This issue of NanoNews-Now covers Molecular Manufacturing. Editor Rocky Rawstern interviews Mike Treder and Chris Phoenix of the Center for Responsible Nanotechnology.

In a second article by science writer Brian Wang, we learn about Possible Futures.

And in the 2nd of 6 articles on Building The Winning Nano Venture Team, Bo Varga covers Building The Winning Start-Up Team.

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Mike Treder - CRN
Mike Treder Executive Director of CRN
Chris Phoenix - CRN
Chris Phoenix Director of Research CRN

NN: Please tell our readers about the CRN Global Task Force on Implications and Policy (CTF). Why did you start it; what is its mission; and who is involved?

The CRN Task Force was formed in response to the Foresight Nanotech Institute and Battelle research group's well-funded initiative to develop a "Technology Roadmap for Productive Nanosystems" [link]. Progress toward developing the technical requirements for desktop molecular manufacturing already was moving forward rapidly, and we knew that the Roadmap project would only accelerate it. We could not allow efforts to effectively prepare for the impacts of nanotechnology to lag behind advances on the technical side. The stakes are too high.

The mandate of the CRN Task Force is to thoroughly investigate the societal and environmental implications of advanced nanotechnology; to separate real from fictional; and to develop comprehensive, responsible, and workable recommendations. We began with a few core people, including Jerry Glenn (Director of the AC/UNU Millennium Project), Nick Bostrom (Director, Future of Humanity Institute, Oxford University), David Brin (author of The Transparent Society), and Ray Kurzweil (CEO of Kurzweil Technologies).

Since then, the CRN Task Force [link] has grown to more than 60 people from five continents. We will continue adding others with diverse backgrounds and points of view. Additional experts in geopolitics, economics, ethics, ecology, and international policy formation will be recruited. Without mutual understanding and cooperation on a global level, the hazardous potentials of advanced nanotechnology could spiral out of control and deny any hope of realizing the benefits to society.

NN: With the formation of the CTF, have you reached any conclusions (however tentative) regarding policy on advanced nanotechnologies?

Reaching conclusions will not be a quick process. Our plan from the beginning was to concentrate first on fully defining the challenge: What risks do we really face? How do they relate to each other? What is most important to know in order to design wise and effective policies for molecular manufacturing?

The initial work of the CRN Task Force has underscored the conviction of CRN that there are no simple answers or simple solutions.

For their initial project, the CTF chose to generate a range of independent essays identifying and defining specific concerns. This month our first group of 11 essays will be published in the Nanotechnology Perceptions academic journal, and will be posted online at the web site and at About six weeks later, we'll have a second group of essays published in the same places.

Today's nanoscale technologies are comparable to analog computers: they deal directly and elegantly with physical phenomena. However, digital computers have replaced analog computers in almost every instance, and have expanded to perform many tasks that would be impossible with analog methods. In the same way that digital computers attain greater flexibility, lower cost, and easier design by abstracting away from physical phenomena, molecular manufacturing will be able to take advantage of the precision of atoms and their bonds to build nanoscale manufacturing systems capable of making a wide variety of products. It remains to be seen whether molecular manufacturing methods will supplant or only complement other nanoscale technologies, but the history of computers suggests that such an outcome is possible.

Feature Essay: Who remembers analog computers? Chris Phoenix, Director of Research, Center for Responsible Nanotechnology

NN: Have any new issues arisen or old ones been put to rest?

Nothing's been put to rest. If anything, some of the concerns we thought to be less significant have risen to a new prominence. For example, CRN has generally downplayed the much-publicized worries about accidental release of self-replicating nanorobots. Silly novels like Michael Crichton's Prey don't offer a realistic picture of the dangers, but that doesn't mean dangers don't exist. After hashing through the issue with some of our most knowledgeable task force members, we've concluded that it would be premature and irresponsible not to study further the implications of deliberate release.

NN: Which issues remain foremost on your "to do" list? Which represent the greatest potential danger to humankind, and what are some of the ways being discussed to mitigate them?

One thing that hasn't changed is our conviction that the most threatening and least understood danger is nanotech-enabled war. The massive increase in weapons potential that molecular manufacturing will offer could rapidly shift and destabilize present balances of power. All-out war between two or more rivals is a real danger, as is the possibility of one nation or group rising to global dominance; nano-tyranny could be very ugly indeed.

Another serious problem is the persistent underestimation of both the hazards and the opportunities presented by advanced nanotechnology. If politicians, the public, and pundits don't get a grip on the dangers we're facing, it could be too late to respond effectively and avert them. On the other hand, if nanotech's wondrous potential benefits are not fully appreciated, then irrational fear could delay or prevent them altogether, denying better health, prosperity, and fuller lives to billions of people.

NN: What are some of the recent technological advances that you view as examples of our steady progress towards advanced nanotechnologies?

We can't begin to list them all here. A better idea is to refer readers to the study on "Molecular Manufacturing: What, Why and How" by Chris Phoenix, CRN's Director Research. In addition, your Nanotechnology Now site and our Responsible Nanotechnology blog frequently highlight these rapidly occurring developments.

We'll mention just a few examples: the nanoscale machinery being built at Rice University by James Tour's group; Adrian Bowyer's RepRap project at Bath University in England; the work by Neil Gershenfeld and others at MIT's Center for Bits and Atoms; Ned Seeman's DNA constructions and Chris Schafmeister's structured polymers; and Jeremy Levy's top-down work at Pitt University.

Listed below are links to just a few of the noteworthy advances, from atomically precise rendering of proposed nanomachines to advances in the tools we use to understand the nanoscale:

NN: Our perennial favorite question to policy makers and opinion shapers is "If you had the collective attention of every policy maker and stakeholder, what would you tell them about advanced nanotechnologies?"

Both the beneficial potential and the grave dangers of molecular manufacturing are poorly understood and have been seriously underestimated. The changes to society will be abrupt, transformative, and probably disruptive. It is important that we learn as soon as possible how quickly key technological breakthroughs could occur, because that is what will trigger this sudden change. Today the pace of technical advance is far ahead of studying and preparing for the societal and environmental impacts of the technology. Unless this balance is corrected, we will enter the future unable to effectively and responsibly manage the tremendous power being unleashed by nanotechnology. We may have only one chance to get it right.

About the Center for Responsible Nanotechnology
Advanced nanotechnology may build machines that are thousands of times more powerful-and hundreds of times cheaper-than today's devices. The humanitarian potential is enormous; so is the potential for misuse. The vision of CRN is a world in which molecular manufacturing is widely used for productive and beneficial purposes, and where malicious uses are limited by effective administration of the technology.

CRN acts to raise awareness of the issues. We believe that even a technology as powerful as molecular manufacturing can be used wisely and well-but that without adequate information, unwise use will be far too common. The mission of CRN is to raise awareness of the issues presented by nanotechnology: the benefits and dangers, and the possibilities for responsible use.

In order to provide well-grounded and complete information, clear explanation, and workable proposals, CRN studies, clarifies, and researches the issues involved-political, economic, military, humanitarian, and technological. CRN presents the results for both technical and popular audiences, and works to supply the information as effectively as possible. The purpose of CRN is to investigate the ethical, legal, and social implications (ELSI) of molecular manufacturing, and to educate those who will influence its use or be affected by it.

Mike Treder and Chris Phoenix are co-founders of the Center for Responsible Nanotechnology.

