. One result of this sort of confusion is that nanotech R&D, even when nominally in pursuit of Drexlerian goals, is likely to be grossly misdirected, with most researchers not even looking at Nanosystems.

Mr. Farlops

Actually I think we should give credit where credit is due. I'm sure that DARPA was investigating the weapons potential of nanotechnology at least 5 years before Mr. Kalam announced that it was target for India's research establishments. The arms race has been going on quietly for number of years now. It's just getting more obvious.

Maybe what CRN should now start is a comparison list of government money tagged for nanotech research by the various major powers.

Jim Logajan

Um, doesn't it take at least two entities to make a race? And in an arms race wouldn't they be antagonists? And in any real arms race, shouldn't there actually BE weapons? Meanwhile in an earlier article, the President of India caused worldwide havoc and a mad dash to Mars by predicting "... that the planet Mars would become a home for human habitation in the next three decades... We might face shortage of minerals which we probably are going to source it from other planets... [On nanotechnology:] India should gear up itself in terms of research, design and development... This is going to be an important field in another 20 years and it even might replace micro-electronics" From:

Mars may become home for humans after 30 years: Kalam

The situation is clearly worse than indicated: we face an imminent interplanetary nanotech war over precious minerials! Holy smokes, we're doomed!

Richard Jordan

India as a large nation state at least has visibility and is part of the international community dialogue. A bigger danger lies in the increasing power reaching down in size to nation states like North Korea, terrorist groups, and individuals.

Chris Phoenix, CRN

Mr. Farlops: A useful analysis of government funding would have to distinguish between nanoscale technologies, MNT-enabling technologies, and MNT-targeted development. These may overlap. And the effectiveness of the money spent on MNT will vary widely depending on how the program is designed: e.g. whether it's run by bureaucrats, scientists, or engineers.

Michael Vassar: What technical training does Peres have? Does he know that working on nanoparticles will not get him nanorobots? My assumption is that Kalam does know this.

Jim Logajan: Am I right that the U.S. announced a moon program just a few months after China took significant steps toward one? Don't be too quick to laugh off ideas of international scrambles toward space. About nanotech arms race: Perhaps I should have said "now appears inevitable" rather than "has begun." But we won't know when it actually begins--when Pakistan or China or the U.S. decides they need to compensate by starting their own MNT crash project. Kalam's speech may be the most public sign of arms race we'll ever see.

Why did I list the U.S. as a possible competitor to India? Because we have a stated intention not to let any other nation even think of challenging our global domination. If we follow that policy, any credible attempt to develop MNT anywhere in the world will require us to race (or else to preempt). So maybe "has begun" was accurate after all.


michael vassar

Chris: Perez was the head of Israel's nuclear program, but I doubt that he knows that dendrimers won't produce nanobots. If Kalam knew that then he would have focused far more effort on that a long time ago and wouldn't say that mineral resources were an issue. In fact, he would NOT have announced a MNT program if eh understood MNT and believed that the US understood MNT.
Fact is, almost no-one knows what MNT is. Not PhDs in any field. Not science journalists. Not intelligence agencies, not most authors, and (appearently) not nobel laurates.
BTW, about as difficult as software and hardware design is very far from having a clear meaning. Much of software and hardware design difficulty depends on how buggy it can be, how efficient it must be, user interface, and of course complexity. The essential question I need to know is how many hours from what sort of labor are required to gain an insurmountable technical lead and make the current industrial base obsolete.


Why did the arms race began and does anyone no that it could reall hurt them and if they do why are they still there.Does any body care if they get hurt with something like this happening

John B

In my opinion, the arms race began when first one cell used another as a food source. Perhaps before then, depending on how biochemistry evolved...

Lots of people know that things can hurt them. The problem is, not everyone agrees as to what those things are, nor how to protect against dangers, nor even who should be protected!

Thus, while you're busy working on protecting people from the dangers of left-handed smokeshifters, others will be trying to get attention on the peril caused by copper skyhooks. And there's only so much attention to go around...


Archana Bahuguna

"India's target is Pakistan, but I don't think they want to end humanity."

I am an Indian. I would call that an irresponsible statement made on a site of repute as this. I presume that the only thing the author of this statement knows about India and Pakistan is that they are rivals and has made his or her conclusions.

You need to read a lot about India to know its stature as a nation, its political and social viewpoint and its stance on war or warfare. To put some perspective, India as a nation has a history of never attacking any other nation and despite previous wars and recurring terrorist attacks from neighboring nations; it has kept its foreign policy as constantly seeking to improve relations providing for the resolution of outstanding issues peacefully and bilaterally and for establishing durable peace in the subcontinent.

I am not here to talk about what Dr Abdul Kalam means when he says that "nanotechnology will revolutionalise warfare", but at the least he is being open about his thoughts. I shall be extremely surprised if you tell me that nations like US or China or UK will not be working on researching nanotechnology's applications in warfare.

In the end, just to clarify, I am NOT a supporter of using nanotechnology in weapons of destruction or warfare.

Mike Treder, CRN


I'm very glad that you have given us your voice as an Indian. I agree completely with you that it would be crazy to assume that India is the only nation who might use nanotechnology to build better weapons.

Please note that the person who said "India's target is Pakistan" is not affiliated with CRN and does not represent CRN's views. We allow free expression of opinions here, as long as they are relevant and are expressed with some civility.

I hope you'll share more of your thoughts with us and our readers.


Hello, I read this article on one of the online news papers of Pakistan. Here is the link.



Today I reassemble excerpts of my lectures delivered at various local universities on Nanotechnology — the largest breakthrough of 21st century — the act of purposefully manipulating matter at an atomic scale and has the ability to manage universe at a molecular perspective. The nano-era is just around the corner and I see a multi-trillion dollar industry coming for a jumpstart within 10-15 years.
Nanotechnology is going to change the face of present day solutions to health problems. For instance the tiny autonomous robots that will work in bloodstream, clearing out plaque deposits, fixing various genetic flaws, looking for and eliminating cancer cells, and working in tandem with brain cells will vastly increase the human intellectual capacity.


Mastery of nanotechnology could lead to the kind of military supremacy that mastery of steam power and repeating firearms gave the West in the 19th century
Pakistan should create awareness, prepare for nano-era, include nanotechnology as a subject matter in core curriculum and most importantly our industry needs to stay vigilant and stop making uninformed decisions for investment.

[This comment originally contained the entire article. This was a violation of copyright, and also was too much text for a comment. It is a good article, and I've made the link clickable, but I deleted most of the article text, as indicated by "[......]" --Chris Phoenix]

Joe Martin

The world of nanotechnology now needs a better definition. Here is a quote from the posted article and in parantheses I have written the appropriate scientifific discipline: "super strong, smart and intelligent structures (MATERIALS SCIENCE) in the field of material science and this in turn could lead new production of nano robots (MECHANICAL ENG) with new types of explosives (CHEMISTRY) and sensors for air, land (ANALYTICAL CHEMISTRY) and space systems (SPACE SCIENCE)." Rocket Science is no more a buzz word. Here comes Nanotechnology, the solution for all the probems of mankind.

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