Here at Foresight our main focus is on longer-term technologies such as molecular manufacturing, but we keep an eye on what’s arriving along the nearer-term pathways as well. In 2007 I attended a workshop on “Nanotechnology for Chemical and Biological Defense” and the proceedings volume of that meeting, with the same name, is now available. An excerpt:
For the misuse of nanotechnology, the groups explored scenarios in which state or nonstate adversaries might use nanotechnology applications against the US and allies. These groups also considered proliferation challenges. The specific threats considered were new or nanoenabled biochemical agents; malfeasant exploitation of the toxicological or other deleterious health effects; evasion of vaccines, innate human immunity, or other medical countermeasures; and self-assembled materials and devices to molecular assemblers.
Scenarios involving “abiotic or mechanical self-replicating synthetic self-assembly” were regarded as beyond the timeframe covered by the book.
Those of us who answer questions from the public about potential abuse of nanotech frequently point out that there is a much more immediate concern coming from biological technologies. This book looks at those issues and how nanotech might help.
As one who rarely envisions biotech threats, I found the workshop scary. But it’s good that someone is paying attention to these concerns. Check out the book, edited by Margaret Kosal of Georgia Tech. —Chris Peterson