News Library 2000 - 2004
Foresight Conference on Molecular Nanotechnology
The 1st Conference on Advanced Nanotechnology: Research, Applications, and Policy was held Oct. 22-24, 2004, Crystal City Marriott Hotel (Washington, DC Area).
Foresight Vision Weekend, Annual Senior Associates Gathering: "Putting Feynman's Vision into Action"
Newsletter current issue
The current issue of our newsletter is Foresight Update 54 August, 2004.
Foresight Institute Stage 2
The initial goal of Foresight Institute has been achieved. Next comes Stage 2: Implementation—making molecular nanotechnology (MNT) happen sooner rather than later.
Foresight Conference and Tutorial on Molecular Nanotechnology
The 11th Foresight Conference on Molecular Nanotechnology was held in San Francisco Airport Marriott, Burlingame, California, on Oct. 10-12, 2003, with an optional tutorial on Oct. 9
Foresight Vision Weekend, Annual Senior Associates Gathering: "Molecular Myth, Manufacturing, Money and Mania—Will the real nanotechnology please self assemble!"
The 2003 Senior Associates Gathering was held in Palo Alto, California. May 2-4, 2003.
Foresight Challenge Grant for 2004
$40,000 Challenge Grant announced. Deadline January 31 — donate by December 31 for 2003 tax deduction.
Foresight Challenge Grant for 2003
Foresight Conference and Tutorial on Molecular Nanotechnology
The 10th Foresight Conference on Molecular Nanotechnology was held in Bethesda, Maryland, on Oct. 11-13, 2002, with an optional tutorial on Oct. 10
Spring 2002 Senior Associates Gathering
The Spring 2002 Senior Associates Gathering was held in Palo Alto, California. April 26-28, 2002.
Nanotechnology: Six Lessons from Sept. 11
Read "Nanotechnology: Six Lessons from Sept. 11", a letter from Foresight Chairman Eric Drexler, and a $50,000 Challenge Grant. As of January 31, we met the entire Challenge Grant amount and earned the full $50,000 matching fund. Thanks to all who participated.
Foresight Conference and Tutorial on Molecular Nanotechnology
The Ninth Foresight Conference on Molecular Nanotechnology was held November 9-11, 2001, in Santa Clara, Silicon Valley, California, preceded by an introductory Tutorial on Foundations of Nanotechnology on November 8.
Spring 2001 Senior Associate Gathering
The Spring 2001 Senior Associate Gathering "Exploring the Edge" will be held April 20-22, 2001, Palo Alto, CA. Here at Foresight we bring together folks from the bleeding edge of change in widely dispersed fields. By combining enough informed perspectives, we have a chance of figuring out what's coming, how to adapt, and when to get in there and help push things in a different direction.
Foresight Challenge Grant for 2001 announced
Foresight must raise $35,000 to earn $35,000 challenge: deadline for matching funds is Jan 31, 2001; deadline for year 2000 U.S. tax deductions is Dec. 31, 2000.
Foresight Conference and Tutorial on Molecular Nanotechnology
The Eighth Foresight Conference on Molecular Nanotechnology was held November 3-5, 2000, in Bethesda, Maryland, preceded by an introductory Tutorial on Foundations of Nanotechnology on November 2.
A message to Foresight members from Foresight Chairman Eric Drexler:
Fall 2000 Senior Associate Gathering
The Fall 2000 Senior Associate Gathering was held Sept. 8-10, 2000, Palo Alto, California. Think you can handle rapid change? Better hope so, because coming technologies will turn our world on its head. What we need to navigate the coming decades is the best-informed advice we can get, combined with the moral support of a community that shares our values and goals.
The Spring 2000 Senior Associate Gathering "Confronting Singularity" was held May 19-21, 2000. The tentative date for the Fall Senior Associates Gathering is Sept. 8-10, 2000.
Foresight annual Challenge Grant a success
The full amount of the Foresight annual challenge grant was earned. $50,000 in new donations were obtained by January 31, 2000, to earn the $50,000 challenge.
