In this issue NanoNews-Now Editor Rocky Rawstern and contributing writer Mike Treder cover molecular nanotechnology (MNT).

This issue is especially timely given the recent announcement by CRN of their paper Bootstrapping a Nanofactory. The efforts of Foresight and other worthy organizations, and the recent passage of the "21st Century Nanotechnology Research and Development Act," show that the time is ripe for taking another step forward in the debate process. We believe this newsletter will help facilitate just that.

Join us as we review small matters.

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Molecular Nanotechnology

At the most basic technical level, molecular nanotechnology (MNT) is building, with intent and design, and molecule by molecule, these two things: 1) incredibly advanced and extremely capable nano-scale and micro-scale machines and computers, and 2) ordinary size objects, using other incredibly small machines called assemblers or fabricators (found inside nanofactories). In a nutshell, by taking advantage of quantum-level properties, MNT allows for unprecedented control of the material world, at the nanoscale, providing the means by which systems and materials can be built with exacting specifications and characteristics. Or, as Dr. K. Eric Drexler puts it "large-scale mechanosynthesis based on positional control of chemically reactive molecules."

MNT represents the state of the art in advances in biology, chemistry, physics, engineering, computer science and mathematics. The major research objectives in MNT are the design, modeling, and fabrication of molecular machines and molecular devices. The emergence of MNT - both infant and mature - has numerous social, legal, cultural, ethical, religious, philosophical and political implications.

Much as the invention of electricity and transistors were enabling technologies, so too is MNT enabling - it will enable us to do radical new things in virtually every technological and scientific arena. It will also change things in unpredictable and unanticipated ways. Having learned lessons from their experiences with other revolutionary technologies, scientists (technologists and social scientists) are collaborating in examining the implications of the developments that are beginning to take place, in an effort to both smooth the transitions, and to head off potential negative consequences.

The term "nanotechnology" has evolved over the years via terminology drift to also mean "anything smaller than microtechnology," such as nano powders, and other things that are nanoscale in size, but not referring to mechanisms that have been purposefully built from nanoscale components. See our "Current Uses" page for examples. This evolved version of the term is more properly labeled "nanoscale bulk technology," while the original meaning is now more properly labeled MNT, or "nanoscale engineering," or "molecular mechanics," or "molecular machine systems," or "molecular manufacturing." Recently, the Foresight Institute has suggested an alternate term to represent the original meaning of nanotechnology: zettatechnology.

At the most basic social level, MNT is going to be responsible for tremendous changes in the way we live, the way we interact with one another and our environment, and the things we are capable of doing.

Once MNT develops to the stage where we've built the two most essential machines - called the Universal Assembler and the Nanocomputer - everything has a near-term possibility of significant change.

Some things that become practical with mature MNT (paraphrasing Dr. K. Eric Drexler):

  • Nearly free consumer products
  • PC's billions of times faster then today
  • Safe and affordable space travel
  • Virtual end to illness, aging, death
  • No more pollution and automatic cleanup of existing pollution
  • End of famine and starvation
  • Superior education for every child on Earth
  • Reintroduction of many extinct plants and animals
  • Terraforming Earth and the Solar System

And for all who take a more science-specific approach, there is this from Nanosystems Molecular Machinery, Manufacturing, and Computation, by K. Eric Drexler

With MNT, the following devices and capabilities appear to be both physically possible and practically realizable:

  • Programmable positioning of reactive molecules with ~0.1 nm precision
  • Mechanosynthesis at >106operations/device second
  • Mechanosynthetic assembly of 1 kg objects in <104 s
  • Nanomechanical systems operating at ~109 Hz
  • Logic gates that occupy ~10–26 m3 (~10– 8 m3)
  • Logic gates that switch in ~0.1 ns and dissipate <10– 21 J
  • Computers that perform 1016 instructions per second per watt
  • Cooling of cubic-centimeter, ~105 W systems at 300 K
  • Compact 1015 MIPS parallel computing systems
  • Mechanochemical power conversion at >109 W/m 3
  • Electromechanical power conversion at >1015 W/m 3
  • Macroscopic components with tensile strengths >51010 Pa
  • Production systems that can double capital stocks in <10 4 s

Of these capabilities, several are qualitatively novel and others improve on present engineering practice by one or more orders of magnitude. Each is an aspect or a consequence of molecular manufacturing.

