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Foresight Update 8 (page 5)

A publication of the Foresight Institute

Table of Contents - Foresight Update 8

Books of Note

Books are listed in order of increasing specialization and level of reading challenge. Your suggestions are welcome. If a book's price looks too high, ask your librarian to get it through interdepartmental loans.--Editor

Envisioning a Sustainable Society, by Lester W. Milbrath, State University of New York Press, 1989, paperback, $18.95. Written by a speaker at the First Foresight Conference on Nanotechnology, this is the first environmental book to discuss nanotechnology. Possible effects, both positive and negative, are outlined, along with hypertext and the science court procedure. (There is a minor confusion regarding the connection between hypertext and nanotechnology, which would be easily fixed in a hypertext medium.) Recommended especially for those interested in the response of an academic environmentalist to Drexler's book Engines of Creation. For the lay reader.
Analog Essays on Science, ed. Stanley Schmidt, Wiley Science, 1990, hardcover, $19.95. Twenty science essays including two based on nanotechnology and one on memes. Accessible to the lay reader.

Microcosmos, by Jeremy Burgess, Michael Marten, and Rosemary Taylor, Cambridge University Press, 1987, hardcover, $29.95. A beautiful collection of pictures taken with light microscopes and electron microscopes of the everyday objects around (and within) us. Fascinating to those with or without a science background, the book can be used to interest nontechnical people of all ages, from grandparents to five-year-olds, in the microscale world. FI Advisor Stewart Brand: "The range and quality of images presented here is an exciting introduction to the micro-future."

Molecular Machinery, by Andrew Scott, Basil Blackwell, 1989, hardcover, $19.95. An interesting short overview of chemistry, from bond types to existing molecular devices like catalysts. Accessible to the serious lay reader.

Molecular Biology of the Cell, by Bruce Alberts et al., Garland, 1989, hardcover, $39.95. Second massive edition of this work on the molecular machinery in cells and general cell biology; explains how this machinery is organized in biological systems (in a manner quite different from the organization planned for nanomechanical systems). For readers with some science background.

Molecular Biology of the Gene, by James Watson et al., Benjamin/Cummings, 1987, hardcover, $55.95. Fourth massive edition of this classic work on genetics. Narrower in scope than the book listed above, but it covers much more than just DNA. Technical.

Table of Contents - Foresight Update 8

New Journal: Nanotechnology

A Call for Papers has been issued for a new journal entitled Nanotechnology to be sponsored by the Institute of Physics in the U.K. A quarterly to begin in June 1990, it is described as the world's first journal devoted exclusively to nanoscale physics, electronics, and engineering. Nanotechnology is stated to be "a key enabling technology of the future," which "bridges the gap between the very ultimate advances in conventional engineering manufacture, metrology, and performance and the application of atomic level regimes to practical usage in engineering, fabrication, optics, electronics, materials science, biology, and medicine."

The planned scope of the journal includes: The backgrounds of the Editor and Editorial Board indicate that the journal will have a special focus on metrology, the science of measurement. E. Clayton Teague of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, one of the journal's Regional Editors, informs us that it will also cover nanoelectronics, molecular electronics, and vacuum microelectronics.

While the journal's scope indicates that the title Nanotechnology refers to the broader, British meaning (not just technology based on molecular manufacturing, but all nanoscale technology) it promises to be an interesting contribution to the literature. For further information, contact the publisher IOP Publishing Ltd, Techno House, Redcliffe Way, Bristol, BS1 6NX, U.K.

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Market-style Software Progress

The economics journal Market Process will publish an article on market-style "agoric" software in the Spring 1990 issue. The article is based on a visit by Prof. Don Lavoie of George Mason University and two graduate students to agoric authors Mark S. Miller and Eric Drexler. A free copy of this issue is available by writing to the Center for the Study of Market Processes, address given below.

The visit was stimulated by the publication of a series of three papers on agoric computation written by Miller and Drexler; their suggestions may be relevant to the problem of efficiently exploiting computer systems with a trillion processors (as well as more near-term issues in computation). Miller has donated 40 sets of the papers for distribution to interested Foresight members; please send to the Foresight Institute a stamped, self-addressed 9 by 12 inch envelope with $2.05 postage within the U.S. to receive your copies.

Prof. Lavoie now leads a small working group called the Agorics Project; a goal of the group is to use agoric computational techniques to model the workings of economic mechanisms, starting with Carl Menger's theory of the evolution of money in a barter economy. The group is primarily composed of economists and could use assistance from one or more persons able to program in the Smalltalk language. Those interested should contact Prof. Lavoie at the address below.

