In the postal mail today was the paper copy of a 6-7 July 2006 conference report: “The Risk Governance of Nanotechnology: Recommendations for Managing a Global Issue” (link to PDF) held at the Swiss Re Centre for Global Dialogue last summer. This well-run and highly international meeting is the highest profile meeting to include consideration of longer-term risks in nanotech. From the “Summary of Frame Two NGO Workshop” presented by yours truly (page 49 of paper version, page 51 of PDF):
Military offence applications are particularly concerning because, unlike nuclear arms, verification difficulties mean there is no clear point at which opponents reach stability in the process of escalation and proliferation. Existing arms treaties may not apply to nanotechnology-based weapons, and there are important intellectual property, commercial confidentiality, and national security issues involved in addressing this challenge…
Finally, while current attention is focused on near-term concerns, questions raised by Frame Two nanotechnologies are more difficult, particularly with respect to fourth-generation, atomically-precise manufacturing of macroscale products. The risk governance process must move faster to address longer-term political, military, and civil liberties issues in time.
The meeting also discussed the risks of *not* getting nanotech benefits into the hands of those who need them — an important perspective to remember.
I had trouble finding the URL for this report; thanks to Nanowerk for posting it. —Christine