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Current Results of Our 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   

bulletTimeline for Molecular Manufacturing   
bulletProducts of Molecular Manufacturing
bulletBenefits of Molecular Manufacturing
bulletDangers of Molecular Manufacturing  
bulletNo Simple Solutions
bulletAdministration Options
bulletThe Need for Early Development
bulletThe Need for International Development
bulletThirty Essential Nanotechnology Studies
bulletStudy #12     YOU ARE HERE

Thirty Essential Nanotechnology Studies - #12

Overview of all studies: Because of the largely unexpected transformational power of molecular manufacturing, it is urgent to understand the issues raised. To date, there has not been anything approaching an adequate study of these issues. CRN's recommended series of thirty essential studies is organized into five sections, covering fundamental theory, possible technological capabilities, bootstrapping potential, product capabilities, and policy questions. Several preliminary conclusions are stated, and because our understanding points to a crisis, a parallel process of conducting the studies is urged. 

CRN is actively looking for researchers interested in performing or assisting with this work. Please contact CRN Research Director Chris Phoenix if you would like more information or if you have comments on the proposed studies.

Study #12 How could an effective development program be structured?
  We need to understand the factors that will affect the success of a targeted or crash program.
Subquestion How can the scientists and engineers be engaged in the project?
Preliminary answer A lesson from the computer industry may be relevant here: Hire people who are too young to know what's impossible. Once feasibility is established (or assumed, for a crash project), skeptical scientists should not be put in charge of research. In fact, the people in charge should probably be engineers, not scientists.
Subquestion How could it be funded?
Preliminary answer An incremental project, funded by spinoff developments and near-term goals, would take too long. A crash project will probably be funded by a military budget or by politics of national pride. Since the biggest results will come at the end, funding will have to be based on long-term thinking. This may be hard to do in either U.S. business or political systems, but might be more achievable in other systems including U.S. military and non-American top-down planning systems.
Subquestion How could bureaucratic friction be minimized?
Preliminary answer As with funding, a minimum of interference from outside once the project is started will be a big help. Organizational design and culture will be important to minimize internal politics. Trust in team leaders will be crucial to minimize the need for detailed oversight.
Subquestion How could innovation be maximized?
Preliminary answer Don't let the most cautious/skeptical people control the funding. Make sure that the goal is to weed out approaches that can't work rather than to fund only projects that are sure to work.
Subquestion How can the shortest path be rapidly invented and identified?
Preliminary answer A contest would be a good way to generate lots of suggestions. If a short path is not obvious, then investigate in parallel with a goal of rapidly establishing feasibility of each path.
Subquestion How should the overall project be structured?
Preliminary answer This depends on how much of a hurry you're in, and how early a development pathway can be identified. If you're in a big hurry, start work in parallel on CAD software, mechanosynthesis, nanomachine design, and nanofactory design.
Subquestion Under what (corporate or governmental) cultures could an effective program take place?
Preliminary answer Given the likely intense competition, an effective program would have to be fast. Silicon Valley is probably a good place to look for inspiration.
Subquestion How can development time be minimized?
Preliminary answer Nanoscale lab techniques are developing rapidly; so is ability to test mechanosynthesis in simulation. And nanomachine design may turn out to be not all that complicated—as long as you have good software. Software is likely to take the longest to develop, since it involves an industrial-strength CAD/simulation system covering multiple length scales, several different kinds of simulation packages, and lots of physics bookkeeping. But starting software even before the preliminary science results come back would be hard to justify in terms of traditional product planning.
Subquestion What cost and time overruns should be expected?
Preliminary answer These can't really be estimated until the project is started.
Conclusion An effective development program would probably include several features not easily implemented in Western corporate or government-funded programs, with the possible exception of a few crash military projects. A central-planning approach to obtaining plentiful funding (probably multiple billions of US$) combined with a semi-autonomous approach to design work is probably the fastest approach.
Other studies 1. Is mechanically guided chemistry a viable basis for a manufacturing technology?
2. To what extent is molecular manufacturing counterintuitive and underappreciated in a way that causes underestimation of its importance?
What is the performance and potential of diamondoid machine-phase chemical manufacturing and products?
4. What is the performance and potential of biological programmable manufacturing and products?
5. What is the performance and potential of nucleic acid manufacturing and products?
6. What other chemistries and options should be studied?
What applicable sensing, manipulation, and fabrication tools exist?
8. What will be required to develop diamondoid machine-phase chemical manufacturing and products?
9. What will be required to develop biological programmable manufacturing and products?
10. What will be required to develop nucleic acid manufacturing and products?
11. How rapidly will the cost of development decrease?
What is the probable capability of the manufacturing system?
14. How capable will the products be?
15. What will the products cost?
16. How rapidly could products be designed?
Which of today's products will the system make more accessible or cheaper?
18. What new products will the system make accessible?
19. What impact will the system have on production and distribution?
20. What effect will molecular manufacturing have on military and government capability and planning, considering the implications of arms races and unbalanced development?
21. What effect will this have on macro- and microeconomics?
22. How can proliferation and use of nanofactories and their products be limited?
23. What effect will this have on policing?
24. What beneficial or desirable effects could this have?
25. What effect could this have on civil rights and liberties?
26. What are the disaster/disruption scenarios?
27. What effect could this have on geopolitics?
28. What policies toward development of molecular manufacturing does all this suggest?
29. What policies toward administration of molecular manufacturing does all this suggest?
30. How can appropriate policy be made and implemented?
Studies should begin immediately. The situation is extremely urgent. The stakes are unprecedented, and the world is unprepared. The basic findings of these studies should be verified as rapidly as possible (months, not years). Policy preparation and planning for implementation, likely including a crash development program, should begin immediately.

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