Gingrich and Kurzweil: promise and peril of nanotech

May 20, 2002 | Source: KurzweilAI

NEW YORK, May 20 — Keynote speakers Newt Gingrich and Ray Kurzweil addressed the promises and peril of nanotechnology in a press conference at the NanoBusiness Spring 2002 conference here today.
“The only viable and responsible path is to set a careful course that can realize the promise while managing the peril,” said Kurzweil.

Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of United States House of Representatives and Honorary Chairman of the NanoBusiness Alliance, strengthened this by pointing out that on one hand, nanotechnology and related technologies can eliminate poverty while simultaneously cleaning up the environmental messes left from the messier technologies of the first industrial age, while on the other hand, these technologies are creating very grave new dangers. He cited the feasibility of a bioengineered virus that could kill every human.

“We are on the verge of powerful new anti-viral medicines that would make the above scenario unlikely,” Kurzweil responded. However, they agreed that it will be crucial to get the anti-viral technology before the advent of bioengineered viral pathogens (from terrorists, accidents, etc.).

Kurzweil pointed out that we’ve stayed one or two steps ahead of software viruses with the technological immune system that has emerged to combat them. “Hopefully we’ll do at least as well with the more potent biological risk.”

On a political level, Gingrich called for easing governmental restrictions that block cooperation among nations and companies across the globe.

One journalist pointed out that China plans to spend $1 billion a year on nanotechnology and asked whether that was a danger. Gingrich responded that in an interdependent international economy, “China’s gain would be a gain for us, not a threat, provided that China continues to move in a democratic direction.”