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Nano In The News
Winston is doing his best to keep pace with the nanotechnology revolution, but it's not easy because so much is happening. One significant issue is who sets the standards and controls the agenda for nanotech development. A new entrant--actually it's not so new-- is Foresight Nanotechnology Institute.

FNI recently released its Technology Roadmap for Productive Nanosystems. This is the first of several technical and policy roadmaps that FNI intends to develop and make public. The FNI website states that these roadmaps:

    provide a framework for articulating the pathways and steps which must be taken to progress from the present state of development to a desired future goal. They illuminate what we should be focusing on today and provide an important basis for defining current research and commercialization agendas.
The first roadmap addresses a host of issues that Winston can't understand because he's only a dog. According to the FNI website, these issues include:
  • Current capabilities in design, modeling, fabrication, and testing

  • Overall readiness for developing next-generation productive nanosystems

  • Strategies for developing next-generation productive nanosystems

  • Potential products of systems at successive levels of development

  • Policy Issues raised by productive nanosystems
The "policy issues raised by productive nanosystems" include government regulation.

The roadmap says that one of the biggest hurdles to nanotech implementation is figuring out how to build the little guys. More accurately, the problem is figuring out how to get the little guys to build themselves. One way suggested in the roadmap is using DNA and protein to "provide a basis for the design and fabrication of atomically-precise, self-assembling composite structures...."

Does this mean merging DNA with inorganic matter to allow nano-tubes to reproduce themselves by themselves? The answer is yes, and that is one of the major policy issues "raised by productive nanosystems." Productive could be more accurately changed to reproductive. Whether they like it or not, the federal government and agencies will have to decide these policy issues sooner or later. At the speed nanotech is moving, it will be sooner rather than later.

FNI hopes its roadmaps will influence the debate on and decision of these policy issues. FNI is working with Battelle, the Electric Power Research Institute and other very credible entities on its roadmaps. The Waitt Family Foundation put up much of the initial funding.

Eric Drexler was one of FNI's founders. Mr. Drexler wrote the now-becoming-famous book Engines of Creation, which warned that nanotech could turn the world into "Gray Goo." Let's hope FNI's roadmap will help us steer clear of Goo-Land.
  • Click for FNI website.
  • Click for FNI roadmap.

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