Information technology, cognitive science, biotechnology, environmental science, aerospace technology -- all will have significant impacts on society over the next two decades. Each will provide bridges to progress, and some will raise concerns about safety.
But the most difficult challenges likely will result from exponential general-purpose molecular manufacturing, made possible by advanced nanotechnology. This could have far-ranging environmental, economic, military, ethical, legal, and social implications.
Nanotechnology is expected to have great impacts on many fields, including mining, refining, manufacturing, transportation, storage, and wholesale and retail distribution. It could mean millions of jobs lost, or shifted. It could represent a radical transformation of traditional power structures, which may not come about easily, or peacefully. It could also mean opportunities like we’ve never had before to relieve poverty, prevent illness, and offer education to millions of people in developing nations.
In what areas will nanotechnology have the greatest impact? What nations or corporations are working to develop it? How soon should all these impacts be expected? What policy choices can be made today that may change the anticipated outcomes?
Unfortunately, we do not have conclusive answers to all these questions. Much more research is needed. Over the next few days, we’ll provide a current overview of the issues, the facts, and our future prospects as we approach the era of nanotechnology.