Newsletter of the Molecular Manufacturing Shortcut Group of the National Space Society

Volume 6, Number 1 and 2 First and Second Quarter, 1998


Sixth Foresight Conference on Molecular Nanotechnology
Generations: The History of America's Future 1584 - 2069
MMSG Submits Proposal to NASA
Big Ideas From Tiny Fibers: NASA and Rice Team up
1998 International Space Development Conference
Radical Change in Editorial Policy

Sixth Foresight Conference on Molecular Nanotechnology

 The Foresight Institute has decided that advances in MNT have accelerated to the point where a conference every other year is not often enough to keep up with the pace. So the next conference on Molecular Nanotechnology will be held on November 12-15, 1998 at the Westin Hotel in Santa Clara, California. The Conference Co-chairs are Al Globus and Deepak Srivastava, both from MRJ Technology Solutions, Inc. at NASA Ames Research Center.

 This conference is a meeting of scientists and technologists working in fields leading toward molecular nanotechnology: thorough three-dimensional structural control of materials and devices at the molecular level.

 Nobel Laureate Richard Smalley, keynote speaker at the 1997 conference, says: "The idea behind nanotechnology is ultimately, and maybe sometime very soon, to custom design the materials around us atom by atom, much like an architect designs a building."

The conference will cover topics relevant to the pursuit of molecular control including:

 Molecular electronics

Biochemical molecular engineering

Scanning probe microscopy

Supramolecular chemistry and self-assembly

Materials science


Natural molecular machines

Artificial molecular machines

Artificial self replicating systems

Computational chemistry and molecular modeling

Computer science

Mechanical engineering

Robotics applications

Relevant chemical systems (fullerenes, diamond, biomolecules, etc.)


Two annual $5000 Feynman Prizes in Molecular Nanotechnology, one each for experimental and theoretical work, will be presented. Details on last years prize are available on the web at

There will be an intensive Tutorial on Critical Enabling Technologies for Nanotechnology on November 12.

As in previous years, proceedings are expected to be published as a special issue of the Institute of Physics journal Nanotechnology. 

See URL for additional details, including complete information on the previous meeting in this series: http: //

Foresight Institute

P.O. Box 61058

Palo Alto, CA 94306 USA

tel. 650-917-1122 fax 650-917-1123



Generations: The History of America's Future 1584 - 2069

 by William Strauss and Neil Howe

1991 William Morrow 538 pages

 Reviewed by Glenn Damato

 It takes a brave person, or maybe a fool, to make a serious attempt to predict the nature of society one or more decades into the future. Yet anyone who discusses nanotechnology and space development often has no choice but to make such a projection. Because social and political trends have important ramifications for new technology, we need to be correct in this matter. So what tools do we have, besides a crystal ball?

 Here is a simple and commonly used formula: extrapolate current trends. In other words: the future will be like today, only more so. High technology scenarios (including nearly every science fiction novel on the shelves!) usually assume that people 15 or 25 or more years from now will think, behave and view the world pretty much as they do today, only more so- there will be increased desire for "personal connectivity" and decreased trust of the federal government, for example.

 Not so! say authors William Strauss and Neil Howe. In their fascinating book Generations, they demonstrate, quite convincingly, that the common "extrapolate current trends" method does not work. As it states on the back cover, the book "reorders our expectations of the 21st century".

 Their premise is that social attitudes (toward technology, the government, interpersonal behavior, and many other facets of existence) change on an 80 year cycle- roughly one natural human lifespan. There are four phases to this cycle, each lasting 20 years or so, each with its own characteristics. We have been in an "inner-driven" phase since 1984. The characteristics of this phase include a strong focus on personal power and choices, rampant self-absorption, little sense of community, overprotectiveness of children, decreasing gap between the roles of men and women, and an "anything goes" cultural mood.

 What will the future bring? Strauss and Howe show that current social and political trends cannot be accurately extrapolated beyond about 10 or 15 years or so. Around 2005, they surmise, we will enter a "crisis phase" and the mood and character of American society will shift dramatically. If this is the case, current thinking about the "state of the world" circa 2015-20, just when we expect to see important nanotechology applications become viable, is mostly incorrect.

 How does this affect high technology scenarios? Consider these three aspects:

 1. Public acceptance. We currently have a "NIMBY" (Not In My Back Yard) social mood. Will it get worse- to the point where nanotechnology research (at least on Earth) is outlawed? How will the public react to the first assemblers, and to the sweeping economic changes that may occur as a result? Will journalists in the year 2015 present nanotechnology to the public with the same tone as they are currently presenting cloning?

