A central question of our time -- perhaps the central question -- should be: Can humanity survive entry into the Nano Era?
Not only must we ask if we can avoid destroying ourselves with nano-built weaponry, we also must ask if we can preserve human rights, human values, and human dignity at the same time. The challenge is not as easy as it sounds, if indeed it does sound easy.
Nanotechnology offers many wonderful benefits, from conquering disease and colonizing space to eliminating hunger and elevating human well-being with unprecedented abundance. But to enjoy all these great promises, first we must somehow avoid killing all the humans.
With nano-built weapons made at any scale from tiny to humungous, constantly improved with rapid prototyping, always in great supply using on-site exponential production, and programmable and controllable in ways never before possible, war becomes almost unthinkable.
Such weapons -- and the ability to make them -- in the hands of terrorists, guerillas, criminals, or sociopaths, is perhaps even more frightening.
Some "experts" claim that these dangers are so far in the future that we need not concern ourselves with them today. But this advice sounds alarmingly naive, in light of previous errant proclamations, and in the face of rapidly accelerating technological change.
The only certain answer is that there are no simple solutions. Stopping a nano arms race may require an international treaty, and the muscle to enforce it. But that enforcement power might itself be unbearably oppressive. Must we choose between death and enslavement? If we choose not to decide, will anarchy and chaos be our future?
Clearly, alternative solutions must be sought and found. CRN urges immediate study of all the alternatives. It may finally be time to say that war is no longer an option -- but the way to peace may be the greatest challenge we have ever faced.