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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 #28     YOU ARE HERE

Thirty Essential Nanotechnology Studies - #28

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 #28 What policies toward development of molecular manufacturing does all this suggest?
  There are several policy options for the development of molecular manufacturing (MM). Which ones might work as planned, and what would be their effects on post-development courses of action?
Subquestion Relinquishment: prevent development worldwide?
Preliminary answer This is highly unlikely to work. It'll be too easy to develop, and the basic theory has been published for more than a decade.
The effect of attempted relinquishment would be to ensure that MM was developed by random outlaws. The delay would allow time for the development of more enabling technologies, probably increasing the abruptness of development and deployment.
Subquestion Asymmetric development: one nation develops in advance of the others?
Preliminary answer This appears possible, depending on which nation. If a nation other than the U.S. tries it and does not conceal their effort successfully, the U.S. will likely be able to catch up, leading to parallel development or possibly to U.S.-led asymmetric development. A U.S. program would have to be well designed, avoiding a variety of problems common to U.S. government-funded programs.
  The likely follow-up to asymmetric development would be an attempt at worldwide control. The effects of this would depend heavily on the policies adopted by the government in question.
Subquestion Parallel development: several nations develop at around the same time?
Preliminary answer This seems quite likely, either from an arms race or from development by multinational corporations.
The result would depend heavily on policy. If an arms race can be avoided, and effective administration/policing can be implemented, it could turn out well. But an arms race looks pretty likely, and would probably be disastrous. Also, parallel development would make it harder to restrict proliferation.
Subquestion International development: explicit cooperation between nations?
Preliminary answer Seems unlikely to be tried. If it is tried, it's likely to fail due to politics, mistrust, and inefficiency that allows a national crash/secret program to finish first.
International development would reduce the pressure for an arms race and give multiple nations a stake in setting the policy for use of MM. Paradoxically, it could reduce proliferation, since joint ownership would encourage the widespread availability of controlled versions and blunt the desire for uncontrolled versions.
Corporate development by a large, international corporation may also be an interesting possibility to study. It may even be worth trying to make it happen that way. Corporate development is likely to be a lot more efficient and less vulnerable to politics than a project that's shared between governments. But it would still promote the benefits listed in the previous paragraph, assuming the corporation has (and follows!) really good policy advice.
Subquestion Non-proliferation: restrict availability of the core technology?
Preliminary answer Will probably be tried. Will probably help to some extent. Will be ineffective in the long run unless combined with two other policies: 1) reduce desire for unrestricted technology by providing easy access to restricted but useful technology; 2) develop the ability to deal with eventual proliferation.
  The alternative—allowing everyone access to the unrestricted technology—appears extremely dangerous; perhaps comparable to leaving the post-Soviet nuclear infrastructure unguarded.
Subquestion Slow development: don't make special efforts?
Preliminary answer Likely to lead to random development, rapid bootstrapping due to other nanotech advances, and lack of ability to implement policy.
If development is delayed long enough for other technologies to catch up (perhaps two or three decades) then this could give us time to adjust gradually. But that much delay appears unlikely, and we'd lose the benefits for those decades (see study #30).
Subquestion Accelerated development: put limited effort toward it?
Preliminary answer Would likely inspire other efforts, leading to parallel development.
Subquestion Crash development: put maximum effort toward it?
Preliminary answer Could lead to either parallel or asymmetric development. Could smooth the transition by requiring more creativity to design products.
Conclusion Early development combined with anti-proliferation policy appears preferable, but more study is needed, and the outcome depends heavily on the actions of the developer(s).
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?
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?
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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