The Agorics Project is planning a symposium entitled "Evolutionary Economics: Learning from Computation" on April 23-24. Sponsored by the Center for the Study of Market Processes, it will be held at George Mason University in Fairfax, VA, near Washington, DC. The focus of the meeting will be open-ended, evolutionary process modeling rather than the more traditional closed-ended, equilibrium modeling more common to economics. Among the topics to be included are agoric systems (speaker Mark S. Miller), neural nets, genetic algorithms and classifier systems. There will be no registration fee for the symposium. For further information, contact the Center for the Study of Market Processes, Dept. of Economics, George Mason University, 4400 University Drive, Fairfax, VA 22030.

[Editor's note: see the report on the symposium in Update 9. ]

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New Voice at FI

When you call the Foresight Institute you will hear a new voice, that of Chris Rodgers. Chris is working with FI half-time and handles most phone inquiries and the vast bulk of mail requests, including all new memberships and renewals. We're glad to have her on board and hope you will join with us in welcoming her when you call FI.

Table of Contents - Foresight Update 8

Nanotechnology Conference Tapes Available

The First Foresight Conference on Nanotechnology was recorded on audiotape and videotape; these tapes are now available. The topics and speakers at the meeting were as follows: As we go to press we have not received a release form from the speaker marked with an asterisk, Joseph Mallon, but we hope to be able to include his talk in the distributed tape sets.

An important note about the videotapes: these were made for documentary purposes only and are not broadcast quality.

The cost of the audiotape set is $125, with a special price of $75 for students, nonprofit organizations, and conference attendees. The cost of the videotape set (in U.S. standard VHS format) is $225, with a special price of $175 for students, nonprofit organizations, and conference attendees. To qualify for the discounted price, students and nonprofit organizations should include proof of status with their order.

To receive the tapes, send the amount above to the Foresight Institute at P.O. Box 61058, Palo Alto, CA 94306 USA. California residents add sales tax; outside the U.S. add $20 for additional shipping cost. Allow 4-6 weeks for delivery; no P.O. Box addresses please. Funds may be sent in the form of checks drawn on a U.S. bank or a postal money order cashable in the U.S.

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Japan Schedule

Much will be happening in March, but as we go to press it is both too early to report the results, and too late to list them in Upcoming Events. Here is a list of nanotechnology lectures (by Eric Drexler) scheduled for March, most in Japan: [Editor's note: see Eric Drexler's report on his trip to Japan in Update 9. ]

Table of Contents - Foresight Update 8

Media Coverage

In the December 9 issue of The Economist, James Younger presents one of the clearest explanations of nanotechnology that has appeared in the nontechnical press, including the concept of assemblers and the possibility of both beneficial and abusive applications. Not surprising for The Economist, our favorite newsweekly, which routinely includes good science and technology coverage.

The December 23 Science News listed the Foresight Institute's first conference on nanotechnology as one of the top eight technology stories of the year.

The January Scientific American Science and the Citizen section included a piece by Timothy Beardsley on the Foresight Conference. In true journalists' tradition, the writer did his best to include criticisms of the concepts, but nanotechnology emerged unscathed.

The Los Angeles Times (Jan. 7) and the Washington Post (Jan. 14) ran an article by Michael Schrage on the future of technological advance, including nanotechnology.

The British science and technology series "Tomorrow's World" shown on BBC-TV (8 February) featured an interview of Eric Drexler on nanotechnology.

The book Megatrends 2000 by John Naisbitt and Patricia Aburdeen (William Morrow, 1990) mentions nanotechnology and the book Engines of Creation.

The March issue of JOM (formerly the Journal of Metals) is expected to include coverage of the Foresight Conference by David Forrest, a member of the MIT Nanotechnology Study Group. Additional coverage of nanotechnology and the conference is expected in the Whole Earth Review (Summer 1990 issue) and The Atlantic.

Table of Contents - Foresight Update 8

Science in the Nineties

The journal Science has released its predictions for the 1990s.

Design by trial and error will be replaced by rational design with the aid of computers, according to M. Mitchell Waldrop in a discussion of artificial antibodies, enzymes, and nonprotein catalysts. The computer technology for molecular simulation will be on every desktop. Enzymes will be redesigned for industrial uses by tailoring them for a far greater range of chemical environments than they now have. New molecularly engineered layered catalysts will eliminate the need for sulfuric acid and hydrogen fluoride in important industrial reactions. And the problem of protein folding will be solved.

Robert Poole predicts that one of the major themes of physics, chemistry, and materials science in the 1990s will be the behavior of matter at the nanometer scale. As examples of the hot research topics of the decade Poole cites quantum well devices, cluster-assembled materials, and nanocomposites--in which small grain sizes lead to novel bulk properties and easier processing. Within the decade someone "is likely to learn how to piece together atoms and molecules one at a time using the STM."

[Science 247:26-29,5Jan90]

Table of Contents - Foresight Update 8

Foresight thanks Dave Kilbridge for converting Update 8 to html for this web page.

From Foresight Update 8, originally published 15 March 1990.

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