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November 9th, 2007

"Nanotechnology at War"

In the current issue of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists -- the people responsible for the famous Doomsday Clock -- I have published a review of Jürgen Altmann's important new book, Military Nanotechnology: Potential Applications and Preventive Arms Control.

Here are a few excerpts from my review:

Deeply researched and carefully worded, Military Nanotechnology is an overview of an emerging technology that could trigger a new arms race and gravely threaten international security and stability. Jürgen Altmann's academic style allows the reader to assess nanotechnology's perilous military implications in plain, dispassionate terms. What we face might sound like science fiction, but, in this book, we have the facts laid bare, and they are hair-raising enough without embellishment. . .

Altmann appropriately separates his assessments of nanotechnology's military implications into separate categories: those relating to current or conventional nanotechnology, and those concerning futuristic molecular nanotechnology (MNT). Although there is a continuum from today's nanotech work to near-future atomically precise manufacturing and eventually to nanoscale machinery making powerful products, the comparative impacts on society (and on the military) may not follow a smooth line. Altmann convincingly argues that the profound implications of MNT, while "necessarily general, speculative and incomplete," must be taken into account. Moreover, MNT's fundamentally new control of physical materials and manufacturing could lead to "qualitatively new means and methods of warfare" . . .


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