Along with the development of MNT comes the necessity to develop reasonable guidelines, procedures, and laws in order to protect humanity from new forms of terror, and misuse of the technologies. With that in mind, the Foresight Guidelines on Molecular Nanotechnology were developed.

"Assumptions, principles, and some specific recommendations intended to provide a basis for responsible development of molecular nanotechnology. "

Development Principles

  1. Artificial replicators must not be capable of replication in a natural, uncontrolled environment.
  2. Evolution within the context of a self-replicating manufacturing system is discouraged.
  3. Any replicated information should be error free.
  4. MNT device designs should specifically limit proliferation and provide traceability of any replicating systems.
  5. Developers should attempt to consider systematically the environmental consequences of the technology, and to limit these consequences to intended effects. This requires significant research on environmental models, risk management, as well as the theory, mechanisms, and experimental designs for built-in safeguard systems.
  6. Industry self-regulation should be designed in whenever possible. Economic incentives could be provided through discounts on insurance policies for MNT development organizations that certify Guidelines compliance. Willingness to provide self-regulation should be one condition for access to advanced forms of the technology.
  7. Distribution of molecular manufacturing development capability should be restricted, whenever possible, to responsible actors that have agreed to use the Guidelines. No such restriction need apply to end products of the development process that satisfy the Guidelines.

Specific Design Guidelines

  1. Any self-replicating device which has sufficient onboard information to describe its own manufacture should encrypt it such that any replication error will randomize its blueprint.
  2. Encrypted MNT device instruction sets should be utilized to discourage irresponsible proliferation and piracy.
  3. Mutation (autonomous and otherwise) outside of sealed laboratory conditions, should be discouraged.
  4. Replication systems should generate audit trails.
  5. MNT device designs should incorporate provisions for built-in safety mechanisms, such as: 1) absolute dependence on a single artificial fuel source or artificial "vitamins" that don't exist in any natural environment; 2) making devices that are dependent on broadcast transmissions for replication or in some cases operation; 3) routing control signal paths throughout a device, so that subassemblies do not function independently; 4) programming termination dates into devices, and 5) other innovations in laboratory or device safety technology developed specifically to address the potential dangers of MNT.
  6. MNT developers should adopt systematic security measures to avoid unplanned distribution of their designs and technical capabilities.


There is one very important and simple method to insure the safe development of MNT: become involved in the debate. Regardless of your opinion, you need to both express it and stand behind it, in forums both public and virtual. Educate yourself -- we will provide the tools, right here. And if there is ever anything you need regarding information, just ask. Another great resource is The Center for Responsible Nanotechnology (CRN) A non-profit organization, formed to advance the safe use of molecular nanotechnology. CRN was founded by Chris Phoenix and Mike Treder in December 2002. The vision of CRN is a world in which nanotechnology is widely used for productive and beneficial purposes, and where malicious uses are limited by effective administration of the technology. Or go to the sci.nanotech Group and ask your questions.


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Mike Treder, Executive Director - Center for Responsible Nanotechnology crnano.org. December 2003 Mike Treder

Molecular nanotechnology (MNT), also known as molecular manufacturing, is the concept of building components, machines, and products from the bottom up, literally molecule by molecule, with every atom precisely placed. Of course, it doesn't exist yet, at least not in anything except the crudest form. A decade ago, researchers at IBM pulled off a famous stunt where they spelled out the company's logo in xenon atoms (1), and more recently molecules have been joined and split mechanically. But these feats were performed at extremely low temperatures and were painstakingly slow and difficult. In practical terms, we are still far from being capable of real molecular manufacturing.

The whole concept is so complex and unfamiliar, and so staggering in its implications, that some scientists, engineers, and other pundits have flatly declared it to be impossible. Proponents, on the other hand, affirm that significant and rapid progress is being made. The debate is further confused by science-fictional hype and media misconceptions that obscure the picture and make it all too easy for policy-makers to ignore important realities.

A major change, not noticed by many, is that the goal of today's MNT researchers is different from what it was 20 years ago, when most of these ideas first came to light. For the past 10 years, in fact, almost all serious work toward molecular manufacturing has focused on developing a limited molecular nanotechnology (LMNT).

Early discussions about MNT asserted the ability to do almost anything that was theoretically possible with chemistry. This idea was rapidly attacked by many as being unworkable or at least too difficult. But unlike its big brother (MNT), LMNT would implement just a tiny fraction of possible chemistry. It aims to achieve a limited molecular manufacturing capability based only on carbon lattice configurations-diamond, graphite, and fullerenes-known collectively as "diamondoid".