Bo Varga

Building The Winning Start-Up Team: Part 2 of 6

By Bo Varga

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The industries that nanotechnology will likely have a disruptive effect on in the near term include the following:
(Amounts are Billions of US Dollars)

$1,700 Healthcare
$600 Long Term Care
$550 Electronics
$550 Telecom
$480 Packaging
$450 U.S. Chemical
$460 Plastics
$182 Apparel
$180 Pharmaceutical
$165 Tobacco
$100 Semiconductor
$92 Hospitality / Restaurant
$90 US Insurance
$83 Printing
$80 Corrosion Removal
$57 US Steel
$43 Newspaper
$42 Diet Supplement
$40 Diet
$32 Publishing
$30 Catalysts
$27 Glass
$24 Advertising
$18 Cosmetics
$13 Chocolate
$10 Battery
$5 Blue Jeans
$4 Khakis
$2.8 Fluorescent Tagging

Figures are from:

The Next Big Thing Is Really Small: How Nanotechnology Will Change the Future of Your Business. J Uldrich & D Newberry. March 2003
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Our Molecular Future: How Nanotechnology, Robotics, Genetics, and Artificial Intelligence Will Transform Our World.
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Tiny Tech Jobs August 2005

Introduction: Bo Varga has recruited senior technical and executive talent for high technology companies since 1979. Recent work in this area includes recruiting a CEO for a CNT start up, a Scientific Advisory Board for an early stage nano VC fund, and world-class computational chemistry scientists for a nano energy start up. Bo is currently recruiting a CEO, VP Engineering, and VP Sales for a nano start-up focused on revolutionizing the global mining industry via a nano-scale "fishing net" for recovering metals from solutions.

Article 1 Covered: Why Hire an External Recruiter? (Click here for a quote, and to buy.)

Article 2: Building The Winning Start-Up Team

Entrepreneurs, start-up teams, investors, and recruiters often intersect to match a startup with the experienced business management required for success. Different perspectives, needs and communication styles - as well as individuals egos - can lead to power struggles that can unify a team or break up a company. Building and maintaining a corporate culture focused on the company's goals can promote success.

Many startups have a standard set of weak spots in their initial management team - a lack of customer focus, entrepreneurs with little to no background in launching or heading a corporation, or technologists that cannot drive a business as well as develop a technology and also get a product to market. Even companies with the strongest potential and IP can become an unattractive investment decision if the right management team is not in place and if a cooperative and focused team environment is not established & maintained. Developing an operations plan with performance requirements - so current team members can see where they can & will perform and where new hires are needed - can also promote success.

Article: This article addresses how job requirements should be based on performance requirements which are driven by the company's business model, business plan, & stage of company. It also covers establishing & maintaining a corporate culture and the process of building a winning team.

Objectives: Upon completion of this article, you will understand elements of a job requirement & job requisition, the key role of performance requirements in driving hiring, the importance of a corporate culture, and the importance of process in hiring.


(i) Usually job reqs cover job title, who the position reports to, job responsibilities, and experience, education, and technical skills. Rarely do they cover the only reason why anyone is ever hired - to accomplish a task, AKA performance requirements.

Performance requirements are driven by the business plan, which in turn is driven by the business model and the stage of the company's development - what needs to get successfully completed each week, month, and year in the company's path to success.

Standard business models include:

  • Engineering Consulting / Consulting Services
  • IP Developer / Licensing / Incubation
  • Product Company - Direct Sales
  • Product Company - Channel Sales
  • Product Company - OEM

Start-up companies are usually opportunistic and may adopt a combination of business models, direct sales to some customers, joint venture & IP licensing with major corporate OEMs, etc. - and often transition from one model to another - one common model is moving from engineering consulting to a product model. Over time the start-up either focuses on one model or develops divisions or business units that specialize in one model.

The difficulty for a start-up is that people requirements for each model are different, the most obvious being the need for greater manufacturing people assets for a product company & greater engineering assets for a consulting company. Each model requires different business development, sales & marketing skills. Assuming the start-up accepts the need for experienced, successful executives in top management, different performance criteria and business experience will be required to successfully implmeent each model. For an initial period managers and executives can juggle multiple roles, but as business grows the need to focus increases

(ii) The business plan has (or should have) a staffing plan, which falls out from the operations plan that documents how the company will implement the business plan and establishes performance requirements for each functional area. The priorities on the staffing plan drive the hiring plan, which in turn drives the job requisitions which are the basis for hiring. Professional investors, consultants, & recruiters can be of great help in preparing a realistic staffing plan and addressing key issues as they arise.

One issue that often arises is unrealistic expectations about the types of people who can be hired - senior people bring their credibility & reputations to a venture and need to be "sold". And the more desireable a candidate the more the candidate will want from a company in terms of maturity of technology, product, and funding and the scale of the business opportunity. So compromises will have to be accepted.

As nanotechnology ventures are often spin-outs from academic, corporate, or government laboratories, nano start-ups are often led by scientists or engineers. In our experience the greatest single hurdle to success (and certainly to acquisition of funding) is the desire on the part of the scientist or engineer to retain control of his or her "baby".

The core requirement for raising money is a credible business team, with a CEO who has proven success at raising money, assembling a core team, and building revenue.

Ideally the CEO will be supported by a technical team with people who have a customer & product & business focus - if they are not part of the start-up then hiring them should be a major focus. These people will cost more, but will return this investment many times over.

A fundamental error which occurs in hiring is to focus on credentials and not on outcomes. Even a focus on credential & experience can miss the point. The only purpose for hiring a permanent employee, on-going consultant, or project consultant is to achieve performance goals, desired outcomes - within the time, money, and other resources allocated for those outcomes. A top level example of a performance driven job requisition follows.


Title (Nominal) CTO


  1. get coating manufacturing process set up within X months and Y budget
  2. get production ramped up to Z units/week within 3 months
  3. commit 20% of time with customers & strategic partners to close deals
  4. commit 20% of time with CEO in managing deals, both close & on-going management


  • Strong management skills - minimum 10 years
  • Strong production skills - minimum 10 years
  • Chemistry or Materials Science Degrees, BS, MS, PhD
  • PhD not required, nice to have but proven ability to get things done is the key
  • Coatings Engineering & Production Experience
  • Strongly prefer hunter type - joint ventures, strategic alliances, customer closing
  • Experience:
    1. Proven experience applying innovative technologies to product development, manufacturing, and release
    2. Strong experience with polymeric materials
    3. Blend of scientific talent and business success is key
    4. Strong experience with advanced materials manufacturing
    5. Proven experience with manufacturing scale up for polymer processing & testing, pilot plant build out
    6. Strong focus on the least cost & least energy path engineering

Following technical experience is useful, but specific domain knowledge (removed from this template) is not required:

  1. Plastics for Electromagnetic Interference Shielding
  2. Resins for High Temperature and Fire Resistant Composites
  3. Resins for High Performance Composites
  4. Plastics for Electrical and Optical Materials


  • Travel Requirement = 25%
  • Will pay to relocate candidate


  • $125 - $175 based on business experience
  • Performance Bonus - based on meeting or exceeding mutually negotiated goals
  • Stock Plan - basic stock plus bonus stock potential


(i) Job Titles are political in nature, in our example above the VP Engineering position was not available as a founder was "holding" this title and was unwilling to switch to a CTO title due to personal career requirements, so an "equivalent rank" title had to be found. In addition, the company wanted to be seen as a technical innovator and in fact had a Japanese manufacturing partner, so a VP Manufacturing or VP Operations hire was not desired as the company did not want to be pulled too far in the manufacturing direction but wanted to focus on development of innovative coating processes.

(ii) The example is a top level job requisition, which does not define the detailed parameters of job performance, which was defined by the business plan - in the case of coatings manufacture time & budget to get manufacturing process up & running, technical issues that had to be resolved, volume of square meters/day or some other metric used to measure the capabilities of the candidate - based on past performance - and establish future performance criteria.

