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Home > Nanotechnology Columns > Brian Wang > Brian Wang's Personal introduction to this new column

Brian Wang
Z1 Consulting

This will be my first article for my new column here at I will introduce my approach and how I view the future and technology. Our collective choices are key. Make the right choices and we can accelerate technology and nanotechnology and we can use them to create the most positive impact.

June 21st, 2007

Brian Wang's Personal introduction to this new column

This will be my first article for my new column here at I will introduce my approach and how I view the future and technology.

An introduction to my background and positions

I am a long time futurist and forecaster of technology. I won second place in the Honeywell University Futurist contest. I am listed as a Big Thinker on the KurzweilAI site Member of the Center for Responsible Nanotechnology taskforce. Advisor to the Nanoethics Group. Advisor to Lifeboat Foundation. Senior associate of the Foresight Institute from 1997-2006. I helped write the 2003 Foresight Institute organization relaunch plan. I have an MBA and a degree in computer science. I have my own blog on the future and technology. I made technology predictions which were posted at nanotech-now

I actually read original research in physics and other relevant subject areas such as economics and markets. I will not do a deep dive on everything, but in areas where I think the potential impact could turn on the details then I will look at patents and scientific papers or other relevant information. I do not claim infallible expertise but I try to avoid errors caused by unwillingness to openly consider facts and information. However, I am generally reluctant to concede that something is impossible when the situation is that no real effort has been made to try to do something. I prefer discussion where there is brainstorming or planning around better and easier way to achieve a goal.

A summary of my positions related to technology and nanotechnology.

I think the high impacts future technology is more than just nanotechnology. There are variations in nuclear fission, nuclear fusion, solar power, space technology, advanced electronics, advanced computers, quantum computers, genetics, materials, lasers, imaging and many other technologies. For many applications there will be an increasing number of ways to make it happen.

Many people ridicule particular ideas for predicted
applications of nanotechnology. In my broad review of all kinds of advanced technology, those people are not aware that not only is the predicted application feasible with nanotechnology but a fairly powerful version could be implemented with microelectronics and/or biotech or other existing technology. The idea of carbon nanotubes used for television has turned out to be true but the amount of impact is a question of carbon nanotube televisions being cheaper than LCD Televisions. There are existing implementations of blood stream robots, some early work on cellular repair systems and desktop manufacturing is occurring with the billion dollar industry of rapid prototyping and rapid manufacturing and 3D printing.

Some discussions of the future are flawed by not talking about the existing and projected business and geopolitical landscape. There is an existing context from which we are moving into the future. Product and brand loyalty are important factors. Product X could be better in many ways but people may choose to stick with good old Product A. An example of this is the difficulty that new compact fluorescent lights are having in displacing incandescent lights.

For impact analysis there needs to be more careful analysis about how different something is compared to the alternative. For example, when people talk about energy they tend to ignore the 3 million people who die in the world every year from outdoor air pollution. When people talk about life extension, they ignore the fact that some people in Japan and Andorra already live 3-5 years longer on average than people in the United States or that some asian american women in New Jersey have a life expectancy 7 years longer than the average asian american and 10 years longer than the average American women.

Some of general areas of interest

Highest impact applications - medicine, space, energy, environment, transportation, materials, spectrum (sensors/communication), military

Developing Enabling technology - quantum computers, supercomputers, tools (lasers, metamaterials)

Extending and utilizing what we have
DNA Nanotechnology, carbon nanotubes, nanostructured materials, nanopores

Disruptive technologes (similar to the list of disruptive technologies that has identified)

Convergence opportunities - targeting high impact breakthroughs, using nanoscale and nanotech capabilities to extend and acclerate our understanding and progress. All the items above and many others have important impacts upon each other.

Some of the most interesting technology work that I currently see is :
For nanotechnology: Zyvex, UK Ideas Factory, Freitas and Merkle (diamondoid),
For quantum computers : Dwave Systems
For supercomputers : China and Japan's petaflop projects, folding @ home
Some other fields: Synthetic biology, DNA nanotechnology

Some major sociological forces are increasing wealth and growing wealthy segment of the population and the rise of China and India.

Some of my goals and topics of upcoming articles
-Achieve greater accuracy in forecasting science, technological and societal developments.
-Identify blockages to faster progress and creating awareness and influencing those who would be able to make changes to accelerate development.
-Identify overlooked opportunities and areas where creativity can be applied to enable progress.
-Identify and encourage the correct technological and social choices to be made.

Our collective choices are key. Make the right choices and we can accelerate technology and nanotechnology and we can use them to create the most positive impact.

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