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Foresight Update 45

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A publication of the Foresight Institute


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Inside Foresight

by Tanya Jones

Tanya JonesStrategy Summit

For more than 15 years, Foresight has been pushing a nanotechnology-based agenda. In the beginning, that meant mostly supporting investigations into the technical validity of nanotechnology as a concept, and accepting writing and speaking engagements to spread the idea that this would be a good technology for us to develop. As we're all aware, research in molecular science has taken on a life of its own, and scarcely a week goes by without some mention of a major advance in the field.

The Foresight Board and staff are now in a position to reconsider our organization's focus for the coming years, since we do not have to spend as much time defending nanotechnology to newcomers. We have an opportunity to examine our mission and retool it to fit the current and imminent circumstances, and this is exactly what we are going to do.

On June 15, 2001, the Foresight Board of Directors, the staff, and several advisors self-assembled to discuss Foresight's future. We emerged with a plan for improving the visibility of Foresight operations, avenues for augmenting our funding sources, and a common vision statement for the coming years.

We still intend to maintain our efforts to be an educational resource for new members. As you may have come to expect from us, we had an ambitious agenda for a mere weekend's worth of work. Despite the scope of the agenda, most items were discussed and tentatively resolved. We hope to share our progress with you in a future issue of the Update , so stay tuned for more information.

Technical Conference

Our preparations for the next technical conference are well underway. The Keynote speaker will be James Murday of the Naval Research Laboratory. Dr. James Murday is the Executive Secretary to the Nanometer Science Engineering and Technology Subcommittee of the National Science and Technology Council. A former president of the American Vacuum Society (AVS), Dr. Murday helped establish the Nanometer Science/ Technology Division of the AVS.

Confirmed speakers include Uzi Landman of Georgia Tech, winner of the Foresight's 2000 Feynman Prize for theoretical work; Stan Williams of Hewlett-Packard Labs, co-recipient of the 2000 Feynman Prize for experimental progress; James Spencer of Syracuse University; Chris Gorman of NC State; and many more.

Our program this year will also include a panel on venture capital opportunities in nanotechnology. This year's tutorial will cover molecular electronics, biological machines and materials, carbon nanotubes, and nanoscale materials chemistry.

Registration is open (http://www.foresight.org/Conferences/MNT9/RegInfo.html), and you should consider reserving your seat early.

Gathering Aftermath

As many of you are aware, Foresight hosted a recent Gathering in Palo Alto, CA. Foresight's primary sponsors -- our Senior Associates -- came from all directions to discuss the implications of nanotechnology, machine intelligence, economics, and action. We are still sifting through the results, and new data is being posted to the Senior Associate website every week.

For those of you who attended this meeting, I'd like to encourage you to forward me any notes you may have that you would like included in the website archive. Comments, modifications, and additions should also be emailed to me at tanya@foresight.org. We expect the depth in this part of the site to continue to grow for a while, so check back with the website every so often for new material.

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank the participants and volunteers for their tireless efforts during the event. You have given us much information to consider, and our vision of the future is already changing as a result. You gave us so many products, projects, and processes to consider, that it is hard to select just a few.

I'd also like to thank Senior Associate John Bashinski for his conversion of the many Gathering audio tapes to digital files. He is responsible for helping our members to hear the talks they missed.

Engines 2001

Foresight President Christine Peterson has completed the outline for her next book. Not strictly a sequel to the book by K. Eric Drexler, Engines of Creation, this book will discuss the impact of accelerating technological change, addressing some of the sociological upheaval that is on the horizon. Chris hopes to help us avert some of the destructive issues that might arise with the broad application of technology to surveillance, computer security, biotechnology and medicine.

This outline is available at: (http://nanodot.org/article.pl?sid=01/05/22/2054219). Comments are being collected on the draft, and Chris hopes to collect examples and analogies for incorporation into the book. Readers are encouraged to make suggestions for material to include on Nanodot or to annotate the draft using Crit.

Nanodot Update

Our busy friends at Slashdot have released another version of their code. Dave Krieger is already working to install this upgraded version to our website at http://www.nanodot.org. Changes to the code are described at http://slashcode.com/docs/CHANGES.

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


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IMM Announces New Prizes in Computational Nanotechnology

The Institute for Molecular Manufacturing will offer four new annual prizes in computational nanotechnology, one each in the fields of design, analysis, rendering, and simulation. The Prizes will be presented in person at the annual Foresight Feynman Prize presentation ceremony at the Foresight Conference on Molecular Nanotechnology. The four winning projects each year will automatically be nominated for the next Feynman Prize in Nanotechnology (Theoretical).

The goal of this program is rapid advance and iteration, so the IMM Prizes do not require journal publication. Incremental improvements to prior designs, including those originally produced by others, are explicitly encouraged.