(iii) Performance can only be measured by performance metrics - for example a CEO who has raised $1 million in private equity could be a good candidate for a company which wants to raise $2 million, but we would not recommend that CEO to a company which needs to raise $10 million or $20 million. Budgets, staff supervision, products released on time and on schedule, manufacturing volume & quality goals met - a variety of appropriate metrics can be used to judge past performance.

Past performance measured by relevant metrics is the single best indicator of ability to meet target performance goals. The nano start-up can rarely afford on the job training!


(i) When we meet with founding teams and ask basic questions such as (1) where will the company be in 1, 2, 3 years in terms of products, customers, revenues and (2) where will you be in 1, 2, 3 years in terms of your responsibilities, compensation, work hours, etc. we often find that real lack of match in the vision of the founding team.

Founding teams determine the future of the company, the "founder effect" is quite real and the founding team needs to consciously agree where the company is to go in order to actually get there!

Agreement must be reached and maintained not only on goals but also on process. For example, will the team work on a consensual basis - everyone gets their say and work proceeds based on common agreement (typical "Japanese" model) or will the team work on an entrepreneurial, almost opportunistic basis (typical "Silicon Valley" model) - once vision is established and goals are set each executive, team leader, etc. leads in their area of responsibility and keeps others informed as required for common tasks.

(ii) Founding teams should regularly meet to define and agree on goals for the company and the roles, performance criteria, communication and work process, and other factors that create the work environment.

When we meet with founding teams and ask basic questions such as (1) where will the company be in 1, 2, 3 years in terms of products, customers, revenues and (2) where will you be in 1, 2, 3 years in terms of your responsibilities, compensation, work hours, etc. we often find that real lack of match in the vision of the founding team.

Once agreement has been reached on vision and goals this should be reflected in the company's positioning in the marketplace, web site, and other aspects of the company's appearance to both insiders and outsiders.

(iii) Communication styles, spoken, written, presentation, coaching, mentoring, etc. are key requirements to build the desired corporate culture. This includes communications from the team to candidates and by candidates to the team. Some areas of measurement for new hires include focus, clarity, appropriateness, etc. In the case of technical personnel published papers can be one source of evaluation - as personal styles are present in even the most technical document.

(iv) In the recruiting process for new candidates for hire, repeated interviews with all key people on the existing team - both 1:1 and group interviews, as well as requesting formal presentations in response to performance requirements and on topics of interest to the company are two key ways to determine communications styles and fits with corporate culture.


I. Establish a formal hiring process, including interview protocols, reference checking protocols, and so forth - an example of a recruiting protocol follows.

II. Hire top down - and have senior people work lower level jobs as required until funding or other constraints are relaxed to allow lower level team members to be hired. The keys to success in staffing are (a) the higher level people can scope out job requirements and are in a much better position to manage subsequent hires if they have successfully accomplished tasks (b) generally higher level people are better at multi-tasking and get more done in rapidly evolving and semi-structured start-up situations

III. Hire "been there, done that" when possible - a start up lacks the resources - both people and the financial runway - to support "on the job training," with the exception of specific domain knowledge relating to the company, its proprietary technology & applications, and marketing network.

IV. Focus on benefits which align team members with corporate goals - bonuses, promotions, educational opportunities, flexible stock plans, flexible work places (i.e. mobile tools so team members can work at home, on the road, etc.).

V. Stay as flexible as possible - leverage on-going and project consultants when possible, but convert them to "permanent" employees or hire a replacement when the role becomes critical for the company's growth. Align consultants with corporate goals by providing stock & other benefits. While the short term cost will often be more when working with consultants, this is an investment in your company which can often yield major payoffs - including people referrals which eliminate recruiting fees!

VI. Timing of the hiring plan should never prevent the hiring of stars who will be needed "later." The performance of one star often cannot be duplicated by several intermediate players. We recommend the hiring of stars whenever they are found, assuming a cultural fit and compensation and other requirements that work for the company.

© Copyright 2006 Bo Varga

Bo Varga is the Managing Director of Silicon Valley Nano Ventures.

Bo has 30 years business development and team building experience. His primary focus is to bring money to companies via angel, corporate, or VC investment, strategic alliances, development partnerships, or OEM sales. Bo has operations, sales, & marketing management experience in computer software & peripherals and in leading edge reconfigurable computing systems. He has worked with wireless, nanotechnology, reconfigurable computing, information technology, & ecommerce companies in team-building or business development roles.

He has helped executives, investors, and Boards of Directors for software, hardware, IS/IT, molecular engineering, & wireless companies by finding key team members and consultants for both technical & business positions.

His experience includes working as a strategic consultant to develop & implement marketing plans & presentations, with a specific focus on affiliate & event marketing to close business transactions. His focus since 2000 is on building global nanotechnology business networks via the nanoSIG & various nanotechnology conferences, forums, and symposiums. He is Chair of the NanoMaterials & Manufacturing Forum. Since 2001 he has organized over 60 nanotechnology events. His education includes a BA & MA from the University of Chicago and the MBA program in Accounting at UC Berkeley.

For more information on his work, see,

He can be reached at, or 650-747-9238 for more information.