 2. Budgets. We all know what the trends have been toward space development and other high technology programs. Will this continue or become worse? When can we expect the necessary R&D funds to become available, and just as important- what will motivate the sources of the funds?

 3. Application. The people of the 1990's are focused on increased personal power. They demand more information, more choices, more flexibility. What will they desire in 2015? Most writers today assume that people alive during the coming nanotech revolution will use the new technology to fulfill the same desires felt by people in 1998. How correct is that assumption?

 History has shown that society can and often does undergo incredible transformations in values over relatively brief time periods- and therefore, extrapolation is inaccurate. This fact will become increasing relevant as we grow closer to the nanotechnology age. If you are interested in exploring this topic more deeply, I give my strongest recommendations to Generations.


 Glenn Damato

Product Support Engineer

MicroStrategy, Inc.

8000 Towers Crescent Drive

Vienna, VA 22182


703-848-8710 Fax



MMSG Submits Proposal to NASA

 Tihamer Toth-Fejel

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NASA Ames chose December 30, 1997 as a final submission date for research proposals in Computational Nanotechnology. MMSG members Tihamer Toth-Fejel and Will Dye were able to complete a short proposal on Web-Based Modeling of Kinematic Cellular Automata Swarms. Al Globus, the NASA administrator of the NRA (NASA Research Announcement), said that the competition would be intense, and it was. Approximately 25 proposals were submitted, mostly by people who have already published in the nanotechnology and vacuum engineering fields.

Unfortunately, while the money was appropriated and directed by upper levels of NASA management, there was some internal controversy on exactly how the money should be spent. The disagreements centered on internal vs. external spending and long-term vs. Intermediate and short-term work (such as nanotubes). Unfortunately for the NASA team that had announced the NRA, and unfortunately for the people answering it, the decision makers at NASA decided to grow the internal organization instead of growing the $600K of external work currently under contract. Hence no money was awarded for this NRA, and the contracting officers never even got to read the proposals. In the future, if their nanotechnology budget grows quickly enough, NASA Ames hopes to expand both the internal and external work they currently support.

While the withdrawal of the NRA was disappointing to us (since it made us waste quite a few late nights writing our proposal), it may provide an opportunity for MMSG to make a difference via political action. We don't really care who gets the money as long as the work gets done. It is our belief that generally the government should be funding longer-range projects while venture capitalists should be funding research with short-term benefits. We are currently exploring avenues in order to shake things up a bit. Any suggestions are welcome!



Big Ideas From Tiny Fibers: NASA and Rice Team up

 On October 14, 1998Johnson Space Center, Houston and Rice University, announced plans to do research on new materials and products using fullerene fibers -- carbon fiber tubular structures, potentially 30 to 100 times stronger than steel but one-sixth its weight.

 NASA Administrator Daniel S. Goldin and Rice University President Malcolm Gillis are to sign a statement of collaboration outlining the proposed agreement in a ceremony at Rice on Thursday, October 15, 1998.

 Fullerene fibers are so small they can only be seen with the most powerful microscopes. They have a number of desirable qualities, including potential tensile strength higher than any known fiber and electrical conductivity similar to metals. Possible applications include composite materials with extraordinary strength, smaller semi-conductors, mechanical systems with atomic-scale dimensions, chemical sensors, and power and hydrogen storage devices.

The proposed Rice-NASA effort will establish collaboration in research and applications for these tiny fibers. Dr. Richard Smalley, who received the Nobel Prize in 1996 for his discovery of fullerenes, will lead the Rice participation. Smalley is also director of Rice's Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology, which studies structures on the scale of a billionth of a meter. The effort will combine the expertise of NASA and a pioneering research group at Rice University to establish a world-class research team in this field.

 For more information, contact Lia Unrau, science editor in the Rice University Media Relations Office, at (713) 831-4793, or Phil West at Johnson Space Center, Houston, TX, ( 281) 483-9236).



 1998 International Space Development Conference

by Tihamer Toth-Fejel

 Over Memorial Day weekend, pro-space activists and NASA leaders gathered in Milwaukee to attend the 20th International Space Development Conference (ISDC). The conference was sponsored by the National Space Society (NSS), and it brought together a wide assortment of individuals with one goal – the development of a space-faring civilization that will build communities beyond Earth. And they are a wide assortment of individuals – Air Force colonels and astronauts mixed with neo-hippies, lawyers, engineers, and housewives. For myself, a frequent attendee at this yearly conference, it was nice to see so many familiar faces. It was especially nice to see conference organizer Peter Kohk up and about after his accident (well, scooting around on his electric tricycle). He told me that as he was on the floor, writhing in pain after his fall, his second thought was, "Hey, maybe now I’ll have enough time to put on a good conference." Well, he did, and congratulations are in order him and his friends for doing a great job.

