Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Roadmap conference is coming up

A couple years ago, Foresight, Battelle, the Society of Manufacturing Engineers and a few other organizations put together a project called the Technology Roadmap for Productive Nanosystems. The idea was to figure out the steps that would lead us to a world of safe and mature nanotechnology. I know some of the people involved in this effort. They've had meetings to which I've not been invited, which is appropriate because they have important work to do, and they don't want the distraction of answering questions from the idly curious.

Their work has percolated along for about two years (that I've been aware of, probably more time before that) and finally there will be a conference where they will tell the world what they've been up to. As luck would have it, I have a schedule conflict and will be unable to attend, but there will be a CDROM of the presentations and I hope to ask around and see if I can get a copy.

I have high hopes for the work these people have done. This is a well-organized effort by a lot of very smart people with a wide range of relevant expertise.

The Center for Responsible Nanotechnology website discusses the societal risk of multiple competing nanotechnology development efforts:
The existence of multiple programs to develop molecular manufacturing greatly increases some of the risks listed above. Each program provides a separate opportunity for the technology to be stolen or otherwise released from restriction. Each nation with an independent program is potentially a separate player in a nanotech arms race. The reduced opportunity for control may make restrictions harder to enforce, but this may lead to greater efforts to impose harsher restrictions. Reduced control also makes it less likely that a non-disruptive economic solution can develop.
A unified effort like the Technology Roadmap initiative represents a safeguard against these very realistic concerns.