Working with a much smaller list of ingredients and far simpler recipes, LMNT will build shapes, components, and machines out of large, carefully fabricated, three-dimensional carbon molecules (with a few other atoms thrown in to extend the range of surfaces and shapes). But carbon is an extremely flexible material. Strong and light, opaque or transparent, insulating or conductive, it could replace almost every material and function in today's products.

Researchers believe LMNT can produce most of the desired medical devices, advanced materials, and product innovation goals sought after today and will be significantly easier to accomplish. It must be emphasized, therefore, that LMNT's narrowed technological focus still enables a wide range of extraordinary applications, and many of the claims made for the disruptive effects of MNT are still valid.

Molecular nanotechnology, even in its limited form, will be a significant breakthrough, comparable perhaps to the Industrial Revolution-but compressed into a few years. This has the potential to disrupt many aspects of society and politics.

  • Weapons and surveillance devices could be made small, cheap, powerful, and very numerous.
  • The power of the technology may cause two competing nations to enter a potentially disastrous arms race.
  • Low-cost local manufacturing and duplication of designs could lead to economic upheaval, as major economic sectors including mining, manufacturing, and transportation contract or even collapse.
  • Overuse of inexpensive products could cause widespread environmental damage.

Attempts to control these risks may lead to abusive restrictions, or create demand for a black market that would be very risky and almost impossible to stop; small LMNT manufacturing systems will be very easy to smuggle, and fully dangerous. There are numerous severe risks-of several different kinds-that cannot all be prevented with the same approach. Simple, one-track solutions cannot work. The right answer is unlikely to evolve without careful planning.

On the other hand, LMNT can alleviate many of the world's current troubles.

  • Water shortage is a serious and growing problem. Most water is used for industry and agriculture; both of these requirements would be greatly reduced by products made by molecular manufacturing.
  • Infectious disease is a continuing scourge in many parts of the world. Simple products like pipes, filters, and mosquito nets can greatly reduce this problem.
  • Information and communication are valuable, but lacking in many places. Telecommunication, computers, and networking could become stunningly cheap and widely available.
  • Electrical power is still not accessible in many areas. The efficient, cheap building of light, strong structures, electrical equipment, and power storage devices would allow the use of solar thermal power as a primary and abundant energy source.
  • Environmental degradation is a serious problem worldwide. High-tech products can allow people to live with much less environmental impact. Many areas of the world cannot rapidly bootstrap a 20th century manufacturing infrastructure. Molecular manufacturing can be self-contained and clean; a single packing crate or suitcase could contain all equipment required for a village-scale industrial revolution.
  • LMNT will provide cheap and advanced equipment for medical research and health care, making improved medicine widely available.
  • Much of today's social unrest can be traced directly to material poverty, ill health, and ignorance. Molecular manufacturing can contribute to great reductions in all of these problems, and in the associated human suffering.

There appears to be no technological barrier to achieving LMNT within the next decade or two. But the economic and political barriers are substantial: a crash development program would cost multiple billions of dollars, and many decision-makers do not fully realize the benefits or the dangers of direct control and manufacture of molecular-scale machines.

The economic barriers will probably diminish far more quickly than the political barriers. Each year sees the development of new technologies, and the rapid refinement of existing ones. We can expect the cost and time required to drop swiftly; if an eight-year project starting in 2004 could do it for $5 billion, then by 2010, it may be feasible with a three-year project and $500 million. At that point, such a project would be well within the capability of many governments and even individual corporations.

Recent studies by the Center for Responsible Nanotechnology show that the final stages of LMNT development may occur quite rapidly. A sudden announcement of success from an unexpected quarter could catch many people-and nervous nations with big militaries-by surprise.

Development and application of molecular manufacturing policy must not be reactive. The problems, individually and collectively, could spiral out of control before today's institutions have time to react. If good policy is not designed and implemented in advance, the consequences could be severe. Unilateral development or control of the technology may lead to military or economic oppression. Simultaneous development could lead to an unstable arms race. Irresponsible release would make the full power of the technology available to terrorists, criminals, and dictators. The safest course appears to be a single, rapid, worldwide development program by a cooperative international organization that recognizes the necessity of wise administration-but accomplishing this will be anything but easy.

