Many Foresight members and others have asked when the proceedings from the
First Foresight Conference
on Nanotechnology will be available. We are happy to announce that the
proceedings are scheduled to be published by MIT Press by the end of 1991.
The book will be produced in hardcover with nearly 100 illustrations and
several color plates. Production costs will determine the final price, but
the Press hopes to make the volume available for $35. (Those familiar with
the high prices common for hardcover science books will recognize that this
is an excellent price.)
The working title is Nanotechnology: The First Foresight Conference.James Lewis and I are the
editors. Dr. Lewis brought the project from its initial stage (a set of
taped lectures) to a coherent draft that could be sent to prospective publishers.
Then the manuscript came to me for negotiations with publishers, and the
final rounds of editing and production. We were gratified by the responses
from potential publishers: many were interested in the topic, and the final
decision on which publisher to select was a difficult one.
The volume consists of papers based on the presentations made at the conference,
two panel discussions, and two historical appendices. The material covers
a wide range of subjects relevant to nanotechnology:
Part I: Introduction to Nanotechnology
"Chairman's Overview and Introduction" by K. Eric Drexler,
Part II: Molecular Systems Engineering
"Atomic Imaging and Positioning" by John Foster, IBM
"Molecular Modeling and Design" by Jay Ponder, Yale University
"Protein Design" by Tracy Handel, Du Pont
"Design of Self-Assembling Molecular Systems: Electrostatic Structural
Enforcement in Low-Dimensional Molecular Solids" by Michael Ward, Du
"Molecular Engineering in Japan: Progress toward Nanotechnology"
by Hiroyuki Sasabe, RIKEN
"Strategies for Molecular Systems Engineering" by K. Eric
Drexler, Stanford University
Part III: Related Technologies
"Molecular Electronics" by Robert Birge, Syracuse University
"Quantum Transistors and Integrated Circuits" by Federico
Capasso, AT&T Bell Labs
"Theoretical Limits to Computation" by Norman Margolus,
"Nanotechnology from a Micromachinist's Viewpoint" by Joseph
Mallon, Nova Sensor
Technical panel: "What are the major problems to be overcome
in designing and building molecular systems?"
Part IV: Implications
"Medical Applications of Nanotechnology: Hints from the Field
of Aging Research" by Greg Fahy, American Red Cross
"Hopes and Fears of an Environmentalist for Nanotechnologies"
by Lester Milbrath, State University of New York at Buffalo
"The Future of Computation" by Bill Joy, Sun Microsystems
"Risk Assessment" by Ralph Merkle, Xerox PARC
"Economic Consequences of New Technologies" by Gordon Tullock,
University of Arizona
"The Weapon of Openness" by Arthur Kantrowitz, Dartmouth
Panel: "What public policy pitfalls can be avoided in nanotechnology
development and regulation?"
"Machines of Inner Space" by K. Eric Drexler. Reprinted
from the 1990 Yearbook of Science and the Future, by permission
of Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc.
"There's Plenty of Room at the Bottom" by Richard Feynman,
1959. Reprinted from Engineering and Science, February 1960,
by permission of the California Institute of Technology.
This will be the first technical book available on the topic, and we hope
that you will encourage your local and university libraries to order a copy
when it becomes available. (If they can't, please consider donating one.)
Over half of the profits generated by this volume will directly further
the work of the Foresight Institute.
The conference was hosted by Stanford University's Department of Computer
Science and co-sponsored (with the Foresight Institute) by Global Business
BC Crandall is also editing a book on applications, entitled Nanotechnology
and the Culture of Abundance.
Books are listed in increasing order of specialization and reading challenge.
Your suggestions are welcome. And remember, if a book's price looks too
high, your library should be able to get it through interdepartmental loan.--Editor
Hardball: How Politics is Played, Told by One Who Knows the Game,
by Christopher Matthews, Harper & Row, 1989, softcover, $8.95. As nanotechnology
approaches funding and moves toward policy formulation, we'll need to understand
how Washington works. Here's the straight (and entertaining) story.
The Art of the Long View, by Peter Schwartz, Doubleday,
1991, hardcover, $20. Superb guide to how to look ahead using scenario planning,
by the president of Global Business Network. To be reviewed in a later issue.
The Magic Machine: a Handbook of Computer Sorcery, by
A.K. Dewdney, W.H. Freeman, 1990, softcover, $15.95. A collection of his
columns from Scientific American, including one on nanocomputers.
Proceedings of the Fifth International Conference on Scanning Tunneling
Microscopy/Spectroscopy and First International Conference on Nanometer
Scale Science and Technology, eds. Richard J. Colton et al, American
Institute of Physics, 1991, hardcover. Same as the 1991 Mar/Apr Journal
of the Vacuum Science and Technology B, which is much easier to find.
An excellent collection of recent proximal probe experimental work. Includes
a proposal for a protoassembler (on the path to molecular nanotechnology):
"Molecular tip arrays for molecular imaging and nanofabrication"
Prof. Dean Taylor will be teaching a class in nanotechnology at Cornell
University this fall. The course will be offered in the Mechanical and Aerospace
Engineering School and will be taught at a level appropriate for seniors
and master's degree candidates. Taylor plans to use the latest draft of
the book Molecular Nanotechnology: Principles of Molecular Machines
and Computation (Eric Drexler, in progress for 1992 publication)
as a textbook.
