The challenge of achieving the goals and managing the risks of nanotechnology requires more than just brilliant molecular engineering. In addition to scientific and technical ingenuity, other disciplines and talents will be vitally important. Chemists, political scientists, physicists, lawyers, engineers, economists, sociologists, medical doctors, ecologists, and ethicists will need to work together to ask and answer the right questions.
No single approach will solve all problems or address all needs. There are numerous severe risks -- including several different kinds of risk -- which cannot all be prevented with the same approach. Simple solutions won’t work.
The only answer is a collective answer, and that will demand an unprecedented collaboration -- a network of leaders in business, government, academia, and NGOs. It will require participation from people of many nations, cultures, languages, and belief systems.
Some solutions already have been proposed. For example, CRN issued a study proposing an international networked structure to oversee the safe development and effective administration of molecular manufacturing. More recently, on the Wise-Nano.org collaborative online research project, a treaty organization, the International Nanotechnology Research Consortium, was proposed.
Implementing a solution of this magnitude will be anything but easy. If one of these solutions is found to be the right answer, it must be undertaken right away. And if they are not the right solutions, we must determine something better as soon as possible.
The high stakes will tempt many to shrink from the challenge -- even to declare all this to be impossible. But wishful thinking cannot make either turbulence or technology disappear. Further policy research is urgently needed.
Our task now is to begin building bridges that will lead to safety and progress for the entire world; bridges that will develop common understanding, create lines of communication, and create a stable structure that will enable humankind to pass safely through the transition into the nano era.