Understanding and preparing for the potentially massive impacts of molecular nanotechnology should be a top priority for today's policy planners.

(1) Click here for a TIFF file image.


When asked about MNT by NanoNews-Now Editor Rocky Rawstern, Josh Wolfe had this to say:

What is your greatest concern regarding the development of molecular nanotechnology?

Defining what that term 'molecular nanotechnology' means and to whom.

In your opinion, what should be done - starting right now - to mitigate (if not eliminate) the potential downsides to MNT, as well as maximize the potential upsides?

The commonly mentioned downsides of any new technology (nanotech is not unique in this sense) are environmental impact, personal health hazards and resulting economic disparity. At the risk of misunderstanding and trivializing the question with respect to the dangers or downsides--both kitchen appliances and automobiles have a marked history of accident and death. But most agree they've yielded far greater nonzero sum benefits to society than they've cost it.

I think all the right things are being done today: discussing scenarios and thinking about their effects on people, the environment and socio-economic systems. I think prohibitive or preemptive policy today would be premature. In general, technologies will evolve not as a function of policy but as a function of their utility to a market and their social acceptance---if the market demands a new feature or the elimination of an old one, in a Darwinian (or maybe Lamarckian) sense, the next generation product will have or lack said feature. And the social behavior associated with the use of these technologies or features is part of a feedback loop that can further redefine the technology and its uses (consider email). But this social behavior is very difficult to predict.

Josh Wolfe
Josh Wolfe, co-founder and Managing Partner of Lux Capital, and author of "The Nanotech Report" and the monthly "Forbes/Wolfe Nanotech Report".


When asked about MNT by NanoNews-Now Editor Rocky Rawstern, Peter de Jager responded with quotes from two of his recent articles.

From "The problem with abundance:"

"A technology which has, as its primary advantage, an ability to create abundance, carries within it the potential to create problems invulnerable to simplistic solutions. Like genies let loose from the bottle, they are almost impossible to control. We can't solve traffic congestion by reducing the speed of traffic to 10 KM/Hr. Nor can we solve obesity by reducing the shelves in the supermarket, or Spam by making it difficult and costly to send e-mail.

It's not that it is physically impossible to do these things; it's that people will resist with all their might, those who attempt to replace new found abundance with their parents' scarcity.

Anyone considering a new technology should at least ask the question: 'What are the long term consequences if this advance reduces costs to zero, or increases access so that everyone with a desire to do so, can use the technology?' That might seem to be a giant 'societal' question of value only to economists and city planners, but it has applications closer to home."

And from "Six Billion Nation States:"

"Technological progress continually increases personal ability. It makes us more capable than those who went before us. Even more powerful than the companies, infrastructures and governments they erected to increase their capability."

"Because of this dramatic increase of leveraged ability, individuals can now compete with corporations, even industries. The almost exhausted example of Napster, an application developed by two students in a dorm room on a personal computer, has placed the multibillion-dollar music industry at the edge of a precipice in less than a decade."

Peter de Jager
Peter de Jager - Keynote Speaker & Consultant & Writer Columns in: Computerworld Canada/Event Horizons & ABA Banking Journal/Managing Change & Technology www.technobility.com

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NanoNews-Now Editor Rocky Rawstern interviews D. M. Berube (DMB), Ph.D (bio), Professor of Rhetoric and Communication Studies, University of South Carolina.

1. Please talk about some of the social, legal, cultural, ethical, religious, philosophical and political implications of molecular nanotechnology (MNT).

DMB: MNT as currently anticipated will be applied nanoscience. As such, toxicological and environmental implications would be paramount. As nano-bio convergence develops, ethical and legal issues will surface, from post-humanism to patenting life. Whether MNT ever arrives... should it, then there would be social and political implication from work-leisure issues to questions associated with regulatory options.

2. What are your greatest concerns regarding the development of MNT?

DMB: Focusing on MNT will divert interest and focus from applied nanoscience. While foresight is a great thing, deciding at what point on the horizon to anchor concerns is important. Concern is the wrong term for much of the fanciful speculation regarding mature MNT. Concern is not an open-sum phenomenon. Fatigue sets in when everything elicits concern. As such, I am concerned about nano-particles in sun screens and paints.

3. What are some of the things that become practical with mature MNT?

DMB: MNT as envisioned by CRN and others would seem to enable anything and everything which can be built by placing the right building blocks together. What is chemically and physically possible becomes possible.