Twenty years ago, when Galileo was threatened by budget cuts, I was one of the hundred or so ragtag visionaries who lobbied Congress to save the program, so I was especially heartened when I heard presentations on Europa’s oceans by Vatican astronomer Guy Consolmagno S.J., and his discussions on the possibility of life on the only other body in this solar system with liquid water. Later, Consolmagno shared that during his stint in the Peace Corps, the Kenyans taught him that "the thing that separates humans from animals is astronomy, for we alone look up at the stars and wonder."

Bill O’Neill, project manager of the Galileo mission, gave us the broader picture. We in the audience felt the frustration of Galileo’s managers when Congressional and NASA politics jerked them around, and we felt the agony of the mission engineers when the main antenna failed to deploy. But we also felt the ecstasy of the scientists when advances in software compression and the existence of an on-board tape recorder (originally designed for other reasons) made it possible for Galileo to send back more data than ever expected.

Moonlink won the "Educator of the Year" award for designing and bringing to hundreds of schools a partially simulated lunar mission that used live data from the Lunar Prospector. I was especially gratified at this because I remember when Dr. Gay Canough and I were grad students at Notre Dame, sitting around at 6 a.m. in our pajamas, watching the early shuttle launches. At the time, she talked about building a lunar prospector to look for valuable resources on the Moon, and it was wonderful to see her dreams come true. Though eventually built by JPL and managed by NASA, the Lunar Prospector was the first spacecraft conceived and designed by the space activist community.

One of the highlights of the awards banquet was the music competition. The third-grade teacher who won first place had us falling out of our chairs in laughter. But I was struck by the necessity of this award – when most people think of Space, they think of science and technology. But while it takes rocket science (which really is not that complicated) to get to low Earth orbit, to build a space-faring civilization requires the motivation provided by art and philosophy.

Joe Gillen noted that the 25th anniversary of the last Apollo mission matched the 25th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision. By asking the right questions, he pointed out that this was not a coincidence:

  1. Does a society that lacks an open frontier tend toward a pessimism and stagnation that undermines respect for human dignity?
  2. If a society fails to value the lives of its unborn children and its infirm elderly, can it be expected to support long-term enterprises such as the human development of Space?

I am still mulling over these questions, but the most impressive speaker at ISDC, NSS Senior Vice President Robert Zubrin, specifically addressed one of them. He spoke eloquently about the necessity of taking the next step in the settlement of the new frontier, starting with a permanent human base on Mars. Dr. Zubrin not only lucidly explained the technology for affordably establishing a permanent Martian base, (using only 16% of current Shuttle launch capability) but also, and more importantly, he delved into the philosophical and historical issues involved. He pointed out that the United States is, for the first time in modern history, a superpower without competition. We have a tremendous technological, industrial, and military capability. On a darker note, he pointed to the seeds of our downfall, and estimates that we have about ten years before the opportunity to take advantage of the new frontier passes us by.

Zubrin first brought up the Turner Thesis in his book The Case for Mars, eloquently pointing out Fredrick Turner’s 1893 presentation on the basis of American society. Turner said, "It was not legal theory, precedent, or tradition that was the source of America's egalitarian democracy, individualism, and spirit of innovation. It was the existence of the frontier." The Turner thesis convincingly claimed that not only American culture, but progressive humanist civilization in general resulted primarily from the Ages of Exploration -- first the exploration of the Mediterranean Sea by the Greeks, and then of the New World by Europe. Turner presented his paper just three years after the American frontier had been declared closed, so he was worried. He asked, "What if the frontier is truly gone? What happens to America and all it has stood for? Can a free, egalitarian, and innovating society survive in the absence of room to grow?"

The question was a bit premature in Turner's time, since more land grants were actually made after he gave his paper than before, but now his question looms over us. There is no more frontier, for everything is owned. Zubrin points out that we see around us an ever more apparent loss of vigor of our society:

Some may dispute the last claim, since it doesn’t hold true for electronics, but Zubrin correctly points out the meager progress in areas such as solar power, maglev trains, open-sea mariculture, fusion, and (especially) transportation to low Earth orbit. Adding to his observations about the decline of our society, moral conservatives point to not only the objective rates of divorce, suicide, child abuse, STDs, alcoholism, and SAT scores, but also the subjective feelings that our children are growing up too fast in a coarse and threatening culture of death.

