We have seen that there are many different sources and kinds of hyperbole:
* Fantasy fiction (eg, Michael Crichton's Prey)
* Government program promoters
* Stock market analyst pitches
* Helpful nanobots for everyone!
* Gray goo fear mongering
We posted a number of excerpts from speeches made during the last two years by U.S. Under Secretary of Commerce Philip J. Bond. We saw that almost everything he said was similar in meaning to CRN's basic message:
1. Nanotechnology is coming
2. It will bring huge potential benefits and serious risks
3. Preparation is urgent and should not be delayed
We recounted CRN's extensive and ongoing efforts to separate science fact from science fiction. We noted that broad, vague, and misleading definitions of nanotechnology are not only confusing, but also downright dangerous.
So, where does all this leave us? What is CRN saying?
First - Stop calling names. We have too little time and too much to do. Those who hope to light the way toward a better future look ridiculous when they squabble over who gets to hold the flashlight.
Second - Admit that there two kinds of nanotechnology. There is one kind that almost everyone is working on now, and that the NNI is funding exclusively; and there is advanced nanotechnology, usually referred to here as molecular manufacturing.
Third - Stop pretending that significant disruption is not a real risk. Public servants, scientists, and educators who speak only of benefits are doing themselves and the public a serious disservice.
Fourth - Support intensive studies of molecular manufacturing. That's what the public expects, that's what the public wants, and that's where the greatest gains are to be found (along with the highest risks).
Fifth - Agree that what must be done will be done. It is not hype to say that advanced nanotechnology will radically change the world, for better or for worse. This is no time for equivocation, corner-cutting, or placing profit ahead of responsibility. The stakes are simply too high.
Thanks for bearing with us these last few days as we laid out the argument summarized nicely by CRN's Director of Research, Chris Phoenix:
Molecular manufacturing studies have often been accused of excessive hype. Meanwhile, other nanotech boosters, while denying MM, have touted positive consequences so extreme that some of them can only be achieved through MM. That's inconsistent.
Worse, by talking about the positive consequences without any acknowledgement of the source (MM), or any acknowledgement of possible negative consequences of MM (of which there are many), they are short-circuiting much-needed policy discussion.