4. In your opinion, what should be done - starting right now - to mitigate (if not eliminate) the potential downsides to MNT, as well as to maximize the potential upsides?

DMB: Study, study, and study some more. Involve the public, social scientists, and humanists. Vet the claims. Debunk the foolishness. What is needed is the Center for American Technological Preparedness as specified in the 21st Century Nanotechnology Research and Development Act. Regulators need to use the broad expertise of all the actors noted above to promote safe and effective nanotechnology applications. Personally, I would expect something (like) the Kefauver Amendments to the Food, Drugs and Cosmetics Act applied to nano-products. If coupled with an invigorated Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and a rediscovered Consumer Product Safety "Administration, this tripartite may serve as a basis for a regulatory regime for processes and products. Manufacturing might demand a heightened liability regime matched with more standards regulatory structures, such as treaties and agreements.

5. Who are the players in the developing debate on nanoscale-materials technologies and MNT? What are they getting right? What are they getting wrong?

DMB: The players: government, industry and citizen-consumers. The government has begun to be interested in societal and ethical implications of nanotechnology (SEIN). Whether as window dressing or not, we cannot tell though it appears to be promising. Industry has also been investigating SEIN such as NbA's HEITF (Health and Environmental Issues Task Force). Unfortunately, profit may blind corporates to liability concerns given the many ways companies, like a phoenix, rises from it's own ashes. The citizen-consumer is out of the loop. There is no public sphere for science and technology policy in the USA. Unless we scientiate the citizen-consumer we will find them among the troops recruited by an anti-nanotechnology transnational protest movement.

6. Who isn't participating in the debate that should be, and why?

DMB: We need full participation. More social scientists, community leaders, and citizen-consumers need both time and space to engage in the debate. The process needed to promote involvement includes: (1) writing and rewriting the message (the nanotechnology story) to maximize its comprehensibility; (2) education and outreach in multiple venues: schools, town hall meetings, political campaigns, etc.; (3) have all parties meet in dialogue, as face-to-face as possible; and (4) assess, repair and repeat.

7. How best may we (organizations such as your's and our's) serve the need of enabling the dialog among all concerned?

DMB: The University of South Carolina's nanoSTS may represent the beginning of public science interest groups. While some may be associated with higher education, that is not necessary. They will need to be encouraged and nurtured. There will be failed experiments and some confrontations, but if we can get past these, we will be the facilitator of a public sphere of sorts (I prefer the term "public") that will need to be available to debunk the cranks and meet the anti-nanotechnology movement on the plains of the techne.

8. Regarding the nanoscale sciences: Talk a little about education, where we're doing it right, where improvements can be made, and why.

DMB: Start early. Students get turned off the science in primary school. Teachers need to teach science which takes more talent than only speaking science. How science can compete with popular culture has evaded thinkers better than me. Science and scientists are not as sexy as basketball stars or television personalities. Next, science needs to be taught juxtaposed to its application, technology. If viewed as two parts of the same phenomenon, we may be able to bring together many fields of study currently isolated by curriculum, sometimes geography. Good science education starts early, makes an effort to be relevant, and can only be sustained in an environment that reinforces the scientists and their work.

9. Given 10 years and an unlimited budget, could someone develop MNT in the form of a table-top factory?

DMB: I am unsure what unlimited means but an infinite number of parallel research programs might get us there. While improbable, infinity has a way of making anything possible.

10. Regarding the likelihood that sooner or later someone will develop MNT: If you could gather all the leaders, decision-makers, politicians and opinion-shapers from around the world and speak to them collectively, what points would you make?

DMB: Do less harm than good. Treat everyone with intrinsic worth and value. Invest in long-term scientific research since the free market does that poorly. Regulate as a last resort. Bans aren't solution but expression of failure. Listen to as many voices as you can. Participation is a process.

11. Again, given the likelihood that sooner or later someone will develop MNT If we start debating, discussing, and preparing for MNT, now, what is your best prognostication regarding the future of mankind in the next twenty five years? Next fifty?

