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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 #22     YOU ARE HERE

Thirty Essential Nanotechnology Studies - #22

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 #22 How can proliferation and use of nanofactories and their products be limited?
  This study will explore the challenge of preventing black markets, independent development, etc.
Subquestion How easy will it be to detect a development program?
Preliminary answer Probably quite difficult. Development does not require exotic materials or massive industrial activity. It may require mainly off-the-shelf technology. Researchers will be from diverse and common fields like software engineering and computational chemistry, not concentrated in one exotic field. Depending on the bootstrapping 'recipe', the design effort might be dispersed (networked/teleconferenced), and the entire physical operation might be carried out in one moderate-sized laboratory. And most of the research would not require world-class talent, though a successful program today might well require world-class leadership.
Subquestion How much easier will it be to develop a second nanofactory, compared with developing the first one?
Preliminary answer Reverse engineering will give hints as to which path to take. The definite knowledge that it can be done at all will reduce institutional friction. General technology advances will give a second program more to work with. Any leaks of know-how or software will further reduce the difficulty. It seems likely that the second nanofactory will be an order of magnitude less costly.
Subquestion How can nanoscale products be detected?
Preliminary answer Unknown. Nanoporous filters can trap them. Non-proximal sub-wavelength optics, if they work as claimed, may be able to scan for them at a distance—but there are lots of natural nanoparticles, so recognition is also a problem. MRI may be able to detect at a distance, though resolution is a problem and there may be a theoretical limit.
Subquestion How easy will it be to smuggle nanofactories?
Preliminary answer A fully functional nanofactory, able (given a supply of feedstock, energy, and blueprint software) to make one twice as big (and so on) and thus recreate a full manufacturing capacity, could be just a few microns on a side—small enough to hide inside a human cell. Or any convenient size in between. We don't know of any way to detect something like that without total intrusion of the volume being searched, which probably implies destruction.
Subquestion How easy will it be to detect proliferation-related activity?
Preliminary answer Quite difficult. Especially once the 'recipe' is known, it will be very hard to spot a project—R&D for a nanofactory project may require only a single small lab and a few computers. (For comparison, consider Zyvex.) 
Subquestion How effective will deterrence be?
Preliminary answer To someone lacking a comparable capability, a nanofactory would be incredibly valuable. This implies that deterrence will not be successful.
Conclusion It will be very difficult to limit proliferation of nanofactory technology and possession of bootleg nanofactories.
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?
12. How could an effective development program be structured?
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?
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?
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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