Special consideration will be given for analysis or designs that contribute to system security or component mechanisms designed specifically to prevent abuse (refer to the Foresight Guidelines on Molecular Nanotechnology for several specific mechanisms). This consideration may not come up in the early days of the Prizes, but is expected to be increasingly important as designs advance.

Details are available on the IMM website.


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Niehaus Ryan Wong to Publish Nanotechnology Opportunity Report

Niehaus Ryan Wong (NRW), a leading Silicon Valley public relations firm co-founded by Ed Niehaus, and Scott Mize have teamed up to create the Nanotechnology Opportunity Report (NOR). Both are long-time Foresight Institute Senior Associates. The NOR is the first research report to focus on the near-term business opportunities in nanotechnology. The report is being published by NRW's Business Intelligence Bureau. Mize, an entrepreneur and advisor to early stage technology companies, is serving as the Chairman of the Board of Advisors for the NOR. The Board of Advisors also includes Foresight insiders Ralph Merkle, Neil Jacobstein and David Forrest, among others.

The NOR is designed to be a valuable tutorial and reference for anyone interested in the business of nanotechnology. The primary audiences for the report are investors, corporate executives, entrepreneurs and technologists who need to understand how nanotechnology is taking shape.

The NOR establishes a framework for understanding nanotechnology, identifies those areas that have short-term commercial potential and provides key information on the most important organizations in the field.

The report provides a brief history and introduction to nanotechnology, including the areas of molecular electronics and nanomaterials; an overview of the current business landscape; a summary of the industries that will be impacted in the near term; profiles of companies in the field, including large corporations with significant initiatives, public and private companies; profiles of key university and government research centers; profiles of organizations which are funding nanotechnology, including venture capital investors, corporations and government agencies; and a bibliography of publications and websites.

The NOR will be available on October 1, 2001 at a price of $995 to the general public. NRW is taking pre-publication orders at a discounted price of $695 until August 31, 2001. Current Foresight Institute Senior Associates can receive a special discounted price of $595 until August 31, 2001. The report can be ordered by calling Patty Ellgen at 650-827-7045 in the U.S., or by sending an email to nor@nrwpr.com.


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Rand report examines technology trends

A Rand Corporation "foresight" report on "The Global Technology Revolution: Bio/Nano/Materials Trends and Their Synergies with Information Technology by 2015" examines the potential effects of several technological trends over the next 15 years.

As described by the authors in their introduction, the report covers "[a] number of significant technology-related trends appear poised to have major global effects by 2015. These trends are being influenced by advances in biotechnology, nanotechnology, materials technology, and information technology . . . [the] implications are varied and can include social, political, economic, environmental, or other factors. In many cases, the significance of these technologies appears to depend on the synergies afforded by their combined advances as well as on their interaction with the so-called information revolution."

Although the authors feel "the present period in molecular manufacturing research is extremely exciting", their basic conclusion about advanced nanotechnology is rather cautious:

"Although molecular manufacturing holds the promise of significant global changes . . . it remains the least concrete of the technologies discussed here. Significant progress has been made, however, in the development of component technologies within the first regime of molecular manufacturing, where objects might be constructed from simple molecules and manufactured in a short amount of time via parallel atomic force microprobes or from simple self-assembled structures. Although the building blocks for these systems currently exist only in isolation at the research stage, it is certainly reasonable to expect that an integrated capability could be developed over the next 15 years . . . A series of important breakthroughs could certainly cause progress in this area to develop much more rapidly, but it seems very unlikely that macro-scale objects could be constructed using molecular manufacturing within the 2015 timeframe."

The full report is available online, and as an Adobe Acrobat PDF file.


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AAAS examines impacts of nanotechnology

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is taking the potential ethical and socioeconomic impacts seriously. The debate over genetics, nanotech and robotics (GNR) technologies sparked by Bill Joy's notorious article in Wired last year formed a major section in the AAAS Science and Technology Policy Yearbook 2001, which is a retrospective look back at 2000.

In addition to the full text of Joy's article from Wired ("Why the Future Doesn't Need Us," April 2000), a special section of the Yearbook on "Technology's Impact on Society" includes responses by John Seely Brown and Paul Duguid from The Industry Standard ("A Response to Bill Joy and the Doom-and-Gloom Technofuturists," 13 April 2000); a piece by Michael Dertouzos of MIT that appeared in Technology Review magazine ("Not by Reason Alone," September/October 2000); and an paper by Michael M. Crow and Daniel Sarewitz of Columbia University on "Nanotechnology and Societal Transformation" that was presented at the NSF Workshop.

The full AAAS Yearbook, as well as these individual items, are available online as Adobe Acrobat PDF files. There are also some interesting sections on the genetic modification of foods, and the impacts of information technologies.


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From Foresight Update 45, originally published 30 June 2001.



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