Nanotech Scenario Series
Results of Our Ongoing Research
These pages, marked with
GREEN headings, are published for
comment and criticism. These
are not our final findings; some of these opinions will probably change.
LOG OF UPDATES
CRN Research: Overview of Current Findings
Administration Options for Molecular
This page is more preliminary than the others. CRN
is not recommending these solutions yet; we need to do more research before we
will know what can work in the real world. However, we do think that each of the
problems addressed by these solutions must be dealt with somehow.
molecular manufacturing is
developed, it will have to be administered. There are several approaches that
might help. CRN is not advocating any of these approaches at this point; we
don't know enough about how the technology will be developed or in what context.
We also have to point out that we don't think any one approach will be enough.
Any effective program will require a balance of several different kinds of
administration. Some possibilities include built-in
in personal nanofactories; intellectual property reform; and international
cooperation, monitoring, or regulation of various kinds. Despite the difficulties and
complexities, we believe that a solution can be found to preserve most of the
potential benefits while avoiding the most severe risks.
|Administration of MNT will
need several approaches.
molecular nanotechnology (MNT) will
require several cooperating approaches. As discussed on our
No Simple Solutions
page, any single approach can reduce only a few
of the risks—while greatly increasing other risks. This page lists a few
options for administrative approaches. The list is not complete, of course,
and some of these may turn out to be unnecessary or even counterproductive. CRN will be working to develop more options and evaluate the ones already
proposed. We strongly encourage other groups to do the same.
restrictions can help. (MORE)
molecular manufacturing is so dangerous, the best solution appears to be
careful administration of the technology, including some mandatory
restrictions. Fortunately, the same features that make MNT dangerous also
allow the implementation of several kinds of technological restriction that
may form useful components of an overall administration program.
that might be adapted for unauthorized molecular manufacturing pose a
serious threat to MNT security. Other products pose other kinds of
threats, and additional restriction will probably be desirable. Still, many
products, once approved, can be built freely—and for some classes of
products, approval can be a rapid and automated process. MNT-built
functionality will be amazingly compact: a supercomputer could fit inside a
grain of sand. This allows a human-scale product, such as a
personal nanofactory, to include dedicated security or monitoring hardware. Massive computer power can help with several other problems, including
privacy-safe surveillance and patent reform.
program is probably necessary. (MORE)
administration appears to be necessary for several reasons. Some of
the risks of molecular nanotechnology are potentially global in scope. At least one of the sources of risk, the possibility of a nanotech arms
race, is explicitly international. Even well-intentioned and
well-policed nations cannot always prevent internal terrorism, and companies
with strong financial incentive do not always design secure products. Each additional MNT program increases the risk that
unrestricted molecular manufacturing will fall into the wrong hands. For all these reasons, it
seems best to have a single, trustworthy, international administration imposing
tight controls on the technology. However, unless the technology is made widely
available for a wide variety of applications and purposes, there will be strong
incentive for independent MNT programs. Any successful administration
program must satisfy many competing interests.
|We need to start
working now; this will take a lot of planning. (MORE)
|Molecular nanotechnology will emerge suddenly, perhaps
within the next ten years, and probably within the next twenty. If it takes
the world by surprise, we will not have systems in place that can deal with
it. No single organization or mindset can create a full and appropriate
policy—and inappropriate policy will only make things worse. A combination
of separate policy efforts will get in each other's way, and the risks will
slip through the cracks. By the time MNT arrives, we must have accomplished
several things that each take significant time. First, we must understand
the risks. Second, make policy. Third, design institutions. Fourth,
create the institutions—at all levels including international levels, where
things move slowly. This could easily take twenty years. If advanced
nanotechnology could arrive in ten or fifteen years, then we'd better get to
|CRN's proposal: something for
|The Center for Responsible Nanotechnology has developed a
tentative outline for the international administration of molecular
nanotechnology. Under this proposal, a self-contained, secure molecular
nanofactory—would be developed in a closely
guarded crash program. The nanofactory would be released for widespread
use. A personal nanofactory would only be able to make approved products, or
approved classes of products, and the approval process could be quite
flexible without giving up too much control. Very few products, even
military products, require a built-in molecular manufacturing capability. Families of products could be classified according to increasing product
safety and MNT containment. Only unusually dangerous products would require
any human approval. At the same time, the built-in restriction
infrastructure would allow military, commercial, and societal interests to
be protected. Intellectual property could be protected without discouraging
innovation or preventing humanitarian aid.
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