DMB: Humankind will survive technology by either (a) limiting what it is and can be used to do or (b) merging with it in some post-human rapture. I tend to prefer the former. In the next 25 years, we will confront many challenges to our humanity and advanced technologies, especially nanotechnology, will take us to their thresholds. We need to decide what our species is and what we want it to become. If we decide to produce a race of slave-machines, they had better be dumb because our species simply has a bad track record when it comes to interspecies interactions. In the next 50 years, we will probably be post-human with more than half of what we are as machinic rather than organic. What we think will be decided by who and what we are. What we become will be a function on how we define our humanity is a post-human world.

12. How would your respond to the following statement? "Nanotechnology's highest and best use should be to enable the creation of a world of abundance, where no one is lacking for their basic needs. Those needs include adequate food, safe water, a clean environment, housing, medical care, education, public safety, fair labor, travel, artistic expression and freedom from fear and oppression."

DMB: Sounds great. I hope we get through the next 5 years. Nanotechnology will profoundly affect war-fighting. In the war against terrorism, our armies will bring its best technologies onto the battlefield. Nano-weapons (meaning nanotechnology enhanced weaponry) scare me. Proliferation of nano-weapons might foreclose any of the benefits in the statement made in #12. "Goo" is nothing to be feared. Purposeful use as a tool to exterminate our enemies is much more provocative. Freedom needs to survive terrorism and that might be overly optimistic.

D. M. Berube, Ph.D

D. M. Berube, Ph.D, Professor of Rhetoric and Communication Studies. Chair, University Budget Committee. Director, Carolina Debate Dept. of English. University of South Carolina. Personal Faculty Webpage


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NanoNews-Now Editor Rocky Rawstern interviews Vic Peña, CEO, nanoTITAN, Inc., and Member of the PCAST Nanotechnology Technical Advisory Group (NTAG).

1. Please talk about some of the social, legal, cultural, ethical, religious, philosophical and political implications of molecular nanotechnology (MNT).

VP: I believe that molecular nanotechnology will profoundly impact the entire socio-economic-technological spectrum of the human experience for the betterment of all humankind. This profound impact will be progressive, with increasing promise to improve the lives of humankind.

As MNT becomes reality, challenges to the framework and values of our present societies worldwide will surface. The legal profession, and political entities, will find that current laws and policies will have to be improved to meet the demands of intellectual property protection, producers' liability, and consumer protection. Most certainly also, National Security.

Concurrent with the development of MNT, political involvement in the establishment of laws and oversight needs to occur. International covenants and treaties will have to be developed to assure the lawful, orderly, and peaceful proliferation of MNT's promise. I would see something akin to the Geneva Convention as a set of guidelines from which to establish an international standard for the use and implementation of MNT worldwide. This said, I would not like a constraining bureaucracy to impede the research and development of the scientific and technological discoveries yet to take place, "for the betterment of all mankind".

There is an educational aspect to this also, as not only will our schools and universities be required to graduate scientists and engineers, but whole new generations of business, law, policy, and social studies graduates will be needed to provide the societal balance required for MNT to have a beneficial effect on humankind.

Finally, ethical, religious, and philosophical beliefs will be tasked, and the tenets upon which these beliefs are built will have to withstand some of the assaults that they will surely experience. Science can be a powerful argument, and our values built upon ethics, religion and philosophy must recognize that a whole new era is upon us.

2. What are your greatest concerns regarding the development of MNT?

VP: Quite simply, that MNT may be used in some quarters for other than "for the betterment of all mankind".

3. What are some of the things that become practical with mature MNT?

VP: The National Nanotechnology Initiative has spelled its the Grand Challenge Areas:

  • Nanostructured Materials by Design
  • Manufacturing at the Nanoscale
  • Chemical-Biological-Radiological-Explosive Detection and Protection
  • Nanoscale Instrumentation and Metrology
  • Healthcare, Therapeutics, and Diagnostics
  • Energy Conversion and Storage
  • Microcraft and Robotics
  • Nanoscale Processes for Environmental Improvement

Each of these holds a promise for the improvement of our lives and research and development is progressing in multiple fronts, Academia, the Federal Government, Industry, and myriad consortiums at the States and Local levels. Breakthroughs in technology are being announced on a daily basis, and "The Diamond Age" (our term for when MNT is ubiquitous and mankind prospers from it) is dawning upon us.

4. In your opinion, what should be done - starting right now - to mitigate (if not eliminate) the potential downsides to MNT, as well as to maximize the potential upsides?

