I just came across this article about the CRN Task Force essays:
Whether you fear it, welcome it, don’t understand it or think it an elaborate scientific conspiracy, "molecular nanotechnology" (MNT), or "molecular manufacturing," will have a profound and instantaneous effect on all aspects of industry and society. According to the Center for Responsible Nanotechnology (CRN), the new technology will hit us with all the destructive force of a speeding freight train, and "without adequate preparation and study, the effects could be dangerously disruptive."
Yet more science hype? Perhaps. But in 11 essays, published by Nanotechnology Perceptions, a peer-reviewed academic journal of the Collegium Basilea in Basel, Switzerland, a number of highly regarded scientists cite past mistakes involving the introduction of a new technology without adequate public consultation and discussion. They also imagine a number of future nanotech scenarios that both fascinate and frighten. . .
If nanotechnology proves to live up to all the hype, and personal nanofactories become the norm, it will be the most versatile and pervasive technology ever conceived by humanity. As such, it is unlikely that any meaningful guidelines could be imposed upon research and development for any future molecular manufacturing applications. While the CRN’s Task Force is a welcome initiative, regulating potential applications once molecular manufacturing is in full swing will become analogous to bailing out a sinking boat with a sieve.
When CRN was founded in early 2003, we asserted that nanofactory technology could be managed safely and responsibly. We proposed an administrative plan that we believed would allow the benefits to be enjoyed while effectively containing the greatest risks.
Unfortunately, after three years of study and discussion, we are less confident than we were then. The problem is huge and complex, and any responsible solution will have to be equally huge and complex. That will be hard enough to design; getting it implemented effectively will be even tougher. Nevertheless, we feel compelled to try, and we are hopeful that our efforts will have a positive impact.