1. Unstable Arms Race
2. Nano-enabled Despotism
3. Nano-induced Chaos
On May 27 of this year, I wrote:
An unstable arms race fueled by molecular manufacturing is the single most dangerous threat to the world in the coming decades. . . If nations begin competitive development of nanotechnology applications for military use, it's a very short step from there to an MM arms race that could spiral rapidly out of control.
That message must be repeated again and again, and not just by CRN. It is important to recognize and work toward the benefits as well, but that won't matter unless the severe risks of molecular manufacturing are handled effectively. Until we understand how profoundly nanotechnology will transform civilization, and prepare effective systems to control dangers and maximize benefits, we will not be safe.
In addition to the risk of an unstable arms race, molecular manufacturing also will provide enough power for one nation or group of people, if they have a monopoly on the technology, to completely dominate the rest of the world. That’s a second risk: nanotech-enabled despotism.
A third risk is the turmoil that could result if no controls at all are placed on technology; if every country, corporation, group, tribe, and individual has access to unlimited manufacturing, nanotech-induced chaos could leave millions dead, suffering, or oppressed.
Beyond these three major risks there are others, including economic disruption, environmental imbalance, ubiquitous intrusive surveillance, and more. But unless we take firm and deliberate steps in advance to avert the three greatest dangers, then the others may not matter. Moreover, if these serious risks are not averted, we also will forfeit the many wonderful benefits that advanced nanotechnology could bring.