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 takethe 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 participantsMIT'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
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
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,
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:
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:
NanobiologySuitable 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 structuresSelf 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 nanoparticlesStudies 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.
NanoelectronicsStudy of nanodimensional electronic
devices and sensors such as novel lasers, single electron transistors, SQUIDS
and nanothermometers. Various manufacturing methods are being studied and
Biomaterials for information technologyThis 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.
Nanoelectronics Project ManagerOiva Knuuttila, Technology
Development Centre Tekes, P.O.Box 69 FIN-00101 Helsinki Finland, Tel. +358.105
215 815, Fax +3220.127.116.116, E-mail: Oiva.Knuuttila@tekes.fi
Nanochemistry Senior Technical AdviserJussi Kivikoski,
Technology Development Centre Tekes, P.O. Box 69 FIN-00101 HELSINKI Finland,
Tel. +318.104.22.1688, Fax +322.214.171.1245, E-mail: Jussi.Kivikoski@tekes.fi
Scientific SecretaryEeva 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: Eeva.Ikonen@aka.fi