VP: I stated earlier, that we (our National Leadership) should be considering a Geneva Convention like structure to focus on the peaceful evolution and development of MNT. Additionally, Educational Institutions as well as Academia should begin preparing for the demands that MNT will bring upon us all. I believe that if people are educated both as a work force, and as consumers, the advantages of MNT will be demanded and the nefarious uses that it can pose will be constrained or at least controlled.

5. Who are the players in the developing debate on nanoscale-materials technologies and MNT? What are they getting right? What are they getting wrong?

VP: I believe that the debate is certainly open to all that want to join it. My concern is the hype that is surrounding MNT today. I am optimistic about the promise of MNT, but caution against promising too much, as well as doomsaying the entire science.

6. Who isn't participating in the debate that should be, and why?

VP: I am not aware of anyone being left out.

7. How best may we (organizations such as your's and our's) serve the need of enabling the dialog among all concerned?

VP: We continue to show the promise, and this is especially so with companies such as ours that are ethically based and follow principled development of our products and services.

8. Regarding the nanoscale sciences: Talk a little about education, where we're doing it right, where improvements can be made, and why.

VP: I think that we, the United States of America, are not producing enough talent in the sciences and technologies to maintain our lead in nanotechnology. But beyond the scientists and engineer nanotechnologists, we need to focus on the requirements that nanotechnology will put on our business, legal, policy, and social graduates. One great program recently came to my attention, and that is the "Nano*High" Program at UC Berkley, where every Saturday, lectures and lab tours are offered for free to any interested high school student. This is a great model and should be emulated Nation-wide.

10. Regarding the likelihood that sooner or later someone will develop MNT: If you could gather all the leaders, decision-makers, politicians and opinion-shapers from around the world and speak to them collectively, what points would you make?

VP: See my comments in 4. Above.

11. Again, given the likelihood that sooner or later someone will develop MNT: If we start debating, discussing, and preparing for MNT, now, what is your best prognostication regarding the future of mankind in the next twenty five years? Next fifty?

VP: Like I said, I am an optimist about MNT, so long as we start preparing for the Diamond Age now.

12. How would your respond to the following statement? "Nanotechnology's highest and best use should be to enable the creation of a world of abundance, where no one is lacking for their basic needs. Those needs include adequate food, safe water, a clean environment, housing, medical care, education, public safety, fair labor, travel, artistic expression and freedom from fear and oppression."

VP: I whole-heartedly agree with it. But I also know that there are going to be many bumps along the road of MNT evolution.

A. Victor Pena

A. Victor Pena, Chief Executive nanoTITAN, Inc., member Nanotechnology Technical Advisory Group (NTAG). The NTAG is charged with providing technical information on nanotechnology to the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST).


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In closing, these quotes:

From Our Molecular Future, by Douglas Mulhall:

  • What happens to the monetary system when everyone is able to satisfy his own basic material needs at very low cost?
  • How would we use cash when digital manufacturing makes it impossible to differentiate a counterfeit bill or coin from the real thing?
  • What happens to fiscal policy when digital information, moving at light speed, is the major commodity?
  • How fast will monetary cycles move compared to, say, the ten- or twenty-year cycles of the late twentieth century, when products and patents go out of date in a matter of months instead of years?
  • What happens when we don't have to worry about trade or social services for our basic needs, because most of what we need is provided locally with digital manufacturing, and the biggest trade is in information?
  • How do we control the excesses of the ultrarich, the overabundance of the molecular assembler economy, and the challenge to intellectual property laws created by intelligent, inventive machines?
  • What happens if half of all jobs are made redundant every decade?
  • What happens to the War on Drugs when there's no import, export, or transport of contraband because drugs can be manufactured in a desktop machine using pirated software downloaded from the Internet?
  • What happens to democratic controls when individuals can get as rich as small governments in a year or so?
  • What's the relevance of insurance if many things are replaceable at very low capital cost, but liabilities from software are potentially unlimited?
  • How should organized labor react when molecular assemblers and intelligent robots eliminate most manufacturing jobs?
  • What is the nature of work going to be?
  • What happens to land prices when an individual can build a tropical farm under a bubble in North Dakota, and get there from New York in an hour?
  • What happens when everyone can go everywhere, whenever they want, and work from wherever they want?

