Our first reaction is to say that this is a good idea. CRN strongly encourages a cooperative program to map all the steps that will lead to molecular manufacturing. We have even outlined a series of studies that could go a long way toward meeting this goal. A combined effort -- involving business, government, academic, and nonprofit participants -- appears safest to us. This is especially true if numerous international partners are included, the more the better.
So, in principle, we support the idea of a collaborative technical roadmap project. The problem is, we're not sure whether this announcement fits our description.
Foresight's press release says, "Productive Nanosystems will drive research and applications in a host of areas, providing new atomically-precise nanoscale building blocks, devices and systems." However, it isn't clear if they have the same end in mind as, for example, the field's premier technical book, Nanosystems, written by Eric Drexler, founder of the Foresight Institute.
A story yesterday at News.com tells us that Foresight divides the evolution of nanotech into four categories:
[P]assive nanomaterials, such as stronger plastics; active nanomaterials, such as chemical sensors; nano devices, such as transistors; and nano systems, or complete semiconductors.
CRN has said, and will continue to say, that we expect exponential general-purpose molecular manufacturing (MM) to be developed at some point in the near- to mid-future. Because it will be so transformative -- and potentially disruptive -- it is essential that steps are taken in advance to adequately prepare.
Preparation will require: first, a detailed technical understanding of how and when MM could be developed; and second, a parallel understanding of the implications of MM along with policy recommendations for responsible use. We would be pleased if Foresight's roadmap project will aim to accomplish the former. If so, then CRN can put all our efforts into leading an effort toward the latter.