In June 2004, the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) convened a meeting of science policy representatives from 25 countries and the European Union to discuss how to carry out nanotechnology research and development "in a responsible manner."
Unfortunately, they addressed only near-term nanoscale technologies such as nanoparticles. The most important long-term consequences of nanotechnology were ignored.
A report on the proceedings of the meeting highlights the systematic failure of the NSF to address the most important issues raised by nanotechnology. By ignoring the societal impacts of molecular manufacturing, they miss the major significance of the technology.
Molecular manufacturing needs to be seriously addressed, and the NSF report is a big distraction. They present themselves as asking the right questions, but the answers are worse than wrong: they are simply off-topic.
As an example, a question in the report about whether nanotechnology will be "inherently continuous or inherently disruptive" leads to a digression about "novel properties that only become evident at the nanoscale." In fact, nanotechnology will be disruptive because of molecular manufacturing.
Molecular manufacturing is an inevitable consequence of advanced nanotechnology, and this is not acknowledged in the NSF report. We need to prepare for revolutionary changes, not just incremental improvements like new nanoparticles.
CRN urges the National Science Foundation and other organizations to correct this error, and begin addressing the long-term consequences of nanotechnology.
For more information, see our web page on U.S. Nanotechnology Policy.