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Making Useful Forecasts

from the wheat-from-chaff dept.
Senior Associate Richard H. Smith presents a brief overview of the potential of nanotechnology in a cover article in Modern Drug Discovery ("Nanotechnology gains momentum," April 2001), an publication of the American Chemical Society.

Smith, who is director of forecasts in science, technology, and engineering for Coates & Jarratt, Inc., in Washington, DC., writes: "Given a continuation of current trends, a truly potent nanotechnology will likely be realized within a decade or two. It could come in the form of exquisitely precise top-down procedures, such as moving molecules around with tiny robotic 'hands', or through a massively parallel bottom-up process, such as replicating cells."

After covering a variety of short- and medium-term research and development initiatives and discussing the potential long-term possibilities, Smith concludes: "That nanotechnology, even self-assembly with intentionality, is a serious field is no longer in doubt. But how to sort useful forecasts from unsupported conjecture remains a challenge. Are artificial immune systems worthy of discussion, or should we stick with whatís here and now? Should we fund only near-term deliverables and needed infrastructure, or challenge ourselves to keep investigating speculative but beneficial possibilities? The answer is easy: We should do both."

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