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About the Foresight Institute

Facilitating communication among brilliant minds

Bringing brilliant minds together - 1:03  Foresight's approach to technical workshops.
Published on Sep 30, 2016. Watch on YouTube
When we design an event, we sit down and think about, Who are brilliant people in their fields, and who should they talk to that they are not talking to yet?

Mission — Promoting Emerging World-Shaping Technologies

Foresight Institute is a leading think tank and public interest organization focused on emerging world-shaping technologies. It was founded in 1986 on a vision of coming revolutions in technology that will bring revolutionary opportunities, but may also present potential dangers that will require prudent risk management policies. Foresight's co-founder Eric Drexler envisioned the ultimate manufacturing technology arising from rapid progress in biotechnology during the late 1970s. The manufacturing technology he christened "nanotechnology" would be able to inexpensively and rapidly manufacture any structure or device allowed by the laws of physics, no matter how complex, by precise control of the trajectories of individual atoms and molecular fragments.

The products of such technology would include materials a hundred times stronger than those currently used and computers millions of times smaller and billions of times more powerful than those currently used. Nanotechnology would enable the near-term settlement of the solar system and the construction of microscopic medical nanorobots able to cure diseases and reverse aging by comprehensive repair of damages at the molecular and cellular levels. So this emerging technology would be both world-shaping and life-changing.

A further insight was that progress in one technology will often accelerate progress in other technologies. Progress in biotechnologies provides paths toward developing nanotechnology, while incremental advances in nanotechnology provide better tools for biotechnologies. More powerful computers manufactured by nanotechnology provide more powerful systems to implement artificial intelligence, while AI improves design tools to architect atomically precise manufacturing systems.

It was also possible, however, to imagine such powerful technology causing problems, such as economic and military destabilization, and microscopic devices to control people or devour the biosphere. So Foresight's vision has also included ideas on how to predict what technologies might emerge from known science and current technology, and other ideas on how to prepare for and guide the development of technologies to discover and promote the upsides, and help avoid the dangers, of nanotechnology, AI, biotech, and similar life-changing developments.

Foresight is the primary force pushing for the kind of nanotechnology that will truly transform our future, from medicine to the environment to space settlement. This advanced form of nanotechnology has been variously called atomically precise manufacturing (APM), productive nanosystems, molecular manufacturing, or molecular nanotechnology, and should be distinguished from the bulk of current efforts in nanotechnology, which are focused on materials science and simple nanodevices. We follow and advocate the development of current nanotechnology and its application to pressing current needs, but our primary effort is to bring the vision and goal of developing advanced nanotechnology, or APM, to new audiences, including inspiring young researchers.

About Foresight's founding vision … (and how it has guided Foresight's efforts for three decades)

Thirty Years of Nanotechnology and Foresight … Securing a future worth having by advancing understanding of emerging revolutionary technologies

Foresight's mission is to:

  • speed development of nanotechnology and other key fundamental technologies,
  • promote beneficial uses of these revolutionary technologies, and
  • reduce misuse and accidents potentially associated with them.

Foresight Activities

In 1986 Foresight was founded on a vision of the emerging field of nanotechnology in which current capabilities in nanotechnology lead eventually to fabrication of complex products with atom-by-atom control of the manufacturing process. This ultimate development of nanotechnology, sometimes termed molecular manufacturing but now more often termed APM (atomically precise manufacturing), was first described by Richard Feynman in 1959 in a visionary talk "There's Plenty of Room at the Bottom." Foresight has worked to educate the public, researchers, and policy makers about Feynman's vision—what advanced nanotechnology would be like, and what it could do. We ground these expectations in the current achievements and applications of nanotechnology, consider how to move from current nanotechnology to advanced nanotechnology, and how to capture the opportunities and avoid the risks of the ultimate manufacturing technology.

Foresight Activities include:

Christine Peterson introduces the Foresight Institute

From Breakthrough Philanthropy, an evening catalyzing radical advances in technology to address humanity's greatest challenges, Dec 7th, 2010, in San Francisco:

List of all Thiel Foundation event videos

"The Foresight Institute"

A 30-slide overview presented in April 2010 (18.3 MB PDF file) addresses Foresight's history, vision, programs, and accomplishments.

Partners and Sponsors

Foresight works with a wide variety of organizations as partners, sponsors and corporate members. Through Foresight, these organizations reach our members and those visiting our Web site with their message, receive their choice of Foresight publications and information feeds, take advantage of discounts on many goods and services, are invited to special gatherings and events and and receive valuable introductory gifts. For more information on becoming a corporate member, click here. Click below to see our past or current partners, sponsors and corporate members.

Contact Information

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Fax: 650.289.0863

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