Brian Wang

Predictions For A Technological Future

By Brian Wang

Bulk nanomaterials predictions
M5 Fiber 9.8 Gpa 2008-2011
Carbon nanotube fiber inexpensive and with over 50GPa tensile strength 2014-2018
Gecko mimicing wallcrawling suits for military and enthusiasts 2008-2012
Customized cells 2010-2014
20%+ efficient genetically engineered algae ponds to generate hydrogen 2011-2016
Almost all fish (for food) comes from massive ocean ranches (over 100 ranches, each larger than a cubic mile in area) 2015-2025
Future Crime: Genetic modification of baby DNA to pass false paternity lawsuit 2010-2020
Conventional tech predictions
Free voice communication dominant 2007-2011
Wireless superbroadband (50-1000Mbps) 2009-2012
Fiber to the home (100Mbps-1000Mbps) 2010-2015
Nextgen communication (1000Mbps-10000Mbps) 2013-2020
HALE super antennas and long duration balloons 2009-2012
Exoskeletons and personal robots widespread for disabled, manufacturing, and construction 2007-2012
Advanced plastic circuits, computing, monitors and energy gathering -walls, roofs, desktops 2009-2012
NRAM - nanotube ram, always-on high density computer memory 2007-2009
Quantum computing 100 qubits 2010-2014
Quantum computing 1000 qubits 2015-2020
Spintronics success, boosts hard drive capacities and low energy computing 2007-2011
Optical interconnects connect CPUs directly at 100 Gbps+ 2012-2018
10 petaflop computer 2012-2013
Gigapixel cameras common 2009-2015
One billion digital video cameras posting online realtime; personal privacy is history 2008-2012
Thousand CPU - FPGA simulators 2007-2008
Thousand+ CPU workstations- mainstream chip vendors 2009-2012
Petaflop personal computers and wearable computing 2016-2018
Big Media loses battle against piracy - all media is free 2015-2020
Open Source wins - Microsoft declares bankruptcy 2015-2020
AI Turing Test passed 2012-2017
Jet airtaxi's (5000 existing regional airports in USA, 450-550mph, park and fly) 2006-2008
80-200mpg cars - mainstream, batteries, ultracapacitors 5-10 times better 2008-2012
Cargo ships with 60mph+ speed widespread, cheap 2-3 days global package delivery 2010-2015
Cavitation and hydrophobic material make super-efficient and fast submarines 2008-2020
Scramjets delivery cargo at 10-20 times speed of sound, skips outside of atmosphere (very efficient) 2015-2020
2 hour urgent global package delivery service 2016-2021
MNT predictions
Advanced microscopes with 0.5 angstrom accuracy and repeatability 2006-2008
First diamond mechanosynthesis tool created 2007-2008
Rechargeable and repeatable mechanosynthesis tool created 2008-2010
Rechargeable mechanosynthesis tool arrays created 2009-2011
Faster and automated microscopes able to perform mechanochemistry at kilohertz+ frequency 2010-2012
DNA nanotechnology creates nanotools and parts 2010-2015
Feynman Grand Prize 2013-2021
Protein engineering creates artificial ribosome 2014-2022
Actuated diamond tools and nanoparts created 2013-2018
Introductory nanofactory 2015-2023
Billion CPU personal nanocomputers 2018-2025
Over half electronic products produced with MNT 2020-2025
Nano-RFID tags with built-in memory simplify constant detailed tracking and monitoring of everything 2020-2025
MNT Utility Fog created 2025-2035
MNT-enabled identity theft 2020-2025
Selective Body Sculpting is safe and effective 2020-2025
MNT counterfeiting eliminates physical currency 2020-2025
Singularity AI : 1 billion times human intelligence accelerates technology developments 2035-2050
MNT opens up access to space and oceans
Nano-enabled space vehicles, 10-1000 times better performance 2018-2025
Nanofactories create space vehicles with ion drives with 750 kWe/kg specific power, speed 0.5 AU per day and 9.8 m/s2 acceleration. Earth to Mars in 1 to 3 days, Earth to Saturn in 20 days 2020-2025
MNT used to create artificial gills and adapt people to undersea living 2022-2028
MNT creates artificial island larger than Manhattan 2025-2035
Massive colonization of oceans and solar system 2019-2030
Manned trip to Mars 2021-2026
Mining on asteroids and the moon 2019-2025
10,000 people living on lunar bases 2020-2025
First orbital country, nanotube structure many kilometers in diameter at L5, population 100,000+ 2024-2030
Over 100 million living on off-world colonies 2035-2045
Offworld economy larger than Japan's economy 2040-2050
MNT-enhanced world imager, MNT mass produces billions of satellite telescopes, large precise mirrors, network to form 1,000,000km telescope, 10m resolution at 30 light years 2040-2050
MNT-enabled megascale solar power collection, Kardashev level 1,500 times the energy of 2006 2050-2080
Fooling the senses - False Reality
MNT utility fog and display technology make Star Trek holodeck style technology 2030-2040
Holodeck technology able to work in outdoor lighting conditions 2035-2042
MNT used to stage events - falsifying news and reality 2035-2042
Fake reality able to fool remote monitoring and visual observers 2020-2035
High resolution direct visual feeds to retina, able to fool viewer for short periods of time 2012-2020
High resolution direct visual feeds made in realtime and fed to retina, able to fool viewer for indefinite periods 2016-2025
Full sensory feeds to nervous system - ala Matrix 2020-2030
Crime and paranoia: people incapacitated and loaded into false sensory feed to give up information 2020-2030
Placing people into suspended animation perfected 2020-2022
Taking people out of suspended animation perfected 2025-2030
Human cells interfaced with nanotech 2020-2030
MNT repair of physical trauma, almost no deaths once injured and then get MNT treatment (EMT or hospital) 2020-2025
MNT repair of cellular damage 2025-2040
MNT able to replace various organs 2025-2032
MNT able to enhance body functions 2025-2040
Military capability
Superconducting engines on ships and planes, less than 1/3 the weight 2012-2020
Magnetic rail guns, with over 20 times the speed and power of conventional guns 2013-2018
Military lasers on fighters, ships and tanks able to destroy other vehicles 2012-2018
Laser array launches 2013-2020
300km+ long orbiting tethers and hypersonic planes drop costs to $100/kg to orbit 2013-2018
High altitude (up to 100km) and multi-month elevators to high altitude balloons (virtual satellites) 2011-2015
Space elevator 2018-2025
Scramjet unmanned missiles and UAVs 2010-2015
Sub-orbital space tourism 2007-2015
Orbital space tourism 2012-2020
Magbeam 2008-2012
Plasma magnet 2008-2012
Solar sail 2006-2010
Lunar bases 2017-2021
Worlds imager / hypertelescope, 1km resolution out to 30 light years 2020-2030
Antimatter storage for gram quantities or greater 2015-2020
Antimatter harvesting from orbit in gram quantities or greater 2015-2020
Probe goes beyond 200AU 2020-2030
Interstellar probe arrives in another solar system 2025-2040
Solar power becomes cheapest form of energy 2015-2020
Massive solar energy deployments, over one third of the new energy generators 2015-2025
20%+ efficient genetically engineered algae ponds to generate hydrogen 2011-2016
Medicine, longevity, enhancement
Real-time biomarker tracking and monitoring 2008-2012
Real-time personalized exercise trainer and diet guide 2008-2012
Real-time personalized disease treatment 2008-2012
Insurance pricing based on maintaining biomarkers in optimal ranges 2008-2012
Individual medical modeling computational 2008-2012
Individual medical modeling and prediction -copy of your cells maintained outside body, test reaction to treatment 2008-2012
Multiple computer models, copies of live cells and animal models for every person 2013-2030
FDA drug approval by individual -based on phased trials of your individual reaction 2020-2040
Real-time monitoring and feedback tracks personal medical treatment response 2008-2012
Medical treatment individualized 2014-2018
Artificially grown organs 2012-2020
Human regeneration (regrow lost limbs in months) 2010-2015
Gene therapy to enhance strength, endurance and lifespan 2008-2014
Gene therapy to enhance human intelligence 2015-2025
Gene doping muscle enhancement at 2006, 2008, 2010 Olympic games 2006-2010
Gene doping detected at 2012 games 2012
Gene doping rampant in horse and dog racing 2007-2008
Gene doping in cock fighting in Philippines, birds over double in size 2015-2018
Life expectancy doubles 2015-2025
Life expectancy at 65, reaches 30 (50+% gain) 2015-2020
Life expectancy at 65+ increases over 1 year for each year - escape velocity 2040s
Real life Islands of Dr Mureau, human/animal hybrids 2009-2020
Genetic and significant physical and mental performance advantage for rich over poor 2010-2020
Human/computer interface breakthrough,computers extend human brain capacity memory, skills, calculation, communication 2012-2028
Demographics and economics (population, rise of China, India, internet, mobile devices) ecommerce, social networks
Efficient asset allocation and management science boosts productivity growth by 3% per year 2015-2025
Millionaires (HNWI 1-5m)    20 million    triple 2004 levels 2018-2020
Pentamillionaires (MNW 5-30m)    2 million    triple 2004 levels 2018-2020
China second largest economy in straight currency conversion measures 2013-2015
China largest economy in PPP (Purchasing Power Parity) terms 2009-2012
Flexible employment used to balance imbalance of too many retirees 2010-2040
More flexible society adapts to increased lifespans and health advances 2010+
Low-cost business model innovations and new tech bring electricity, computing and clean water to all 2006-2015
100 million Hispanics in the United States; 25% of the population 2040s
California and Texas follow New Mexico and become officially bilingual with English and Spanish 2020s
Efficient automated, wearable universal translators reduce issues of language 2010s
Room temp superconductors 2007+
Super magnets create ground launched vehicles that climb against earth's magnetic field 2009+
Anti-gravity discovered 2010+
Anti-gravity mastered 2015+
Reactionless space propulsion, allows for travel at speeds up to 0.9 of light speed 2020+
Faster than light drive breakthrough 2020+
Large Area stunning / incapacitation breakthrough. City-wide incapacitation that operates through walls and barriers 2010-2020
Thought scanning breakthrough, refined brain-scans allow detailed reading of conscious thoughts 2020-2040
US War with Iran 2007
US War with Syria 2008
Successful terrorist attack on Saudi Oil Infrastructure, oil goes to over $10/gallon 2006-2010
Millions dead from Africa and Asian poor riots 2010-2020
Nuclear war with North Korea 2007-2015
Nanotechnology weapons used in war, over 500 million dead 2025-2035
Megadisaster: Supervolcano alters climate and creates tsunami that kills over 100 million 2006+
Megadisaster: comet strikes earth, kills 99.9% of all life 2006+
Extraterrestrials make contact with human civilization 2006+
Cellular life found on Mars 2010+
Life found in Europa's Ocean 2020+
Breakthrough in handling or reducing long term waste from nuclear fission - makes nuclear fission "clean" 2010+
Develop useful power generation from forms of nuclear fusion 2020+
Develop useful space propulsion from nuclear fusion 2015+

Notes on the reasoning behind some of the predictions

By Brian Wang, March 06, 2006

There are several aspects to technical predictions. Technical trends need to be followed and determinations made of where the efforts of money, researcher attention, and past success has been seen; knowing what is already feasible and what is the current state of the art; understanding the business and political environment that would make a real-world deployment successful.