New Nanomedicine Challenge Grant a success
Scientists from the University of Texas at Austin and from the University of California, Santa Barbara used evolution in a test tube (in this case, combinatorial phage-display libraries) to select peptides that bind to specific semiconductor crystal surfaces, such as GaAs(100). In their research paper published in Nature they write: "We have shown the power of using phage-display libraries to identify, develop and amplify binding between organic peptide sequences and inorganic semiconductor substrates. ... We are currently designing bivalent synthetic peptides ... [that] have the potential to direct nanoparticles to specific locations on a semiconductor structure. These organic-inorganic pairs should provide powerful building blocks for the fabrication of a new generation of complex, sophisticated electronic structures."
A multiple ink nano-plotter developed by researchers at Northwestern University using their "dip-pen" nanolithography (DPN) technology has now been furthered extended to "demonstrate an eight-pen nanoplotter capable of simultaneously creating eight identical patterns drawn with tiny lines of molecular ink. Each line is only 30 molecules wide and one molecule high." In their research paper in Science, the authors conclude "The number of pens that can be used in a parallel DPN experiment to reproduce nanostructures passively is not limited to eight. Indeed, there is no reason why the number of pens cannot be increased to hundreds or even a thousand pens without the need for additional feedback systems. Finally, this work opens avenues for researchers to begin using DPN and conventional AFM instrumentation to do high-resolution and aligned patterning of nanostructures on a large scale that is automated and moderately fast."
"Starting in June 2000, the first 12 Ph.D. candidates will hit the laboratories of Cornell's new W.M. Keck Program in Nanobiotechnology. The program has been inaugurated with a three-year, $1.2 million grant from the W.M. Keck Foundation of Los Angeles and is expected to receive other sources of support." from Cornell Chronicle; alternate URL; UniSci URL
The path to molecular manufacturing will lead through increasingly capable and complex molecular machine systems and culminate in the ability to inexpensively manufacture devices and materials to complex atomically precise specifications. How specifically this will come about is not yet clear, and many technologies leading in that direction can be identified. The following advances do not include any obvious milestones on the road to more capable molecular machine systems, but they do illustrate (1) that rapid progress is occurring in a large number of relevant areas, (2) that many of these advances might have major useful applications short of molecular manufacturing systems, and (3) that many researchers and media observers are now aware of the connection between current research in nanoscale science and technology and the more distant capabilities of nanotechnology.
On Friday January 21, 2000, in a speech at the California Institute of Technology, President Clinton proposed a $2.8 billion rise in U.S. research funding, including a $497 million "National Nanotechnology Initiative." A White House press release entitled "President Clinton announces nearly a $3 billion increase in Twenty-First Century Research Fund" listed the National Nanotechnology Initiative as the second of five items comprising the proposal:
"A new $497 million National Nanotechnology Initiative. Nanotechnology the ability to manipulate individual atoms and molecules could revolutionize the 21st century in the same way that the transistor and the Internet led to the Information Age. Increased investments in nanotechnology could lead to breakthroughs such as molecular computers that can store the contents of the Library of Congress in a device the size of a sugar cube, and new materials ten times stronger than steel and a fraction of the weight."
Further details are given in a press release from the Office of Science and Technology Policy: "National Nanotechnology Initiative Leading To The Next Industrial Revolution" The initiative includes molecular manfacturing within its conceptual framework of nanotechnology, citing among potential breakthroughs that might be possible: "Making materials and products from the bottom-up, that is, by building them up from atoms and molecules. Bottom-up manufacturing should require less material and pollute less"
Web pages reporting Clinton's announcement include:
An internal government report entitled "National Nanotechnology Initiative" is to be released in early February and will be available at http://itri.loyola.edu/nano/IWGN/#reports, where other related reports are already available.
National Nanotechnology Initiative Website: the official homepage for the NNI
View the President's Caltech address using RealPlayer at http://www.caltech.edu/events/pspeech.html
For more, see story in Update 40
An eetimes.com article "Xerox studies self-assembling modular robots" describes research at Xerox PARC on versatile robots that could re-configure themselves to adapt to new tasks and environments by re-arranging low-cost modules. Although these robots are macroscopic, "the lessons learned in programming such modular robots may simplify the integration of other large, multicomponent systems" (perhaps eventually including complex systems of microscopic components produced by molecular nanotechnology).