"The idea is simple, yet powerful: The American economy will grow bigger if America's science and engineering focus on things that are smaller. The U.S. is a leader in nanotech...We must remain in the front." Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R-N.Y.), Chairman of the Science Committee. link

Referring to the just-passed "21st Century Nanotechnology Research and Development Act," Kristen Kulinowski of The Center for Biological and Environmental Nanotechnology said: "An open and honest evaluation of all the potential impacts of nanotechnology is vital to the long-term success of nanotechnology. By promoting research on both the beneficial applications and potential implications of nanotechnology, this provision ensures that nanotechnology's benefits are maximized."

And Mark Modzelewski, executive director of the NanoBusiness Alliance, this: "When one looks at the next 100 years of human development and the growth of the global economy, no vote taken by Congress in the past decade will have a greater effect then today's overwhelming passage of the nanotechnology bill." He further says "You can't drill it into people's heads enough: Nanotechnology is going to affect every industry that manufacturers something, in different ways at different times and at different levels."

Read the entire bill: 21st Century Nanotechnology Research and Development Act (PDF 64k) $809.8 million for fiscal year (FY) 2005, $889.6 million for FY 2006, $955.4 million for FY 2007, and $1024.1 million for FY 2008.

"We now stand at the threshold of an age in which materials and devices can be fashioned atom by atom. The capability will have enormous consequences for the information industry, for manufacturing, and for medicine and health." he said on the House floor prior to the November 20 vote." Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY), chairman of the House Science Committee and one of the bill's sponsors. "This legislation should help facilitate the synergy between the biological sciences and material sciences," said Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) ---- "To ensure that the United States takes the lead in this new and promising field of science and technology, we must provide for the organization and guidance necessary to foster interaction between government, academia and industry," Lieberman said. "The Senate passage of this legislation today brings us a step closer to providing a strong framework to elicit contributions from all three sectors and move nanotechnology research and development to the next level." Added Allen, "Nanotechnology is a 'bottom-up' approach much like building a sculpture atom-by-atom and molecule-by-molecule instead of cutting it from a larger rock. As this technology grows, its impact will be felt throughout the economy as the market for new applications grows and thousands of new jobs are created." link

Nanoscience and nanotechnology refer to research at the scale of 100 nanometers or less. Applications range across material science, information technologies, environmental benefits, and medicine. "Nanoscale science and technology offer the opportunity to understand life processes at a deeper level, cure and prevent disease, heal injured bodies, and protect society against chemical and biological weapons," concluded a study by the National Academy of Sciences in 2002. "To realize the potential of nanoscale science and technology in advanced medicine will require research at the interface between engineering, the physical sciences, and biology." link

"This historic legislation is an investment in American innovation and economic growth. America has always been on the leading-edge of exploring new frontiers and this new science is no exception. Nanotechnology has the potential to revolutionize industry, changing the things we make and the way we make them -- literally from the bottom up. This legislation will help make those possibilities a reality." Phil Bond, Undersecretary of the US Dept. of Commerce

"This bill should insure US dominance followed by a even larger flow in nanotechnology. It will be of capital from the financial markets into nanotechnology industry. I expect this to ignite an exponential growth in entrepreneurial activity in nanotechnology." Larry Bock, CEO of NanoSys Inc.

"Regardless of the choice of terms, it is crucial to recognize the confusion ... including its effects on both press accounts and the response of lab scientists to the longer-term vision. Allaying false fears (and false denials of fears) begins with drawing the correct distinctions." Eric Drexler.


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For further research, here are pages we found valuable:

Read "What is Nanotechnology?" by Tim Harper to get an overview. See also Introduction to Nanoscience by Prof. Vicki Colvin, Rice University Department of Chemistry and Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology.

Ten-Year Assembler Timeline and Weather Forecast

Molecular Manufacturing: Start Planning

Safe Utilization of Advanced Nanotechnology


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IN THE NEXT ISSUE

Issue #7 will cover Change Management, and will feature a main article by Dave Sharron, CEO and Principal Consultant of CASE Associates Inc. His firm specializes in IT strategic planning, project management, business/system process improvement, risk assessment, quality assurance, systems planning, and technology evaluation, selection, and deployment.. It will land in your mailbox January 5th, 2004.


Infamous Quotes:

"There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home." (Ken Olsen, Digital Equipment Corp, 1977)
"Computers in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons." (Popular Mechanics, 1949)
"I think there is a world market for maybe five computers." (IBM's Thomas Watson, 1943)
"This 'telephone' has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us." (Western Union internal memo, 1876)

And the lesson is? It's a tough game to call.

Need advice? Check out NanoStrategies

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