If you are concerned about responsible use of advanced nanotechnology and you are in a position to exercise a leadership role, here are CRN’s suggested action steps:
1. Understand the issues
It is not hyperbole to say that the transformative power of molecular manufacturing will dwarf all technologies that have come before it. Others have found it difficult to adequately express the real-world impact that this could have. It’s been called the next Industrial Revolution; it’s been compared with the changes brought by electricity, plastics, and computers, all rolled into one; it’s been described, ingeniously, as programmable matter.
However you say it, it’s not overstating the case. This new technology must be regarded with seriousness and sobriety. The magnitude of the potential benefits boggles the mind; and the gravity of the inherent dangers can cause nightmares.
Attempts made by some to reassure us that it's all many decades in the future -- if not centuries -- must not be accepted. Well meaning though they may be, such casual denials can only be likened to blithe assurances made in the past about the 'impossibility' of certain developments.
One cogent example: In 1945, Admiral William D. Leahy told President Truman, "That is the biggest fool thing we have ever done. The bomb will never go off, and I speak as an expert in explosives." The residents of Hiroshima and Nagasaki have a different story to tell.
2. Pursue cooperative investigations
In assessing the possible impacts of molecular manufacturing, governments, corporations, and activist organizations all will benefit from shared knowledge. CRN encourages cooperation between various groups, and especially understanding of different points of view. Advanced nanotechnology will bring not just new challenges, but new kinds of challenges. These will have to be addressed by a diverse collection of people and organizations. More than ever, true interdisciplinary study is required.
3. Develop coordinated solutions
No single approach will solve all problems or address all needs. The only answer is a collective answer, and that will demand an unprecedented collaboration: a network of leaders in science, technology, business, government, and NGO’s. It will require participation from people of many nations, cultures, languages, and belief systems. Never before has the world faced such a tremendous opportunity -- and never before have the risks been so great.
We must begin now to develop common understanding and create lines of communication. Our task is somehow to build a strong, flexible, stable structure to deal with inevitable conflicts and enable humankind to pass safely through the transition into the nano era. This will not be easy. It is the challenge of our generation -- and on our success rests the hope of all future generations.