Proteins constitute the largest existing class of molecular machines, and a large part of the problem of understanding how they work is understanding how the linear protein chain folds into a compact three dimensional structure. An early proposal for developing nanotechnology envisioned designing proteins that fold more predictably then do natural proteins (see "Molecular engineering: An approach to the development of general capabilities for molecular manipulation" on the IMM Web site). Therefore, IBM's recent announcement of a major initiative to computationally model protein folding is an important step in the development of nanotechnology.
See also the special report in Update 41: "Oh, Joy! A Media Watch Special Report"
Writing in the April issue of Wired magazine "Why the future doesn't need us", computer pioneer Bill Joy expresses his concern that uncontrolled self-replication arising from advances in robotics, genetic engineering and nanotechnology might push humanity to extinction. Such self-replication would place the potential to destroy the world in the hands of small groups or even of individuals with the requisite knowledge. A second theme is that improving computers to exceed human intelligence will lead to replacing the human species with robots: "Given the incredible power of these new technologies, shouldn't we be asking how we can best coexist with them? And if our own extinction is a likely, or even possible, outcome of our technological development, shouldn't we proceed with great caution?"
Joy concludes that the only way to protect from the possibility of extinction is to "relinquish" the development of certain technologies: "I have always believed that making software more reliable, given its many uses, will make the world a safer and better place; if I were to come to believe the opposite, then I would be morally obligated to stop this work. I can now imagine such a day may come."
Joy's stance has already generated a great deal of comment and controversy. Joy was interviewed extensively on National Public Radio's "All Things Considered" March 14, 2000 (audio files available here). On March 13, 2000 The New York Times ran an aticle by John Markoff entitled "Technologist Gives His Peers a Dark Warning". The Washington Post ran a short article by Joel Garreau "From Internet Scientist, a Preview of Extinction".
Bill Joy also presented his viewpoint at an April 1, 2000 Stanford Symposium organized by Douglas Hofstadter: "Will spiritual robots replace humanity by 2100?" One of the panel members was Foresight Institute Board of Advisors member Ralph Merkle, who has placed his prepared comments on the Web: "Research is good".
April 10, 2000, in Salon Technology: Killjoy "Technology is changing our world -- and we should be afraid! Sun Microsystems chief scientist Bill Joy envisions a frightening future of self-replicating machines." http://www.salon.com/tech/view/2000/04/10/joy/index.html
One group of technology enthusiasts has been inspired to reply to Bill Joy in music: "Rage for the machine", reported in an April 12 Salon Technology column by Damien Cave. "Techno group Mobius Dick take on Bill Joy and his apocalyptic view of technology's future in a new tune on MP3.com. ... Using computer-altered voices laid over sci-fi sound effects from the 1950s, a new tune by techno group Mobius Dick tries to carry on the tradition of rallying support for a social cause through song. Its social cause? Technology." The frontman of Mobius Dick is quoted: "Some kind of change is inevitable and people need to think about what kind," he says. "But inducing fear in others just won't cut it. There are a lot of options out there and we need to see what they are and decide what we want."
In a Government Computer News story by William Jackson dated May 8, 2000, Bill Joy stated "I won't work on nanotechnology." "Sun's Bill Joy doubts good things will come in small packages"
Max More challenges Joy's relinquishment policy on the grounds that "First, it's unworkable. Second, it's ethically appalling." "Embrace, Don't Relinquish, the Future". Additional responses published on the Extropy Institute Web site include "Promise and Peril: Deeply Intertwined Poles of Twenty First Century Technology" by Ray Kurzweil points out the importance of "fine grained" relinquishment rather than broad relinquishment; "Imagination Redux: A Joy-less Moment" by Natasha Vita-More; "The Path to Survival" by Eliezer S. Yudkowsky.
Another challenge from Virginia Postrel in the June 2000 issue of Reason: "Joy, to the World: A techno-celebrity's childish manifesto" "Bill Joy is a lot smarter than I'll ever be. But he is also incredibly foolish, in the parochial, reality-dodging way that geniuses sometimes are. And he is willing to sacrifice an awful lot of other people's lives and liberty to his fantasies of power and control."
