Which sounds more like science fiction: human livers grown inside sheep for transplant recipients, or a desktop factory that can rapidly make advanced, atomically-precise products? What's more unsettling: creating human-pig chimeras for medical research and therapy, or developing a manufacturing technology that allows for a dangerously unstable arms race?
Human-pig chimeras are here already*. Sheep-grown livers and desktop factories may not be far away. And the nano-based arms race is a grim spectre overshadowing the accelerating advance of technology.
Oddly, there is plenty of discussion among bioethicists and policy influencers -- including the U.S. National Academy of Sciences -- about issues of genetic engineering, while almost no attention is being paid to the transformative, potentially disruptive impacts of molecular manufacturing.
Medical ethics are, for the time being, outside the purview of CRN (although as advanced nanotechnology comes to bear in that area, we certainly will state our opinions). But we strongly urge government, industry, and interest groups to proactively address the social, ethical, and political issues raised by productive nanotechnology, taking full account of the possible disruptive changes in areas as diverse as manufacturing, military hardware, and medicine.
*UPDATE: For those who don't have/want Washington Post access (registration is free), here is another link to the story discussed above. Thanks to alert reader Mike Deering for finding this alternate source.