Predicting the loss of privacy is an example of understanding what has already happened. There are already billions of camera phones, and digital and video cameras. More and more of these devices are transmitting information to the Internet. Higher resolution is a no-brainer. More energy efficiency so that the devices can stay on longer is a slam-dunk. Wireless transmission of data will improve, and better user interfaces for easy posting and sharing of digital files is assured. End result: everything is monitored, all the time.

Another useful thing to understand are the physics of how things work. How does strength and weight of material matter for the performance of systems? How does power density matter? What can be done with batteries that have five times the energy density by weight? How could different improvements in capability interact? Would people or businesses want to buy access to the capability or product?

For example, I am quite confident that the technical capability for very high-speed communication will be available and will be ready to be deployed. I am less certain that the business climate will be suitable. Companies lost billions of dollars trying to deploy broadband communication during the days. What is in its favor is that analog TV that is transmitted to old style TV antennas is being legislated away by about 2009. This will provide more spectrum for high speed wireless. Also, there are advances in artificial poor-man satellites. Balloons with tethers and long duration planes could go up 10-30 kilometers and would be super-antenna platforms. Therefore policy and several technology trends look like they will have a positive interaction.

A controversial area of prediction centers around human enhancement. I believe it will happen. Why do I believe this? Millions of people have optional cosmetic surgery performed now. These procedures are costly and risky. The benefit that they are trying to achieve is an improvement in how they look. Millions of people take performance-enhancing steroids now. Steroids have clear health consequences, but they do enhance performance. Millions of muscle disease sufferers will be given clinical trials of muscle enhancement. This will spread and improve the knowledge to those who want to enhance a healthy individual. Those who get enhanced will be able to reap financial gains in sports and business because of performance advantages. If procedures are outlawed in one location, they could be encouraged in other locations. Those who allow procedures that actually enhance performance will have advantages over those that do not. Gene therapy is actively promoted in China.

Some people like to predict future economic collapse. I am willing to predict down business cycles and periods of slow growth; I am more reluctant to predict long-term economic collapse. Why? I believe that people are willing to go to extreme lengths to maintain a working economy or for large financial gain.

  • China has had strong economic growth (6-12% per year) for 30 years. In 2004, China reported 136,000 industrial deaths. Perhaps 3 million have died in China in 2003, 2004 from urban air pollution.
  • Each year, about 1.2 million drivers, passengers, cyclists and pedestrians of all ages are killed on the roads, according to the study prepared by the World Health Organization and the World Bank.
  • Each year in the United States, approximately 440,000 persons die of a cigarette smoking-attributable illness, resulting in 5.6 million years of potential life lost, $75 billion in direct medical costs, and $82 billion in lost productivity. The tobacco industry is in the range of a $100 billion per year industry.
  • Many thousands die each year from mining accidents and wars over oil.

Demographic predictions are usually among the safer predictions when forecasting out 2 decades. Especially if it is the future that has already happened. Predictions that people will age are pretty safe; predictions about future birth rates are more risky.

Technology results with multiple paths are also more likely. Eg. Faster data transmission can come from better wireless (multiple types of systems here) or more fiber optic deployment, or better use of television cable or microwaves, or data over power lines, or from algorithmic and protocol efficiency in data transmission.

When picking the technology-based winning approach it is important to understand the technical and other challenges and limitations of each approach. I think magbeam and magnetic plasma technology are good bets for future space technology because they have high performance but low energy requirements and do not require megascale engineering. Laser pushed solar sails have more challenges.

Other factors to consider are:

  • How big is the payoff?
  • Why would someone with the resources want something to happen?
  • If we are talking about a trillion dollar part of the economy which is dependent on computers getting faster then it is a pretty safe bet that a lot of effort will go into making faster computers.
  • How much resistance is there to the technology?
  • How widespread is the resistance?
  • Are there legislative hurdles?

Nanotechnology is the precise and scalable control of molecules and atoms. I think that technological control and use of light (lasers), other energy waves and frequencies, plasma, magnetism, genetics, cells, information and the integration of all this control will bring about surprising capability. Being able to leverage powerful forces of nature using those capabilities will also provide surprises.

Read more of Brian's supporting notes at

Brian Wang is a long time futurist, who has been involved with nanotechnology associations since 1994. He is now a member of the Center for Responsible Nanotechnology (CRN) taskforce, and is moderating the technology sub-taskforce. He is also on the Nanoethics Group advisory board.

Brian has a degree in computer science and an MBA (from Canadian universities) and has worked in the information technology industry for 20 years. He created and ran his own professional services computer consulting company with offices in Canada and the United states and clients in the USA and Europe.

He won second place in the Honeywell University Futurist essay contest. He has been involved in nanotechnology as a Senior Associate of the Foresight Institute since 1997, and he helped write Foresight's 2003 relaunch plan.

He is a competitive dragonboat racer and has competed at the world club crew championship. He has lived in the San Francisco Bay area for the last ten years.

Brian has a nanotech blog which we encourage you to visit at


Molecular manufacturing has as many implications as electricity, computers, and gasoline engines-combined. —CRN

"This technology (nanotechnology) also holds the promise of broad societal implications. By 2015, products in which nanotechnology plays a key role will require more than 2 million workers and produce about $1 trillion in products annually. These estimates are from leading experts in large companies with related nanotechnology programs in the United States, Japan and Europe." —Mihail C. Roco, Senior Advisor, NSF and Chair, U.S. National Science and Technology Council's Subcommittee on Nanoscale Science, Engineering and Technology. link

"If nanotechnology is to fulfill its enormous economic potential, then we have to invest more right now in understanding what problems the technology might cause," —Rep. Sherwood Boehlert, R-N.Y., Chairman of the House Science Committee. "This is the time to act, before we cause problems. This is the time to act, when there is a consensus among government, industry and environmentalists." link

"Nano devices can be nearly invisible, intelligent and powerful. They'll be able to be used in every industry and will define the limits of what's possible." —Eric Mathews, associate director of the FedEx Institute of Technology

During the early decades of the 21st century, the advent of practical molecular manufacturing technology will make it possible to fabricate inexpensively almost any structure allowed by the laws of physics. Consequences will include immensely powerful computers, abundant and very high quality consumer goods, and devices able to cure most diseases by repairing the body from the molecular level up.

