Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Streaking on ahead


Now that the Foresight Institute is finally getting its props, who's going to inherit the nano-madmen mantle? Even the cult of cryonics is getting a stamp of respectability.

Well, last week, I met Chris Phoenix, half of the dynamic duo that make up the Center for Responsible Nanotechnology (CRN), and he seems like a very quiet, intelligent man, with not an outward hint of mouth-foaming madness. But I'm sure he and henchman Mike Treder's just-released Systems of Ethics for administration of molecular nanotechnology will evoke little more than an amused chuckle from most of the world's current nanobusinesses.

Like Foresight, which studied the societal and ethical implications of nanotechnology a decade before the U.S. government began doling out millions of dollars for the same purpose, CRN is leapfrogging beyond details like the actual invention of nanofactories (even a tabletop model is envisioned in this report), and is cutting directly to the subject for which the government will likely dole out grants a quarter-century from now: a system of principles to guide the way in which governments, businesses and individuals use this powerful technology.

    Development and application of MNT policy cannot be reactive. The problems, individually and collectively, could spiral out of control before today's institutions have time to react. Prior to the advent of MNT, a collaborative international administrative council of some kind will have to be designed and created. However, at worldwide levels, where things move slowly, this might take as long as twenty years. If advanced nanotechnology could arrive within ten or fifteen years, urgent action is called for now.
I believe you, Chris and Mike, but like Will Farrell streaking on ahead in "Old School," (video clip), you should probably look behind you.


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