CRN is guardedly in favor of swift and early development of molecular manufacturing (MM) technology. (We say guardedly, because we insist that it should be developed as soon as it can be in a safe and responsible manner). There are two major reasons for supporting early development.
The first reason is to avoid the dangers of competing development programs, which could too easily lead to an unstable arms race. If development is delayed, it will rapidly become easier and cheaper, thus harder to control. Also, it's probably the case that early development will allow more time to develop MM-based protective technologies -- which may be necessary to cope with some dangerous MM-based technologies.
The second major reason to favor early development is -- if it's done right -- molecular manufacturing could save millions of lives per year and greatly decrease the environmental damage we're already doing. The costs of delay (opportunity costs) are significant, and may even outweigh the risks of development.
This issue of potential humanitarian benefits is highlighted by the current concerns over a feared pandemic of an especially deadly avian flu virus.
"We at WHO [World Health Organization] believe that the world is now in the gravest possible danger of a pandemic," states Dr. Shigeru Omi, the WHO’s Western Pacific regional director. He says the world is "now overdue" for an influenza pandemic, since mass epidemics have occurred every 20 to 30 years. It has been nearly 40 years since the last one.
For many reasons, including thronging urban populations and high rates of overseas travel, health and government officials fear that an imminent flu pandemic could kill many millions.
New diseases such as the avian flu continue to be a threat to the human race. Naturally occurring diseases could be more devastating than any pandemic in decades, and an engineered disease could conceivably wipe out most of the human race. It is becoming increasingly important to have a technology base that can detect new diseases even before symptoms appear, and create a cure in a matter of days.
Molecular manufacturing will enable such a rapid response. With complete genomes and proteomes for humans and for all known pathogens, plus cheap, highly parallel DNA and protein analysis and sufficient computer resources along with new MM-based monitoring and diagnostic tools, it will be possible to spot any new pathogen almost immediately and begin aggressive countermeasures.
This isn't a guarantee that diseases and epidemics won't occur, but clearly it could save millions of lives and untold human suffering.