This morning I went to a TV studio in Washington D.C. where I participated in the taping of a one-hour SAGE Crossroads program on the possibilities of using nanotechnology to combat disease and aging.
The main point I tried to make today is that unless policy questions concerning the potentially disruptive societal implications of nanotechnology -- political, economic, military, humanitarian, and environmental -- are decided well in advance, progress toward the implementation of anti-aging therapies might be delayed or halted. Disputes over such critical areas of interest could dwarf current controversies about biotechnology and genetic engineering.
Originally this was supposed to be a debate on nanotechnology policy between Mihail Roco, head of the U.S. National Nanotechnology Initiative, and me... but Roco cancelled at the last minute due to a schedule conflict.
Instead, joining me as a guest on the program (which will be shown as a webcast on September 27) was Dr. Robert Best, director of the genetics division at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine. Bob spoke about progress being made in the field and on the opportunities for nanotechnology to hasten the detection and curing of diseases. We disagreed about the likelihood that molecular manufacturing will be developed in the near future (he was skeptical), and about the need to address this as an issue in current policy discussions.
Morton Kondracke, who moderates the program, also asked us to talk about the potential for using nanotechnology to substantially extend the human healthspan and even to change us as humans. We had a discussion about the philosophical objections to this that sometimes are raised by bioconservatives.
Condensing complex topics into a sound bite format -- even a 60-minute program -- is a difficult challenge. It's probably impossible to adequately cover all that needs to be said, but I think I represented CRN’s positions effectively. You can see for yourself beginning September 27, and then let me know what you think.