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Nanotechnology expert analysis: huge impacts on future

01 June, 2006

The Center for Responsible Nanotechnology (CRN) has announced the continuation of its first series of original essays in which industry experts predict profound impacts of nanotechnology on society.

Center for Responsible Nanotechnology

Eleven new articles by members of CRN's Global Task Force appear in the latest issue of the journal Nanotechnology Perceptions, complementing the previous issue's collection. Covering topics from commerce to criminology, from ethics to economics, and from our remote past to our distant future, this new collection illustrates the profound transformation that nanotechnology will have on every aspect of human society.

Ray Kurzweil, renowned inventor, entrepreneur, and best-selling author, explained, "As the pace of technological advancement rapidly accelerates, it becomes increasingly important to promote knowledgeable and insightful discussion of both promise and peril. I'm very pleased to take part in this effort by including my own essay, and by hosting discussion of these essays on the 'MindX' discussion board at KurzweilAI.net."

Nanotechnology Perceptions is a peer-reviewed academic journal of the Collegium Basilea in Basel, Switzerland. "We jumped at the chance to publish the CRN Task Force essays," said Jeremy Ramsden, editor-in-chief of the journal. "To us, these articles represent world-class thinking about some of the most important challenges that human society will ever face."

In August 2005, the Center for Responsible Nanotechnology, a non-profit research and advocacy organiSation, formed its Global Task Force to study the societal implications of molecular manufacturing, an advanced form of nanotechnology. Bringing together a diverse group of world-class experts from multiple disciplines, CRN is spearheading an historic, collaborative effort to develop comprehensive recommendations for the safe and responsible use of this rapidly emerging technology.

"This outstanding compilation of 22 essays describes some of the major challenges posed by nanotechnology," said Mike Treder, executive director of CRN. "However, the collection also makes it clear that we have only scratched the surface of the risks, challenges, and opportunities associated with molecular manufacturing."

Like electricity or computers before it, nanotechnology will bring greatly improved efficiency and productivity in many areas of human endeavor. In its mature form, known as molecular manufacturing, it will have significant impact on almost all industries and all parts of society. Personal nanofactories may offer better built, longer lasting, cleaner, safer, and smarter products for the home, for communications, for medicine, for transportation, for agriculture, and for industry in general.

However, as a general-purpose technology, molecular manufacturing will be dual-use, meaning that in addition to its civilian applications, it will have military uses as well—making far more powerful weapons and tools of surveillance. Thus, it represents not only wonderful benefits for humanity, but also grave risks.

"Ongoing work toward molecular manufacturing is advancing rapidly in several fields," said Chris Phoenix, CRN's director of research. "These 22 essays examine many of the radical changes that molecular manufacturing will bring to society. We hope this collection challenges our readers as much as it informs them. Not much time is left to find wise solutions."

The CRN Task Force essays have been posted online at KurzweilAI.net and Wise-Nano.org. Most essays are available for publishing or reprint under Gnu Free Documentation License (GFDL).

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