PRESS RELEASE: SEPTEMBER 7, 2004
misses the point on nanotechnology
recent report published by the U.S. National Science Foundation highlights
their systematic failure to address the most important issues raised by
ignoring the societal impacts of
they miss the major significance of the technology.
First described by Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman in 1959,
programmable nanoscale manufacturing systems are expected to slash the cost of
manufacturing while greatly increasing product performance. Tiny supercomputers,
rapid medical advances, self-contained automated desktop factories, and advanced
weapons are only a few of the consequences.
“Molecular manufacturing needs to be addressed, and the NSF report is a big
distraction,” says Mike Treder, Executive Director of the Center for Responsible
Nanotechnology (CRN). “They present themselves as asking the right questions,
but the answers are worse than wrong: they are simply off-topic.”
In June 2004, the National Science Foundation convened a meeting of science
policy representatives from 25 countries and the European Union to discuss how
to carry out nanotechnology research and development “in a responsible manner.”
Unfortunately, they addressed only
near-term nanoscale technologies such as nanoparticles. The most important
long-term consequences of nanotechnology were ignored.
As an example, a question in the report about whether nanotechnology will be
“inherently continuous or inherently disruptive” leads to a digression about
“novel properties that only become evident at the nanoscale.”
nanotechnology will be disruptive because of molecular manufacturing.
“Molecular manufacturing is an inevitable consequence of advanced
nanotechnology,” says Chris Phoenix, CRN's Director of Research. “This is not
acknowledged in the NSF report. We need to prepare for revolutionary changes,
not just incremental improvements like new nanoparticles.”
CRN urges the National Science Foundation
organizations to correct this error, and begin addressing the long-term
consequences of nanotechnology.
For more information, see CRN’s web page on
U.S. Nanotechnology Policy.