If you knew that a year from now, you would be forced to walk a tightrope over a deep, rocky chasm, how soon would you start practicing?
Opportunities and benefits will abound as well, but to enjoy them, we must first avert the risks of advanced nanotechnology. This is a complex challenge with no simple solutions, probably much more difficult than walking a tightrope.
CRN urges the immediate start of multi-track projects to analyze and understand all the issues posed by MM -- political, economic, military, humanitarian, and technological implications. It's not too soon to begin exploring various plans for responsible global management of this transformative technology.
Luckily, we're not the first people ever to walk a tightrope. Others have faced similar challenges. What can we learn from them? Can their experiences serve as practice for us?
Technology expert Ray Kurzweil says the lessons learned from dealing with computer viruses should give us hope for managing the difficulties of advanced nanotechnology.
Although spam is still a serious problem, a new survey suggests that people today are less concerned about it, perhaps because of preventive steps that have been taken. Will similar measures be sufficiently effective when spam can be delivered not just as email, but as 3D objects?
Arguments and conflicts (and lawsuits or worse) over intellectual property rights and patent law surely will be exacerbated by MM. But could we apply something like Creative Commons rules when making copies of physical products is as cheap and easy as copying computer files? Maybe our practice here will help.
Social, legal, and political experiments going on now with Open Source and Free Software might be important proving grounds for principles that could be applied to make the eventual proliferation of nanofactories less disruptive.
We now know that molecular manufacturing can be an incremental process from today's capabilities, and may not be as distant as many believe.
It's time to start learning how to walk a tightrope, applying what we've learned elsewhere.