Dealing with future nanotech dangers

April 22, 2003 | Source: KurzweilAI

New York — The Center for Responsible Nanotechnology (CRN) issued a report today identifying 11 significant risks of molecular nanotechnology (MNT) along with possible solutions.

MNT has “the potential to disrupt many aspects of society and politics,” the report says. “The power of the technology may cause two competing nations to enter a disruptive and unstable arms race. The flexibility and small size of molecular manufacturing systems and their products may allow the creation of free-floating, foraging self-replicators: a ‘gray goo’ that could eat the biosphere if it weren’t stopped.

“Weapons and surveillance devices could be made small, cheap, powerful, and very numerous. Cheap manufacturing and duplication of designs could lead to economic upheaval. Overuse of inexpensive products could cause widespread environmental damage. Attempts to control these risks may lead to abusive restrictions, or create demand for a black market that would be very risky and almost impossible to stop; small nanofactories will be very easy to smuggle, and fully dangerous.

“Without some controls, advanced nanotechnology will probably be extremely dangerous–but desirable to many people,” the report continues. “In addition, manufacturing systems will probably be portable and easy to duplicate. This means that it will be quite hard to control the use of the technology if unrestricted versions ever become widely available. On the other hand, overly restrictive policy will encourage uncontrolled release.”

CRN concludes that an “early, closely guarded, international development program is probably the approach that retains the most control in the long run.”

Molecular nanotechnology risks and solutions: CRN current research results