Robert A. Freitas Jr. has completed a lengthy technical risk analysis of some "gray goo" scenarios, which may be relevant to Joy's concerns about nanoreplicator safety and regulation: "Some Limits to Global Ecophagy by Biovorous Nanoreplicators, with Public Policy Recommendations"
Draft proposal: "Foresight Guidelines on Molecular Nanotechnology"
The dangers that worry Bill Joy have been discussed for quite some time. "A Dialog on Dangers" by K. Eric Drexler was published in 1988.
Bill Joy was a participant in the Foresight and IMM Spring 2000 Senior Associate Gathering "Engines of Creation 2000: Confronting Singularity". The issues he raised in his Wired essay received further attention there.
"Techno Worries Miss the Target" by Glenn Harlan Reynolds, Thursday, June 08, 2000 on the Intellectual Capitol.com Web site forcefully argues the advantages of "openness" over relinquishment. Many reader comments are included.
"Wait a Nano-Second..., Crushing nanotechnology would be a terrible thing." by Glenn H. Reynolds, professor of law, U. of Tennessee, and Dave Kopel, Independence Institute, published on July 5, 2000 in the National Review Online argues that banning nanotechnology would actually increase the probability that nanotechnology would be developed and used for destructive purposes. Reynolds and Kopel cite Ed Regis's history of biological warfare, The Biology of Doom, to point out that the 1972 treaty banning biological weapons paradoxically encouraged several signatory nations to accelerate development of biological warfare because they knew the US would not develop the technology, thus giving them the chance to obtain a decisive advantage.
"Smaller is better", by BBC News Online's Kevin Anderson, cites nanotechnology research at Sandia National Laboratories and at IBM as leading to extremely fast but inexpensive computers, smart fabrics, and medical devices that could circulate in the bloodstream.
A press release "Sandia joins national charge into 21st century nanotechnology revolution" reports how "Sandia and other Department of Energy national laboratories will venture further into the truly tiny realm of atomic and molecular maneuvering following an announcement of a 'National Nanotechnology Initiative' by President Clinton today [Jan. 21, 2000] from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena." The press release contains about a dozen links to descriptions of nanoscale science and technology projects at Sandia.
"Tiny Machines Do the Work of Giants: WPI Professor Pioneers Research in the Miniature World of Nanotechnology", a press release from WPI, speculates that work in WPI's Nanoindenter Lab studying micromachines could eventually lead to entire laboratories on a chip and even to medical nanomachines traveling through the bloodstream or interfacing with the human nervous system.
NPR's Diane Rehm Show featured a panel discussion of nanotechnology on January 18, 2000. "Scientists are now able to manipulate matter at a molecular level and are working to create tiny mechanisms that have the potential to bring about the next technological revolution. A panel talks about the technology and how it could transform a range of scientific fields." Guests:
In a New Year's Day article "When we will be like the gods: Spider Robinson on the year 3000", Robinson describes how the "technological singularity" coming in the next 50 years will produce individuals who will be almost incomprehensible to us. Immortal and invulnerable, able to be male or female or change body types at will, alternating between living in "meat" bodies and living inside computers where they can pass centuries of subjective time in mere seconds of real time, such a person ("Morgan" in Robinson's narrative) might not even seem human to us. Even the calendar will be changed:
The Wall Street Journal has a special millennium edition, the January 1st, 2000 issue, on "The Amazing Future," available on their Web site: http://interactive.wsj.com/millennium/. The potential of nanotechnology is highlighted in two articles, neither of which shies away from the more far-reaching consequences of progress in nanotechnology, consequences like immortality and cryonics:
A fanciful Web article "Christmas Physics: Nano-Toymaking" speculates that the solution to Santa Claus's biggest problem how he could "possibly carry enough presents in his sleigh to grant the wishes of the world's 191 million children" would be to use nanotechnology to construct the presents on-site, using atoms already present under the tree.
"Small Wonders", a featured published in the SF Weekly in December, 1999, describes interesting progress in nanoscale science accomplished by Bay Area researchers, but is seriously confused about quantum mechanics. Accusing Drexler of ignoring quantum mechanics in Nanosystems (look up "quantum" in the index if you want to judge for yourself), the SF Weekly claims molecular machines won't work and that Foresight has somehow fooled Time, Business Week and most other publications into believing "...misconceptions about nanodevelopment..." Ralph Merkle points out some basic quantum mechanics they seem to have overlooked, see http://www.foresight.org/hotnews/1999SFWkly.html.
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