Foresight Update 10
A publication of the Foresight Institute
One of the Foresight Institute's goals is to stimulate efforts
toward building a BioArchive of endangered species: a set of safe
repositories of properly-stored genetic material and tissue
samples. The goal is that if the worst happens--if every living
member of the species is lost--irreplaceable information will
survive. With sufficiently advanced technology and a biosphere on
the mend, species restoration could then be accomplished. If
enough samples have been taken, even substantial genetic
diversity within the species would survive this hiatus.
Tania Ewing reports in Nature (7 June 1990) that the
Centre for Genetic Resources and Heritage (CGRH) in Australia has
begun to work explicitly toward this goal. Based at the
University of Queensland, it will serve as a library of genetic
material from Australia's rare and endangered species. Director
John Mattick calls the center a "genetic Louvre," which
will store tissues, cells, and isolated DNA samples which have
been preserved cryogenically or by desiccation. Mattick points
out that if work like this isn't done, "subsequent
generations will see we had the technology to keep [DNA] software
and will ask why we didn't do it."
Exactly so: CGRH's work is critical to the future health of the
biosphere. Yet they are preserving only Australian samples, and
are having trouble finding funds to do even that much. We need to
encourage the powerful, mainstream environmental groups to become
active in support of this work, and to help establish similar
efforts around the world.
To contact them, write CGRH, Centre for Molecular Biology and
Biotechnology, University of Queensland, Australia. Environmental
activists interested in furthering the BioArchive concept should
contact the Foresight Institute.
by Stewart Cobb
Sixth Generation Project
Japan's Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) is
now planning its Sixth Generation Computer project. This is a
three-pronged effort involving theory, technology, and
The "Basic Theory" program is intended to develop a
theoretical basis for "processing of ambiguous and
incomplete information," using ideas from artificial
intelligence, neuroscience, psychology, and cognitive science.
MITI aims to build systems capable of "learning and
self-organization," "approximately correct problem
solving," and "integration of mass information."
Under "Fundamental Technology," MITI will study
architectures for massively parallel and distributed computer
systems. This effort includes a wide-ranging investigation of new
technologies for computing devices, including superconductivity,
quantum electronics, optical switches, wafer-scale integration,
and three-dimensional integrated circuits. The report mentions
molecular devices as a targeted technology.
MITI is not neglecting product development, the commercial payoff
for this massive project. The final research area is "Novel
Functions," investigating applications of the new computer
technology. MITI expects these applications to include
large-scale system simulations, self-organizing databases,
autonomous and cooperative robot controllers, high-level pattern
recognition and understanding, and generalized problem solving
with soft knowledge. Some of these areas, such as large-system
simulation and robot control, should be useful in advanced
applications of molecular manufacturing. [Nature, 345:279,
24May1990; Intelligence, Vol7, No4, pp1-3,
With the opening of Eastern European countries, more is being
learned about research efforts and interests there. Some of these
are relevant to nanotechnology:
In Czechoslovakia, the former president of that country's Academy
of Sciences--now director of the Institute of Molecular
Genetics--has as a goal "the bringing together of
information theory and systems engineering with the reductionist
pursuit of molecular mechanisms." Bulgaria's Institute of
Electronics holds an annual meeting on quantum electronics; it is
attended by scientists from all over the world. The president of
the Romanian Academy of Sciences--also the Deputy Prime
Minister--wants to set up ten "advanced study groups"
working on specific problems like molecular engineering,
materials science, and tunneling microscopy. [Nature,
Two government studies this spring compared the technological
capabilities of the US with the rest of the world. The overall
results came as no great surprise.
The Department of Defense reported that the US significantly
leads the USSR in all but four of 20 militarily critical
technologies, while the Soviets lead in only one. The European
NATO countries were considered roughly equal or slightly behind
the US in all 20 areas. Japan, however, was called the leader in
five of the 20 technologies, generally those with near-term
commercial applications. [Science 248:299,
The other study, from the Department of Commerce, compared the
relative standing of the US, Japan, and the European Community in
twelve emerging technologies. According to the report, the US
generally leads both Japan and Europe in research and development
in these technologies, but lags Japan in creating new products.
