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Foresight Update 44

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A publication of the Foresight Institute


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Inside Foresight

by Tanya Jones

Tanya JonesForesight folks are working on so many exciting projects, and what I can touch on in this limited space is always a shadow of the full picture. Here are a few of the tastier morsels.

Policy Development

As we try to expand our efforts more directly into the realm of policy recommendations, Foresight is establishing a framework for the creation and review of white papers. The goal of this is to improve awareness of encroaching policy issues and to help formulate policy recommendations in advance of an urgent need. Until a formal Policy Committee is established to make policy recommendations, the Board of Directors will make all policy decisions. Papers submitted for consideration will be put through a review process and may require revision by the author.

This process began officially with the creation of the Foresight Guidelines for the Development of Molecular Nanotechnology and will likely move forward with policy considerations of the open source development of nanotechnology, as presented by Bryan Bruns. Other papers are in various stages of development, including one on administering nanotechnology (see below); and we will be looking to solicit additional documents as resources permit. Authors are encouraged to submit papers by emailing me at tanya@foresight.org with an abstract and a link to an html version of the full paper.

Administrating Nanotechnology

Senior Associate Chris Phoenix has been encouraging the readers of Nanodot to consider requirements for the administration of nanotechnology initiatives. This is a key issue for Foresight, and we have been watching his discussion closely.

In his discussion, Chris states three reasonable assumptions and then goes on to propose one avenue for regulating nanotechnology. Those assumptions are:

  • Completely unrestricted nanotech is undesirable.
  • Limited regulation can slow the development of uncontrollable nanotech.
  • There are several basic organizational worldviews that tend to use very different methods and goals. Any workable policy must take all of them into account, for two reasons: no single approach can encompass all the issues, and any organization or worldview that is left out will try to sabotage the process.

Chris is proposing the creation of an organization that has three distinct branches, distinguished by differences in ethical systems. He is using the systems described by Jane Jacobs in her book, Systems of Survival. Not everyone agrees that this type of organization will be effective at managing the regulation of nanotechnology, and we would like to encourage you to join in the discussions on Nanodot and help us identify what form a regulatory body might take.

Spring Gathering Approaching

As you may expect, our format for this meeting continues to evolve, and we have plans for making this our most productive event yet. Participants will have an array of speakers to tempt their neurons. Given that this is a working conference, participants will be asked to consider on some of the critical questions surrounding each field.

Our program will include some old favorites and some new additions to the Senior Associate ranks. Those currently scheduled to appear include: Marvin Minsky, who recently released additional material from his upcoming book The Emotion Machine; Larry Page and Sergey Brin, founders of the fastest search engine available today — Google; Fred Turner, author and poet; and Gregory Aharonian, patent buster and independent publisher. The topics include: much about nanotechnology and its implications; market dynamics; intellectual property; machine intelligence; and ethics. We hope that everyone should be able to use this program to refine of personal and corporate actions plans for dealing with change, and to consider avenues for change on the national and supra-national levels.

We will be reporting the results of each major presentation to the entire body of the conference, as well as preparing a synthesis report of what goes on in the work groups. No one wants to miss anything important, and this will reduce the impact of that most-difficult decision: what sessions to attend. We hope to build on the feed forward aspect of this conference, and better use it to create another exceptional experience for our membership. We encourage you to attend, and more information is available on the Foresight website at.

New Chief Information Officer

I'd like to welcome the newest addition to the Foresight Staff, Benjamin Harper. Ben is taking over the Chief Information Officer role recently vacated by the wonderful Carol Shaw. Carol has helped us with our computer infrastructure for the past few years, coming out of "retirement" to do so. This responsibility now passes to Ben, and he will be assisting us with, among other things, the integration of our many, varied websites for single sign-on privileges. If you'd like to offer your assistance with this project, please feel free to email him at ben@foresight.org. Welcome, Ben!

In Conclusion

Foresight is gaining steam, and actively moving forward on developing policy recommendations and refining prospects in nanotechnology as progress abounds. We heartily encourage you to become more involved, whether through attending our conferences or though participation in the many discussions on Nanodot. Our policy recommendations will be more robust, with the more people and perspectives that are considered during development. Join us, and help shape the world to come.

Tanya Jones is Foresight's Director of Communications. You can eMail her at tanya@foresight.org


Foresight Update 44 - Table of Contents

 

Creating Engines of Creation, Part 2

by Christine Peterson

Most of us within Foresight think that Engines of Creation is a pretty good book — an excellent book, in fact. Even those who like it the most, however, must admit—it's getting a bit old. For a book published in 1986, it's held up amazingly well, but there's a limit to what we can expect from a book on technology written that long ago.

Time for a total rewrite, incorporating what's happened, what we've accomplished, and what we've learned since the first Engines came out. The new book will be put on the web, of course, with major input from you, the Foresight membership. We expect it to be published on paper also, by a traditional publisher, but the web is our top priority.

Because we're putting it on the web for free — as we've now done with both Engines of Creation and Unbounding the Future — getting a commercial publisher to fund the project up front would be tough. So it's a Foresight project, described at http://www.foresight.org/engines

Here's how we envision the process working: just as in Open Source software, someone has to write material for others to critique. I've committed to doing this, with major advice and assistance from Foresight chairman and Engines author Eric Drexler. (Since he's my husband, we can expect fast turnaround from him on this!) He's also agreed to write the Foreword.

The first step toward a draft is an outline, which will give you an idea of we have in mind. Chunks of outline and, later, text will be posted on nanodot for your review and comment.

We'll be looking for both general comments and some very specific input from you, including but not limited to:

  • catching errors of fact
  • flagging awkward or annoying wording
  • suggesting examples, analogies (historical, literary, scientific), illustrations, quotations

Whenever possible, try to explain how to fix any problems that you spot. Specific wording suggestions are greatly appreciated and far more likely to be implemented, given real-world time constraints. (Your thoughts on the real title of the book are also welcome; Engines of Creation, Part 2 is just a working title.)

There are two ways to provide your comments—use the one that you find more convenient, or alternate depending on what kind of information you're sending:

  1. Make a nanodot comment, just as you do on standard nanodot stories, or
  2. Use Crit (http://crit.org) to make your annotation directly on the text of the draft, at the exact location of your choice.

In both cases, others who are working on the draft will be able to see and benefit from your comments. Please don't just send them to me in email—use the two methods above to make this a cooperative effort. Whether you use nanodot or crit to make your comments, you'll be building your own reputation within the Foresight community.

We expect that the online discussions generated during the work, and those that continue after the paper book is done, will contribute a great deal to the project—in fact, over time they may come to overshadow the book itself in importance and impact outside Foresight. We hope so; that would be a major success for this group process.

By the time you read this, I'll have the beginnings of a rough outline posted at nanodot for your critiquing. To avoid having the item scroll off the bottom of the screen, as normally happens with nanodot stories, we'll put a long-term link in the box on the upper-right side.

Special thanks in advance go to (1) new Executive Director Chuck Piercey, whose work will free up my time to write this book, and (2) all of you in the Foresight community, whose input will make it ten or a hundred times better than we could do without you.

Christine Peterson is President of Foresight Institute.


Foresight Update 44 - Table of Contents

 

Institute for Molecular Manufacturing Report

The portion of Update 44 that constitutes the IMM Report is on the IMM Web site: http://www.imm.org/.


Foresight Update 44 - Table of Contents | Page1 | Page2 | Page3 | Page4 | Page5


From Foresight Update 44, originally published 17 April 2000.



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