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Foresight Update 30 (page 5)

A publication of the Foresight Institute

Table of Contents - Foresight Update 30

Recent Events

Extropy Institute Conference

Extropy Institute is an organization devoted to the use of technology to overcome human limits, including extending life span, augmenting intelligence (both cognitive and emotional), gaining access to space, and achieving control over human biology. The organization's third conference, Extro 3, was held August 9 and 10 in San Jose. The second day's program, "Future Infrastructure," involved many speakers associated with nanotechnology and Foresight Institute.

IMM Research Fellow and Foresight chairman K. Eric Drexler delivered the keynote address for the conference, "How to be Cautious and Conservative." His main thesis: enrolling in a cryonics program is the most medically conservative approach a person can take—the alternatives (such as burial or burning of a body) foreclose future medical treatment to repair the injury or disease that led to cessation of life functions. He also discussed the need for improved exchange of information, and demonstrated Foresight Institute's Web Enhancement efforts.

A five-person discussion on Artificial Intelligence (AI Onset Panel: Continuity or Singularity?) featured four Foresight participants—MIT's Marvin Minsky; Carl Feynman of Arts Technology Group; Robin Hanson of the University of the California at Berkeley (whose Idea Futures concept has been discussed in past issues of Update), and nanotechnologist Ralph Merkle of Xerox Palo Alto Research Center. Minsky said the largest problem today is that most AI researchers are not working on the essential "common sense" problems that most need addressing. Participants agreed that AI is achievable, and think it most likely will appear suddenly (as a "Singularity") rather than gradually. (Rationale: when computers reach a certain stage of ability, they will be able to design their own successor faster than humans could.)

Discussions of a four-person panel on "Investing in the Future" were highlighted by nanotechnology author Gayle Pergamit, who said that the AI Singularity will be the key—"getting to it, through it, and beyond it." She discussed the difficulty of analyzing in advance the nature of post-singularity society and economics.

Chris Peterson, Executive Director of Foresight Institute, spoke on "Radical High-Tech Environmentalists," telling the audience that it is wrong to equate high technology with pollution. "We need to promote the recognition that high technology is clean technology," she said, noting that Second-World economies such as China produce more pollution than high-tech economies like the U.S. She also discussed bio-archiving to store cell samples of all species to allow analysis of DNA and evolutionary processes.

Cambridge Healthtech Institute Conference

Cambridge Healthtech Institute, a for-profit company that stages topic-specific conferences, held a two-day event in San Francisco in late June on "Nanotechnology: Materials, Manufacturing and Applications." Al Globus, cochair of the Foresight Conference on Nanotechnology, attended the conference and reported that the conference included a number of quality presentations, mostly more focused on near-term experimental topics, and quite a bit of MEMS (Micro Electrical Mechanical Systems) developments.

One specific presentation relevant to molecular nanotechnology was a talk by Dr. James Tour of the University of South Carolina on 2-terminal, 3-terminal and 4-terminal devices actually synthesized (not modeled) using carbon rings. Tour has measured the properties of the 2- terminal devices and calculated results for the more complex ones, Globus reported.

Other presentations included the growing ability to marry silicon chip technology with biotechnology, creating arrays of biomolecules that can be addressed with chip electronics. When the molecules come in contact with certain chemicals, their electrical properties change, and that change can be sensed through the chip technology, Globus said.

Cambridge Healthtech Institute has removed all information about the conference from its web site, but is offering binders containing conference information for sale for $100. Cambridge Healthtech Institute is located at 1037 Chestnut St., Newton Upper Falls, MA 02164. tel: 617.630.1300 fax: 617.630.1325 e-mail:

Table of Contents - Foresight Update 30

Finnish Nanotechnology Program

Nanotechnology is entering a period of rapid development in Finland. TEKES, the Technology Development Centre of Finland, and the Academy of Finland have joined forces to launch an ambitious program, which started in early 1997. The first phase of the program will last for three years.

In a brochure describing the three-year, $9 million program, they describe nanotechnology as "the way to the future," noting that it "has the potential to bring about radical improvements in many sectors of industry. It could also give rise to entirely new industries and it is a challenging field of research which covers many disciplines."

Various research groups all over Finland will carry out the bulk of the work. Because of the cross-disciplinary nature of the projects, the research groups will work very closely together. The Finns also recognize that "global cooperation is of extreme importance, and therefore multilateral connections to parallel programs will be encouraged." A delegation representing the program visited Foresight Institute's office in early August.