The Commerce Department also described the trends in these areas,
showing the US holding even with Europe but rapidly falling
behind Japan. The report covered twelve new technologies which
together are expected to reach $1 trillion in sales worldwide in
the year 2000. [Science 248:1185, 8June1990]
The Office of Science and Technology Policy has been asked to
combine these two studies into a single report, which is expected
in late October.
The announcement of the initial grants in the Human Frontiers
Science Program has made clear that this international effort
will not favor any one country, as was feared earlier when Japan
proposed the program. Grants were in approximate proportion to
the number of applications from each country: Japan (9), US (8),
Britain (5), France (3). Despite this reassuring result, the US
and Western European countries reacted negatively to a Japanese
proposal for an international effort on intelligent manufacturing
systems. [Nature, 344:579, 12Apr90; Nature,
Meanwhile, the US National Science Foundation reports that the
number of undergraduate degrees in science and engineering
granted to US students fell 10 percent from 1986 to 1988. The
total number of undergraduate degrees granted to US students
during the same two years rose slightly to an all-time high. [Nature,
Stewart Cobb is an aerospace engineer and was an early member
of the MIT Nanotechnology Study Group.
by Chris Peterson
The new journal Nanotechnology takes as its
subject a broad range of fields which have, or hope to have, some
connection to the nanometer scale: machining, imaging, metrology
(measurement), micromachines, instrumentation and machine tools,
scanning probe microscopy, fabrication of components,
nanoelectronics, molecular engineering, and so on. Based on the
first issue, the journal will be worth the attention of those
with broad interests in nanometer-scale technologies,
particularly those interested in the nuts-and-bolts of developing
and implementing various enabling technologies.
Published by the Institute of Physics, based in the U.K., it has
pulled together regional editors and an editorial board from
around the world, including the USSR, Bulgaria, and Poland. Most
are from the US, Japan, Britain, Germany, and Switzerland. Some
names are familiar to those who follow progress in work leading
to molecular nanotechnology: regional editor E. Clayton Teague
(from NIST) attended our first nanotechnology conference, as did
editorial board member Robert Birge (U. Syracuse), who presented
molecular electronics work at the meeting. The editorial board
also includes Robert T. Bate (quantum electronics, Texas
Instruments), Paul K. Hansma (STM and AFM, U. Cal. Santa
Barbara), Richard S. Muller (micromachines, U. Cal. Berkeley),
and James S. Murday (Naval Research Lab, chaired STM'90/NANO I
The challenge for the journal will be to maintain the quality
shown by the first issue. This included a number of broad review
articles of interest to the newcomer and helpful in orienting new
readers to the interests of the publication. To avoid repetition,
however, later issues will inevitably move toward more
specialized material, such as reports of STM experimental
results, e.g. "Voltage dependence of the morphology of the
GaAs(100) surface observed by scanning tunnelling
microscopy" in the first issue. While worthy, such a report
is more relevant to those working with GaAs than it is to
nanotechnology per se. There is a great deal of this work
available, as shown by the huge poster sessions at NANO I.
A promising sign is the inclusion in the first issue of a
proposal for the design of a new instrument. This focus on future
tools is unusual and could provide a valuable niche for the
journal to fill.
The scope of this journal once again shows that the word
'nanotechnology,' without a modifier, can no longer be taken to
refer to the technology at the core of Foresight's concerns. In
introducing the subject of "thorough control of the
structure of matter," one must be more specific, speaking of
molecular nanotechnology, or molecular manufacturing.
We'll keep an eye on this publication and report how it
progresses. Two issues are planned for volume 1 in 1990, with
four in the works for volume 2 in 1991. To subscribe in the US,
Canada, or Mexico, write to American Institute of Physics,
Subscriber Services, 500 Sunnyside Blvd., Woodbury, NY
11797-2999. Elsewhere write to Order Processing Dept., IOP
Publishing Ltd, Techno House, Redcliffe Way, Bristol BS1 6NX, UK.
Volume 1 is $99, with a single issue price of $49.50; volume 2 is
$215, with a single issue price of $54. If you subscribe to both
volumes together, the price is $270.00.
