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« Latest Scenario Workshop | Main | On the Road in Ontario »

April 24, 2007


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You seem to assume that the public at large believes that nanotechnology is equivalent to molecular manufacturing. I really don't think that's the case. I doubt the public has particularly well-formed ideas about what is going on. I don't think the NNI is being dishonest in what it proposes is going to be accomplished by nanotechnology. It is distributing funds for cancer research, where as one example, nanoscale optical properties can be combined with biofunctionalization which is also on the nanoscale in order to create novel potential treatments.

As for whether they are glossing over potential problems, I am certain that is true to some extent. I know there is a large amount of interest into funding the environmental impact of current-day nanomaterials - but not very many well conceived studies to do so.

As for the rest - we should be conducting more dual-use studies and asking questions such as does the biological weapons convention need to be modified. But otherwise? I'm just not clear on what you think needs to be done that isn't being done. Another global ecophagy paper? A study on whether theoretical MM technology can be used for rapid militarization? It just doesn't get much traction when there is absolutely no basis for evaluating such future technology and I think most of the scientific community would place the onset of what could be described as a nanofactory far past your 2010 estimate.

Obviously, breakthroughs can happen - and when one happens there will be a serious discussion as to regulation. I don't know that there is much that can be done until there's at least some small bit of empyrical evidence to support all the concern.

Chris Phoenix, CRN

The public's poorly-formed ideas were derived in part from Star Trek. "Tea, Earl Grey, hot." So I agree that the public probably couldn't distinguish between nanoscale and MM. But some of them are expecting to see things that can only happen with exponential molecular manufacturing.

And nanoscale has been sold, by government and industry, based on the selling points analyzed by the Foresight Institute years ago - which specifically related to MM. Those descriptions were used to justify near-term nanoscale tech funding, even though it could not achieve what was being claimed.

Most recently, we've seen the use (by high-level government people) of the term "molecular nanotechnology" to describe near-term nanotech. This looks like another attempt to climb on the benefits bandwagon while glossing over the gap between nanoscale and MM. In other words, to tell the public that they're getting more than they're actually getting for their research $.


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