I was talking the other day with a person in government, who said something like, "All we ever hear about is the threats from nanotechnology. If there was more talk about the benefits, and less about the downsides, it's more likely that advanced projects, such as molecular manufacturing, would get funded."
This surprised me, because I seem to hear plenty of "blue sky" talk about the potential benefits of nanotechnology, such as this from the National Science Foundation:
Imagine a medical device that travels through the human body to seek out and destroy small clusters of cancerous cells before they can spread. Or a box no larger than a sugar cube that contains the entire contents of the Library of Congress. Or materials much lighter than steel that possess ten times as much strength.
Pretty heady stuff.
But the comment reminded me of criticism sometimes directed at CRN, that we focus too heavily on the grave risks of the technology, like weapons and war and economic upheavals, perhaps even to the point of alarmism, and not enough on the upsides.
Popular news stories do tend to be dominated by scary scenarios, and sometimes those stories are not fully researched or well-founded. So, should CRN attempt to counter that by emphasizing the benefits?
We don't think so. In fact, we don't think it is our role to try to manage public opinion, or to be boosters for nanotechnology.
Our job is to search for the truth, and to present it as we see it. The truth is that we see many wonderful benefits from molecular manufacturing, but we also see serious dangers -- and it may not be easy to get one without the other. That's why we vigorously promote the need for extensive studies into the capability of the technology, the likely societal impacts, and the range of possible solutions that may maximize gains while minimizing risks.
It's not easy to find the right balance. We think we've done pretty well so far, but we are always open to feedback and constructive suggestions.