If the prices look a bit steep, ask your favorite technical
library to subscribe, or have them request the first issue as a
This year's conference on scanning tunneling microscopy was
broadened to include scanning probe microscopy and spectroscopy,
as well as immediately adjacent technical fields. To reflect this
increased breadth, the parallel title NANO I was added to the
conference. Sponsored by a wide variety of organizations, it was
held in Baltimore on July 23-27, 1990.
Interest in the meeting was intense, with many hundreds of
abstracts submitted. Chairman James Murday of the Naval Research
Laboratory reports that the meeting drew 675 attendees--forty
percent larger than previous meetings. With so many submissions,
the great majority had to be presented in mammoth poster
sessions. The abstract "booklet" had 372 pages. One
paper, a proposal for molecular tip arrays for atomic force
microscopy, is described in this issue's "Recent Progress"
Of special interest to Foresight was the session on
"Nanometer Science and Technology--Prospects, Priorities,
and Programs." It included presentations from Japan's
Nanomechanism Project, Britain's Nanotechnology Project, NIST's
Micro-metrology Group, and NSF's group on Quantum Electronics,
Waves, and Beams. Eric Drexler spoke on the results of the First
Foresight Conference on Nanotechnology (October 1990) and our
perspective on molecular systems engineering as a path to
Instead of publishing a separate conference proceedings volume,
STM '90 is working with the American Vacuum Society to publish a
special edition of the Journal of Vacuum Science and
Technology (JVST) with conference papers.
We'll let you know when it is available.
The AVS is so interested in nanometer-scale work that it has
agreed to host the next meeting as part of its larger meeting in
Seattle, November 11-15, 1991. This first AVS National Symposium
on "Science and Technology at the Nanometer Scale" will
include topics similar to the 1990 meeting; we suggest you check
the conference papers to get a feel for which areas will be
covered. Foresight Update will publish more
information as it becomes available.
In addition to hosting the next meeting, AVS is renaming one of
its journals to reflect its new focus: the new subtitle for JVST
B is "Microelectronics and Nanometer
Structures--Processing, Measurement and Phenomena."
Publications on proximal probes (STM, AFM, etc.) are expected to
continue to increase. While much of this work is not done in
vacuum, AVS's enthusiasm for the field should overcome any
initial confusion this may cause.
To contact STM '90; write to the Conference Office, 750
Audubon Road, East Lansing, MI 48823.
We could use the following materials and help: Macintosh
computers, an additional Apple Laserwriter, an additional fax
machine, and a small photocopier. Office space in the Palo Alto
area is needed as well. We are in need of volunteer help with
laying out our publications, using Pagemaker software on the
Macintosh. Fundraising experience, including grantwriting, would
be of great use. Note that donations of equipment or funds are
tax-deductible as charitable contributions.
If you or your company can help, call us at 415-324-2490.
[Editor's Note: The above section is dated and is included
solely for archival purposes. To find out about current Foresight
needs, call at 415-917-1122.]
Special thanks go to Jeannine Smyth for her extensive work in
redesigning the Foresight logo and other materials; readers
should start to see the results soon.
Thanks to Bob Kirby of the Technology and Society Committee for
arranging a lecture on nanotechnology to his group, and to Dave
Kilbridge for converting IBM text to Macintosh format.
Thanks to the following for sending technical articles and media
coverage; please keep these coming: Robert Allgeier, Keith
Davison, Allan Drexler, Jerry Fass, David R. Forrest, Robin
Hanson, Mark Haviland, Alan Hold, Wlodek Mandecki, B. Molnar,
Anthony Oberley, Roger J. Plog, Jack Powers, Edward Rietman, Jack
Veach, Steven C. Vetter, Michael Weber.
Foresight Update and many of our other
publications (e.g. Backgrounds, new Briefings)
are not sold as subscriptions per se, but are sent to all who
make a minimum donation to the organization. Currently the
minimum donation we request is $25 per year.
The holiday season is approaching fast. This is the last issue of
Update to be published before then, so we'll take
this opportunity to invite you to give Foresight for your holiday
gifts. A donation of $25 will bring Foresight publications to
your gift recipient for twelve months, along with a note
identifying you as the giver.
[Editor's Note: The current membership contribution is
$35. See our section on getting
involved with Foresight.]
From Foresight Update 10, originally
published 30 October 1990.
Foresight thanks Dave Kilbridge for converting Update 10 to
html for this web page.