The adherence to lifecycle environmental design principles reduces considerably the chances of accidental impacts. The risks of intentional abuse are more difficult to manage, and they exist to some extent with all powerful technologies. The latter problem will require more complex social and economic solutions that reduce the incentives for abuse, as well as new technical systems for inhibiting, detecting, and ameliorating abuse. Institute for Molecular Manufacturing link

Molecular manufacturing is the use of programmable chemistry to build exponential manufacturing systems and high-performance products. There are several ways this can be achieved, each with its own benefits and drawbacks. This technology is coming soon—almost certainly within 20 years, and perhaps in less than a decade. When it arrives, it will come quickly. Molecular manufacturing can be built into a self-contained, tabletop factory that makes cheap products efficiently at molecular scale. The time from the first assembler to a flood of powerful and complex products may be less than a year. The potential benefits of such a technology are immense. Unfortunately, the risks are also immense. CRN link

"Nanotechnology is creating opportunities that range from improving sports equipment to inventing life-saving medical applications," Smith said. "Its potential for changing our lives may be greater than that of the silicon chip, and we need to encourage practical research aimed at real world uses." —Senator Gordon Smith (R-OR) link

"What if someone said, 'Here's a new technology that's going to change the world, but it will kill 50,000 people a year.' Would we allow it? But that's exactly what the car has done for us." —Davis Baird, Dean of the South Carolina Honors College. He believes most technologies, real or imagined, have potential for good or evil. "But it's too simplistic to say it's going to be a worse world or a better world. It's going to be a different world," he said. link

"The first nanoscale computer memory device is slated to hit the streets this year. In 2007, the Food and Drug Administration is expected to have approved the first medical device incorporating nanotechnology, and by 2008, nanotechnology enabled solar cells (as thin as wallpaper) will be rolling off presses in California and Japan. As a result, the computer, medical device and energy industries are likely to undergo significant change." —Jack Uldrich link

"If even half of the expectations of nanotechnology are realized, it will lead to changes in every aspect of human life and, perhaps, human nature itself." —Nigel M. de S. Cameron, Ph.D., director of Nano & Society

"We can't overestimate the long-term expectations from nanotechnology in the areas of health care, productivity and the environment." —Mihail C. Roco, Senior Advisor, NSF and Chair, U.S. National Science and Technology Council's Subcommittee on Nanoscale Science, Engineering and Technology. link

Science and technology is so critically important to improving conditions in poor countries that scientific advisors should join economists at the center of government policy-making on development issues, an eminent group of 27 international experts says in a landmark report to the United Nations.

"Economic advice will always be important in guiding policy makers on development matters. But in a knowledge-based economy, leaders and governments increasingly need science advisors to make effective use of emerging technologies," says the report co-author, Calestous Juma of Harvard University. "In a world marked by rapid technological change and the enormous, emerging opportunities presented by biotechnologies and nanotechnologies, science advisors will soon be a necessary part of every presidential and executive office, including the Office of the UN Secretary-General." Put science at center of decision-making on third world development, experts tell UN

A more cost-effective method of manufacturing microchips will gradually replace multi-billion-dollar foundries with table-top boxes, marking the end of the silicon era and the potential death of many factory-floor jobs, a nanotechnology expert predicted Wednesday (3/24/2004). link

The White House sees nanotechnology as providing a breakthrough to revolutionize the way people detect and treat disease, monitor and protect the environment, produce and store energy, and build complex structures as small as an electronic circuit or as large as an airplane. The administration says it expects nanotechnology to have a broad and fundamental impact on many sectors of the economy, leading to new products, businesses, jobs, and industries. link

"The question isn't whether nanomaterials are good or bad. The question is which are toxic? Under what conditions? And can we make and purify them in different ways to avoid toxicity - to make 'green' nanomaterials?" —Robert Hurt, Brown University Professor of Engineering.


"Molecular Manufacturing" News: November 01, 2005 - February 28, 2006

Developing countries must be ready for nanotechnology February 27, 2006 Mohamad Mova Al 'Afghani: As the technology (MNT) provides general purpose manufacturing capability available from a factory the size of a desktop, it will render the current traditional method of production obsolete. If this is done exponentially, it will have enormous implications for the global economy, including unemployment, the end of the material goods trade and recession.

I have three recommendations worth considering in order to prevent or mitigate the above risks, namely (i) reformulating education, (ii) developing the legal system and ethics and (iii) promoting international cooperation in the field of MNT.

Factories of the Future
Responsible Nanotechnology February 27, 2006 "Who will operate the nanotechnology factories of the future?"

That's the intriguing first sentence of a news release from Georgia Tech University.

Designing Nanomachines
Responsible Nanotechnology February 21, 2006 Atomically precise rendering of proposed nanomachines is rapidly growing more sophisticated. Less than two years ago, images such as those shown here would not have been possible. This is the work of a young company called Nanorex, founded by Mark Sims.

The Future and Us
Responsible Nanotechnology February 18, 2006 Mike Treder: The Future and You is an hour-long, radio talk-show style podcast, hosted by the science fiction author Stephen Euin Cobb. I was interviewed a few weeks ago for this podcast, and the first excerpt from that conversation is included in the February 11 show.

Defining Nanotechnology
Responsible Nanotechnology February 16, 2006 Definitions of nanotechnology are getting broader all the time. A draft definition recently crossed our desks, something on the order of "The study of things too small to see." This is of course far too broad, and does not indicate what is special about nanotechnology.

But what, exactly, is special about nanotechnology? What collective observation -- let alone formal definition -- can be made about a loose association of fields as diverse as fabricating computer chips, making movies of proteins in action, and analyzing the performance of future nanofactories?

Molecular manufacturing and culture shock
Responsible Nanotechnology February 14, 2006 Chris Phoenix: In a comment on a recent post, Nato Welch asked, "But will fabs really produce any phenomena so startling revolutionary as their own exponential growth?"

That got me thinking. Exponential manufacturing would be a large conceptual shock to many people. And Nato makes a good point that the existence of *any* exponential manufacturing system would help people accept MM and encourage them to pay attention to the implications of molecular manufacturing. I certainly don't want to downplay the value of that.

Molecular Manufacturing: Not Just Rapid Prototyping
Responsible Nanotechnology February 13, 2006 Chris Phoenix: Rapid prototyping machines keep getting better. There are even some projects such as RepRap aimed at making manufacturing systems that can make more manufacturing systems. RepRap is already working on hardware. So why do we think molecular manufacturing will be revolutionary compared to rapid prototyping?

Breaking Down a Nanofactory
Responsible Nanotechnology February 10, 2006 "Nanofactories: Glimpsing the future of process technology" is the cover story in the current issue of CleanRooms magazine. Bruce Flickinger writes: "Nanofactories -- manufacturing systems that work on the atomic scale -- are gradually moving from science fiction to science fact and one day could be used to build all manner of items such as drugs, semiconductor chips and even cell-sized robots that patrol the human body."

The Future of Manufacturing
Responsible Nanotechnology February 09, 2006 Mike Treder: According to an announcement I received in the mail the other day, "molecular nanotechnology [is] the future of manufacturing."

"Molecular nanotechnology and manufacturing, or using matter to build complex products and structures atom-by-atom like pieces of Legos, will soon lead us into the sixth industrial revolution."

Massive Manufacturing
Responsible Nanotechnology February 07, 2006 It's important to understand that molecular manufacturing implies exponential manufacturing — the ability to rapidly build as many desktop nanofactories as you have the resources for. Starting with one nanofactory, someone could build thousands of additional nanofactories in a day or less, at very low cost. This means that projects of almost any size can be accomplished quickly.

Revolution in a Box: the Center for Responsible Nanotechnology February 06, 2006 Founded in December 2002, the Center for Responsible Nanotechnology has a modest goal: to ensure that the planet navigates the emerging nanotech era safely. That's a lot for a couple of volunteers to shoulder, but Mike Treder and Chris Phoenix have carried their burden well, and have done much to raise awareness of the potential risks and benefits of molecular manufacturing, including a major presentation at the US Environmental Protection Agency on the impacts of nanotechnology. We first linked to CRN back in October of 2003, and have long considered them a real WorldChanging ally.

