I have heard of your calls for views on nanotechnology.
I, Brian Wang, am a owner of a software development and consulting company
based in Silicon Valley and Vancouver, Canada. One of the websites that I run
which is focused on nanotechnology (in particular molecular nanotechnology, which is the nanoscale precision placement of molecules.) I am also a senior associate of the Foresight institute. I have a BSC in Computer Science and an MBA from the University of Calgary. I won second in the Honeywell Futurist award in 1986.
I have been closely following the field of nanotechnology and associated technologies for over 10 years.
In my view, the nanotechnology that is already working in the labs and that
is being commercialed now and within 0-4 years are:
1. Bulk material with nanoscale features or components. Like super-tough carbon nanotube fibres up to 100 metres long at the University of Texas, Dallas, and Trinity College, Dublin will enable very long space tethers in earth orbit, which will allow for cheaper access to space (economic and military advantages). Also, vastly superior materials (stronger plastics with nanotube reinforcement, also produced in pre-commercial quantities) will revolutionize the manufacturing industries and industries that use their new products.
2. Nanotubes and DNA for computer processors, sensors and memory. Massively superior computers and computer components will be produced. This will further enhance the information revolution that we have already been experiencing.
The development of computers and sensors and positioning control to molecular precision will allow the real time monitoring and intervention of cellular and intracellular processes in the body. This would result in the massive extension of a healthy lifespan. Even now with non-nanoscale technology today, there is successful work integrating electronics into the body and to neurons (enabling the blind to see and for the creation of artificial replacement organs).
In terms of health and safety impacts, there has been consideration of protocols
for the prevention of nanotechnology accidents.
In terms of the use of the technology for destruction and violence. Nuclear weapons will still be more lethal and faster. Nanotechnology ads the possiblity of highly selective destruction (nanotech holocaust scenarios). Global power stability and mutual security are the best ways to manage this. The current dominant powers (USA, England, Russia etc...) that support and are stewards of the current global system need to continue to develop the most advanced technology as rapidly as possible. This would keep things the most stable going forward. Those systems which have proven themselves responsible in managing existing dominant weapon systems of destruction should remain the stewards of advancing capability.
An important issue is that nanotechnology continues the trend towards increasing capability for covert operations. The more fully open we have society the better. Privacy will have to be reduced.
The great positives and negatives that advanced molecular nanotechnology will bring are already showing themselves now in the pre-cursor technology. MEMS, advanced chemistry, advanced computer technology and bulk nanoscale material. Attempts to forgo molecular nanotechnology or some aspect of it will not be effective and I think it would be morally wrong. Molecular nanotechnolology could be used to alleviate human suffering and poverty, repair our biosphere and enable routine space travel. What needs to be done is to find a way to get the most benefit and prevent the destructive uses. The call for views is a start to getting this issue studied.