Areas of study include:

Nanobiology—Suitable surfaces will be functionalized by antibodies or DNA. The main aim is to develop specific diagnostic applications based on fluorescence detection. The applications are in protein analytics and hereditary diseases.

Self organized structures—Self organized polymeric structures are prepared and studied. Polymer chains will be modified in order to be able to control their behavior. Important issues are molecular recognition, controlled phase transitions and rheology.

Functional nanoparticles—Studies of noble metal particles and their properties on metal surfaces, as well as the utilization of an aerosol reactor to yield multi-component nanomaterials which are mainly for medical applications.

Nanoelectronics—Study of nanodimensional electronic devices and sensors such as novel lasers, single electron transistors, SQUIDS and nanothermometers. Various manufacturing methods are being studied and developed.

Biomaterials for information technology—This project includes the development of materials for these purposes and algorithms for molecular computing. One specific task is to develop a sensor based on surface plasmon resonance.

Contact Information:

Nanoelectronics Project Manager—Oiva Knuuttila, Technology Development Centre Tekes, P.O.Box 69 FIN-00101 Helsinki Finland, Tel. +358.105 215 815, Fax +358.105.215.906, E-mail:

Nanochemistry Senior Technical Adviser—Jussi Kivikoski, Technology Development Centre Tekes, P.O. Box 69 FIN-00101 HELSINKI Finland, Tel. +358.105.215.828, Fax +358.105.215.905, E-mail:

Scientific Secretary—Eeva Ikonen, Academy of Finland Research Council for Natural Sciences and Engineering, P.O.Box 99 FIN-00510 Helsinki Finland, Tel. +358.9.7748.8233, Fax +358.9.7748.8393, E-mail:

Table of Contents - Foresight Update 30

Upcoming Events

Albany Conference on Biomolecular Motors and Nanomachines, Sept. 4-7. Contact Wadsworth Center, tel 518.474.2462, email
Micro- and Nano-Engineering International Conference, Sept. 15-18, Athens, Greece. Includes Nobel laureate Heinrich Rohrer on "Nanotechnology-Nature's Way." tel +30.1.653.3781, fax +30.1.651.1723,
Int'l Workshop on Nanophysics and Electronics, Sept. 18-20, Tokyo. Includes atomically-ordered structures.
American Vacuum Society Annual Meeting, Oct 20-24, San Jose, CA. Includes nanoscale science & technology. tel 212.248.0200, fax 212.248.0245, email
Fifth Foresight Conference on Molecular Nanotechnology, Nov. 5-8, Palo Alto, CA. Enabling science and technology, computational models. Contact Foresight, tel 415.917.1122, fax 415.917.1123, email
7th Int'l Symposium on Molecular Electronics and Biocomputing, Nov. 10-12, Nanjing, PR China. tel +86.25.361.9983, fax +86.25.771.2719, email
Molecular Electronics: Science and Technology, Dec. 14-18, Puerto Rico. Molecular wires, switches, devices; self-assembly; SPM manipulation. Engineering Foundation, tel 212.705.7836, fax 212.705.7441, email
4th Int'l Conference on Nanostructured Materials, June 14-18, 1998, Stockholm.
Superlattices, Microstructures, and Microdevices, July 27-Aug 1, 1998, Egypt. Includes nanostructures, nanotubes, self-assembly. Contact Khalid Ismail, IBM Watson, Rt 134, Yorktown Hts, NY 10598.
Fifth Int'l Conference on Nanometer-scale Science and Technology, Aug 31-Sept 4, 1998, Birmingham, UK. Contact Institute of Physics, tel +44.171.470.4800, fax +44.171.470.4900, email
2nd Intl. Conference on Evolvable Systems: From Biology to Hardware, Sept. 24-26, 1998. Lausanne, Switzerland. Self-replicating hardware, self-repairing hardware, applications of nanotechnology. Email
Sixth Foresight Conference on Molecular Nanotechnology, Nov. 12-15, 1998, Santa Clara, CA. Enabling science and technology, computational models. See Foresight contact info above.
First ELBA-Foresight Conference on Molecular Nanotechnology, spring 1999, Rome. Contact ELBA Foundation, tel +39.6.35420728, fax +39.6.35451637, Email

Table of Contents - Foresight Update 30

From Foresight Update 30, originally published 1 September 1997.

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