Late last year, Mike and Chris agreed to be interviewed for WorldChanging. As they're both tremendously busy, we ended up conducting the interview as a series of email exchanges over the course of the last few months. This post captures (and organizes) the highlights of that conversation.

Nanotech Lessons from Bioweapons
Responsible Nanotechnology February 03, 2006 The U.S. National Academies have just released a report, "Globalization, Biosecurity, and the Future of the Life Sciences."

Nanotechnology vs. climate change
Responsible Nanotechnology February 01, 2006 There are several strong indicators that the earth's climate is changing, including the melting of Arctic ice. (This melting has progressed to such an extent that Canada and the US are now squabbling over the right to police the new Arctic shipping lanes.)

We have written about climate change several times before. And we have already mentioned that molecular manufacturing, due to its ability to ramp up general-purpose manufacturing capacity with astonishing speed, is perhaps the only technology that could provide an economically feasible solution.

CNS director on choosing a nanotech future
nanodot January 30, 2006 Christine Peterson: The new Center for Nanotechnology in Society at Arizona State University has their website up. The Center’s director, David Guston, has some comments in his blog.

Must-read Nanotech Article
Responsible Nanotechnology January 27, 2006 A special report titled "Nanofactories: Glimpsing the future of process technology" is the cover article for the January 2006 issue of CleanRooms Magazine. The lengthy article, subtitled “Making sense of the molecular machine shop,” quotes extensively from CRN research director Chris Phoenix, as well as from nanotech researchers Robert A. Freitas Jr. and Ralph Merkle.

Nanomanufacturing VIPs to present on March 29-30
nanodot January 24, 2006 Christine Peterson: Los Angeles will be the place to be March 29-30 when the Society of Manufacturing Engineers holds its Nanomanufacturing Conference. Keynoting will be Eric Drexler on “Engineering from the Bottom Up - Productive Nanosystems and the Future of Technology.”

Short fiction: Printcrime
Responsible Nanotechnology January 24, 2006 A little nano night fiction, from Cory Doctorow (of BoingBoing): "The coppers smashed my father's printer when I was eight. I remember the hot, cling-film-in-a-microwave smell of it, and Da's look of ferocious concentration as he filled it with fresh goop, and the warm, fresh-baked feel of the objects that came out of it."

Debating Nanotech Laws
Responsible Nanotechnology January 18, 2006 Mike Treder: reports that "A new law specifically targeting nanotechnology could prove necessary to regulate its potential risks and promoting its continued development, experts told UPI's Nano World."

CRN is pleased to see this issue gaining momentum. Even though the first level of laws being discussed will deal only with nanoscale technologies and not with molecular manufacturing, it's a step in the right direction -- a step that begins paving the way for even more important discussions about the societal and environmental implications of advanced nanotechnology.

Nanotechnology Regulation: More Thoughts
Responsible Nanotechnology January 18, 2006 Mike Treder: We want to make it clear that talking about the health and safety issues of nanoscale technologies is no substitute for awareness of the risks that molecular manufacturing will bring in a few years.

Nanoscale technology risks are of familiar types (though, of course, varying in detail and severity). Molecular manufacturing, on the other hand, will create technological capabilities that have never existed, of a power that easily could be destabilizing on a global scale.

Impact on Everyday Life
Responsible Nanotechnology January 13, 2006 Which of the following technologies do you believe will have the greatest impact on your every-day life ten years from now? Nanotechnology was seen to have the second greatest impact, trailing only genetic engineering.

Sounds Too Good To Be True
Responsible Nanotechnology January 11, 2006 Mike Treder: We've all heard that, and it is basically wise advice. I think it applies to a new report from Nature that says "Desktop fusion is back on the table" -- but does it apply equally well to molecular manufacturing?

Simple Nanofactories vs. Floods of Products
Responsible Nanotechnology January 05, 2006 In last month's CRN Science & Technology Essay, Chris Phoenix explained why even the earliest meter-scale nanofactories will necessarily have a high throughput, manufacturing their own mass in just a few hours. He also explained how a nanofactory can fasten together tiny functional blocks — nanoblocks — to make a meter-scale product. The question to be discussed this month is what range of products an early nanofactory would be able to build.

Nanotech Regulation Needed?
Responsible Nanotechnology January 03, 2006 Mike Treder: A few points about this recent news story... First, good job by the writer, Rick Weiss, in making clear that the regulation in question concerns "nanomaterials." He uses that word several times before ever saying "nanotechnology."

Intro to productive nanosystems
nanodot January 02, 2006 Christine Peterson: As we enter 2006 our thoughts turn to the future: what can we expect from nanotechnology as it reaches its full potential? For a quick introduction, check out Productive nanosystems: the physics of molecular fabrication by K. Eric Drexler.

Free demo: Molecular design courseware
nanodot December 29, 2005 Christine Peterson: Molecular Conceptor: multimedia courseware claimed to be the equivalent of 70 hours of lectures. The company states that 200 academic institutions teach medicinal chemistry, drug design, and cheminformatics using the courseware.

Aging, Death, and Nanotech
Responsible Nanotechnology December 29, 2005 Mike Treder: Among the most intriguing research of our time is the effort to understand the process of aging, and perhaps to arrest or even reverse its effects.

Watching the Meme Spread
Responsible Nanotechnology December 21, 2005 Mike Treder: "A revolutionary machine which can make everything from a cup to a clarinet quickly and cheaply could be in all our homes in the next few years."

That is the first sentence of an article titled "New Machines Could Turn Homes Into Small Factories" -- which is not talking about nanofactories. We are watching a meme spread right before our eyes.

The Discovery Machine
Responsible Nanotechnology December 21, 2005 Mike Treder: It's not just poetry to say that "unleashing of the best minds" is largely what drove the 20th century's surge in innovation and productivity. In fact, since the invention of the printing press, our world has been made immeasurably better by allowing more minds to invent and create. Education, democracy, free markets, better communications technology, and improved travel and transport options -- all have made possible this spectacular liberation of human potential.

Transforming Society, at Yale
Responsible Nanotechnology December 09, 2005 Mike Treder: Two days ago, Wednesday, December 7, I gave a talk at Yale University's Institute for Social and Policy Studies. My subject was "Transforming Society: Ethical Issues in the Nanotech Revolution," and my presentation was addressed to Yale's Technology and Ethics Working Research Group, an interdisciplinary affiliation of faculty, students, and community members.

A Global Surge Protector? December 08, 2005 Mike Treder: Behind the economic and military power surges foreseen by Hanson and Gubrud is the strength of emerging technologies. In particular, advanced nanotechnology – molecular manufacturing – is expected to enable dramatic changes in virtually all areas of life, including the home, the hospital, the boardroom, the battlefield, and the natural environment. Some refer to this as the next Industrial Revolution, and that is not an unreasonable comparison.

The big difference, however, between previous industrial revolutions and the nanotech revolution is the time span covered. Steam engines, electricity, the automobile, telecommunications, computers: these all brought extreme transformations to society, but they each did so over a period of decades. When molecular manufacturing arrives, probably before 2020, a shock wave of change could reverberate around the world in only a year or two. Never before have disruptive impacts occurred so rapidly.

Inside CRN, Part 5
Responsible Nanotechnology December 08, 2005 Mike Treder: CRN's research is concentrated on what might be called the middle period of nanotechnology development, the point between today's nanoscale technologies and the fantastic possibilities of the further future (again, the recurring theme of CRN being in the middle).

In response to the negative associations of 'molecular nanotechnology' and 'MNT' with visionary universal assemblers, we made an attempt in the latter half of 2003 to distinguish this middle period as dealing with a limited version of molecular nanotechnology, or LMNT.

