Last Monday and Tuesday, I sat in a small auditorium in Brazil listening to and speaking with experts in nanoscience, nanotechnology, economics, and sociology. I was a participant in the First International Seminar on Nanotechnology, Society, and the Environment.
This was an intensive single-track seminar, organized by the University of Sao Paulo. We had two full days of presentations and long periods of group discussion, with only a lunch break in between. About 50-60 people attended the seminar, mostly academics, and some students.
I was one of five international participants; besides me, there was one other from the US (St. Lawrence University), one from England (Oxford), one from Switzerland (Swiss RE), and one from Spain (University of Valencia). Fifteen of us gave presentations, in groups of three or four. My talk was well received, and I had many questions afterward. At least three or four people in the audience told me they came specifically for my presentation. No one seriously questioned the feasibility of molecular manufacturing (MM), although most were surprised by my contention that it likely will be developed in less than 20 years. In general, audience and presenters all were acquainted with both the promise and the peril of advanced nanotechnology, and they fully expect it to occur.
It is clear to me that there is less resistance to the idea of MM in the developing world than in the US and UK, although of course there also is less of a research base to develop it. I learned nothing that would indicate that Brazil already is working in that direction, but they do have the potential, if a serious commitment is made.