Taylor reports: "I don't know if anyone from outside the School will
want to take the course, but generally anyone with a technical background
will be welcome. We will take a very strong analytical approach to the subject
much as Eric does in his upcoming book. This is not a Scientific American
survey course of topics in the area, but instead is intended to introduce
students to the area by completing appropriate analytical problems. The
course is intended to lead to a project which will involve questions of
design of nanomechanical devices. I think that the Cornell National Supercomputer
Facility will make a reasonable amount of cycles available so the students
can undertake modeling of some complex structures.
"Obviously this course is new, and I will be developing the direction,
material, examples, and assignments as we go."
For further information, contact: Prof. D. L. Taylor, Sibley School of Mechanical
and Aerospace Engineering, Cornell University, 219 Upson Hall, Ithaca, NY14853;
tel (607) 255-0990; email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Foresight Institute receives hundreds of letters requesting information
and sending ideas. Herewith some excerpts:
Nanotechnology would be very good and very bad for the idea of human settlements
not on a planetary surface [described in The High Frontier
by Gerard K. O'Neill]. Specifically, it makes the concept both possible
Nanotechnology should make O'Neill's idea feasible by making construction
of extraterrestrial settlements far cheaper than they otherwise would be.
This is important, because high cost is probably the most important impediment
to the realization of extraterrestrial settlement. Nanotechnology should
also help by making it feasible to have a completely closed ecology with
molecular machines instead of biological organisms.
It seems to me that nanotechnology would also destroy most of the rationale
for space settlements. The primary justification put forward by O'Neill
et al. was to build solar energy satellites to satisfy Earth's electricity
needs. The development of nanotechnology should make it possible to obtain
considerable amounts of energy at low cost with ground-based solar energy
or geothermal energy. The manufacture of items in space will also disappear
as a rationale for the settlement or industrialization of space. Yet another
reason for space colonization was to remove polluting industries from Earth.
This was a weak reason from the beginning; it would be cheaper to improve
pollution control technology. But with nanotechnology, this reason disappears.
Manufacturing with nanotechnology is likely to be virtually pollution-free.
It is quite possible that I am being too pessimistic. There may be other
reasons for extraterrestrial settlement that I have not considered...
John W. Martin
You are right to point out that many of the earlier strategies for making
space industrialization into a paying proposition will be made obsolete
once molecular manufacturing is in place. However, solar power satellites
(and so forth) were regarded as short-term tactics in the long-term strategy
of space settlement. The primary motivations have not changed: space resources
exist, and life expands to take advantage of unused resources. Further,
the fate of the dinosaurs shows that it would be unwise to restrict all
the diversity of today's biosphere to one vulnerable planetary surface.
Nanotechnology should lower costs to the point that we can afford to put
our eggs in more than one basket. See
the article elsewhere in this issue on the National Space Society's
conference coverage of nanotechnology.--Editor
On the active shield concept outlined in Engines
The active shield is somewhat naive because even if such a shield were developed
it could in certain circumstances be breached, especially by a militarily-minded
opponent. Also the idea that each country or culture can have its own shield
is not necessarily a good idea, as it's important for other countries and
organizations to be able to "interfere" to protect against human
rights abuses, etc. Interference, for genuinely justifiable reasons
of course, is vital to the progress of mankind, as can be seen throughout
Keith P. Byrne
The question of how to both enable adequate defenses and still protect
human rights will become increasingly difficult as military technologies
advance. Imagine the recent Gulf War with nanotechnology-based weapons on
both sides, or on only the wrong side. This is the sort of complex issue
we plan to explore in greater detail when adequate hypertext discussion
software becomes available, perhaps this year.--Editor
One of Foresight's main goals is to communicate the concepts of nanotechnology
and molecular manufacturing to members of various groups, from scientists
to students. You can help us refine these explanations:How do the
people you know generally react to these ideas? Please write us and describe
your experiences explaining nanotechnology to others. Which ideas are easy
to get across and which are difficult? Which examples and explanations are
most effective? How do these depend on the listener's background? Please
describe any problems you've encountered. And, last, please tell us a bit
about yourself. Send to Foresight Institute, Attn: Conversations, PO Box
61058, Palo Alto, CA 94306; or email to email@example.com.
The Foresight Institute aims to help society prepare for new and future
technologies, such as nanotechnology, artificial intelligence, and large-scale
space development, by:
promoting understanding of these technologies and their consequences,
formulating sound policies for gaining their benefits while avoiding
informing the public and decision makers regarding these technologies
developing an organizational base for implementing these policies,
ensuring their implementation.
Foresight has a special interest in nanotechnology: at this early stage,
it receives relatively little attention (considering its importance), giving
even a small effort great leverage. We believe certain basic considerations
must guide policy:
Nanotechnology will let us control the structure of matter--but who will
control nanotechnology? The chief danger isn't a great accident, but a great
abuse of power. In a competitive world, nanotechnology will surely be developed;
if we are to guide its use, it must be developed by groups within our political
reach. To keep it from being developed in military secrecy, either here
or abroad, we must emphasize its value in medicine, in the economy, and
in restoring the environment. Nanotechnology must be developed openly to
serve the general welfare.