Inside CRN, Part 3
Responsible Nanotechnology December 07, 2005 CRN's conclusions about the potentially transformative and disruptive nature of molecular manufacturing are still not widely accepted. It is sometimes easier to find disagreement — occasionally vehement — from influential persons in government, business, and academia, than to find sympathy with our positions.

Does this mean that we are wrong? Obviously, it does not, although of course it also does not mean that our conclusions are necessarily correct.

Changing Scientific Opinion
Responsible Nanotechnology December 06, 2005 Chris Phoenix: It's worth reading this article from the American Institute of Physics on "The Discovery of Rapid Climate Change." The article describes how climatologists slowly became aware, over a period of more than 50 years, that climate could change not in tens of thousands of years, but in less than a decade.

Inside CRN, Part 1
Responsible Nanotechnology December 06, 2005 The mission of the Center for Responsible Nanotechnology is to raise awareness of the issues presented by advanced nanotechnology: the benefits and dangers, and the possibilities for responsible use. We want to help create a world in which molecular manufacturing is widely used for beneficial purposes, and in which the risks are responsibly managed.

Notes on Nanofactories
Responsible Nanotechnology December 01, 2005 In his latest CRN Science & Technology Essay, Chris Phoenix writes:

"This month's science essay is prompted by several questions about nanofactories that I've received over the past few months. I'll discuss the way in which nanofactories combine nanoscale components into large integrated products; the reason why a nanofactory will probably take about an hour to make its weight in product; and how to cool a nanofactory effectively at such high production rates."

Nanotech Today vs. Nanotech Tomorrow
Responsible Nanotechnology November 29, 2005 Mike Treder: How do today's nanoscale technologies differ from tomorrow's advanced nanotechnology, sometimes called molecular manufacturing?

Here is one way to explain it: today's nanotechnologies use big machines to make small products -- by contrast, molecular manufacturing will use small machines to make big products. That sounds simple, but it is really a profound distinction.

Nano Needed for Gas Relief
Responsible Nanotechnology November 25, 2005 Mike Treder: To get relief from rising sea levels, increased storm severity, climate-related health problems and more, our greatest hope may be advanced nanotechnology.

The Four-Stage Sequence
Responsible Nanotechnology November 22, 2005 Mike Treder: Although I'm not in any way endorsing the rest of the ideas on this website, this concept applies quite neatly to molecular manufacturing:

"In science, the acceptance of new ideas follows a predictable, four-stage sequence."

Molecular Manufacturing and Proliferation
Responsible Nanotechnology November 19, 2005 "Should the U.S. limit technology transfer related to molecular manufacturing?"

Chris Phoenix: Molecular manufacturing will not be the same as nukes. Nukes come in a spectrum from massively destructive to awesomely destructive, and they're quite hard to build. MM weapons will be in a much broader spectrum, from humane restraints through less-lethal all the way to awesomely destructive. And many of those technologies will be dual-use, and all will be easy to build (given a nanofactory). These and other reasons imply that an MM arms race would be less stable than the nuclear arms race.

Empowering the Children
Responsible Nanotechnology November 18, 2005 Researchers in Tunis have unveiled a $A137 hand-cranked laptop computer, saying they hoped to place them in the hands of millions of schoolchildren around the globe.

Mike Treder: If you believe in the value of empowerment through education, in the necessity of bringing technology to children in developing countries, and in the importance of global networking, then this is really good stuff.

What does "extremely powerful" mean?
Responsible Nanotechnology November 17, 2005 Chris Phoenix: Someone emailed the following question, and I found myself writing a fairly long answer that seems worth posting here.

"You have said that molecular manufacturing will be extremely powerful, but very few people know what that really means. What does it mean? What kind of an impact will molecular manufacturing have on politics, economics, law, sociology and the environment?"

FedEx Delivers Nano Hype
Responsible Nanotechnology November 16, 2005 Mike Treder: Eric Mathews, associate director of the FedEx Institute of Technology, says nanotech enterprises will provide "the ultimate convergence of computers networks and biotech" to create products that no one has seen before.

The Need for Limits
Responsible Nanotechnology November 11, 2005 Chris Phoenix: Over the past few years, CRN has made several suggestions for controlling molecular manufacturing. An example is giving away lots of restricted nanofactories to reduce the demand for unrestricted nanofactories. Most of these suggestions have been criticized as leading straight to massive oppression. While recognizing the possibility, I have also recognized that a lack of such administrative measures would also lead straight to massive oppresion.

The science of nanotechnology November 09, 2005 Patrick L. Barry: When it comes to taking the next "giant leap" in space exploration, NASA is thinking small - really small. In laboratories around the country, NASA is supporting the burgeoning science of nanotechnology. The basic idea is to learn to deal with matter at the atomic scale - to be able to control individual atoms and molecules well enough to design molecule-size machines, advanced electronics and "smart" materials.

UK Nanofactory -- NOT!!
Responsible Nanotechnology November 09, 2005 Mike Treder: Say, that's exciting! They're spending £2.12m (US $3.7 million) to create a nanofactory? Well, actually, no. They've just appropriated the name for a new nanomanufacturing center, doing basic nanoscale technology.

Will Google digitize matter?
Responsible Nanotechnology November 07, 2005 Mike Treder: Observing the disruptive effect of Google on traditional business -- and even on Info Age companies -- could help us understand how molecular manufacturing will shake things up in a few more years, albeit on a much larger scale.

"Scary" Article Counterpoints
Nanotechnology Now November 03, 2005 Steven G. Burgess: In the article, "The (Really) Scary Soldier of the Future," Alan Goldstein points out some important concerns about our government and the emerging field of nanotechnology, but then goes on to paint a bogeyman future through the use of scary imagery and logical fallacies. I'd like to address a few with which I specifically take issue.

Read the entire article here

Life Itself is 'Applied Nanotechnology' November 01, 2005 Jeffrey R. Harrow: Today, we almost exclusively 'tear things down' (such as from a tree trunk or a block of metal) rather than 'building things up' from their nano-sized atomic and molecular constituent parts. The thing is, our 'tear it down' manufacturing is highly wasteful of energy and of raw materials, and it dramatically limits what we can build. As we get better at working with things at the nano scale, especially considering that the structures that build "us" also fall in this size range(!), working in the nanosphere promises to turn just about everything around us, including "us," on our (figurative) ears.

(Ed.'s note: recommended reading!)

From Our Molecular Future: How Nanotechnology, Robotics, Genetics, and Artificial Intelligence Will Transform Our World, 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?

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Useful Links

See our new directory Preparing for Nanotechnology

2005 BT Technology Timeline August 2005, Edited by Ian Neild & Ian Pearson (PDF)

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Issue #34 will cover Tools of the Trade. It will land in your mailbox April 3rd, 2006.

Infamous Quotes:

"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
"Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible." - Physicist and mathematician Lord Kelvin, President of the British Royal Society, 1895
"Everything that can be invented has been invented." - Charles H. Duell, Director of U.S. Patent Office, 1899
"There is no likelihood man can ever tap the power of the atom." - Robert Milikan, Nobel Laureate in Physics, 1923
"Theoretically, television may be feasible, but I consider it an impossibility-a development which we should waste little time dreaming about." - Lee de Forest, inventor of the cathode ray tube, 1926
"I think there is a world market for maybe five computers." IBM's Thomas Watson, 1943
"Landing and moving around on the moon offer so many serious problems for human beings that it may take science another 200 years to lick them." - Science Digest, August 1948
"Computers in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons." Popular Mechanics, 1949
"There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home." Ken Olsen, Digital Equipment Corp, 1977

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

Need advice? Check out NanoStrategies

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