As it did for King Belshazzar, the handwriting on our wall reads "MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN". We do not have Daniel's knowledge of the details, but our country has been weighed and found wanting. From an eternal perspective, the death of civilizations is just as certain as it is for individuals. Not just civilizations, but species and planets also die. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. As the blurb for one of the astroidal bombardment movies this summer puts it: "Earth. It was fun while it lasted." But even if America soon joins Assyria and Babylon in the dustbins of history, I think we should fight the good fight against any and all of the factors that might destroy the land of the free and the home of the brave. We can’t change human nature, but lowering the cost to orbit is a relatively easy technical, economic, and political task.

Zubrin claims convincingly that without a frontier from which to breathe new life, the mindset that gave rise to the progressive humanistic culture that America has represented for the past two centuries is fading. His contention is that the issue is not just one of national loss -- humanity needs a vanguard, and no replacement is in sight. Without a frontier, not only America, but the entire world will ultimately draw back into feudal stagnation. Zubrin writes:

The essence of humanist society is that it values human beings-human life and human rights are held precious beyond price. Such notions have been for several thousand years the core philosophical values of Western civilization, dating back to the Greeks and the Judeo­Christian ideas of the divine nature of the human spirit. Yet they could never be implemented as a practical basis for the organization of society until the great explorers of the age of discovery threw open a New World in which the dormant seed of humanism contained within medieval Christendom could grow and blossom forth.

The problem with Christendom was that it was fixed -- it was a play for which the script had been written and the leading roles both chosen and assigned. The problem was not that there were insufficient natural resources to go around-medieval Europe was not heavily populated, and there were plenty of forests and other wild areas-the problem was that all the resources were owned…

The New World changed all that by supplying a place in which there were no established ruling institutions. On such an improvisational stage, the players are not limited to the conventional role of actors-they become playwrights and directors as well. The unleashing of creative talent that such a novel situation allows is not only a great adventure for those lucky enough to be involved, it changes the opinion of the spectators as to the capabilities of actors in general. People who had no role in the old society could define their role in the new.

The New World destroyed the basis of aristocracy and created the basis for democracy. It allowed the development of diversity… it drove progress by defining a situation in which innovation to maximize the capabilities of the limited population available was desperately needed. It raised the dignity of workers by raising the price of labor and by demonstrating for all to see that human beings can be the creators of their world. In America, from Colonial times through the nineteenth century when cities were rapidly being built, people understood that America was not something one simple lived in-it was a place one helped build.

The logic of the Turner Thesis is powerful, but it is not obvious why the United States is a world power while Mexico and the South American nations are not. At ISDC, Zubrin explained that the land on which the United States now stands was uncivilized, i.e. the First Americans in the north did not build cities, and the concept of permanent property ownership was undeveloped. In contrast, the Incas and the Aztecs in the south had built advanced civilizations with significant infrastructure and a complex government. The Spanish expansion into the New World simply replaced the pinnacle of one bureaucracy with another, so the Turner Thesis did not apply, for the south was not really a frontier in the essential way that the north was.

Interestingly enough, the southern civilizations were more attractive to the Spaniards because they were advanced enough to collect gold – gold which made Spain a world power for the next 400 years. The wealth of the north, on the other hand, was much less tangible, but much more valuable to humanity in the long run. The extraterrestrial environment contains even less infrastructure than the North American wilderness – the entire Terran ecosystem must be re-created from scratch. But while this necessity of becoming more actively involved as co-creators with God requires much more work, but also promises much greater benefits for the human race.

Why isn’t the Turner Thesis taught in schools? The concepts are simple enough, they define the character of the United States, and they explain why we have been so successful. Zubrin blames revisionist historians for this situation, comparing them to a bunch of spoiled teenagers who call their parents a bunch of capitalistic imperialists as they take their parent’s money and peel away in their brand-new sports cars. It is obvious to me that these revisionist historians are anti-progressive and self-denigrating, valuing the feeling of self-esteem while ignoring character, self-respect and dignity. They have no confidence in the culture that nourished them, and in the words of British classicist Gilbert Murray, they have lost their nerve. Like the declining Greeks, revisionists have lost the courage to face the world head on, to see themselves as the makers of their own destiny. They mock those who believe that the Earth is under human dominion, and they have no confidence in themselves. They think that humans have the same rights as animals, forgetting that our tool-making abilities are the only thing that can stop a K/T meteorite like the one that killed off the dinosaurs. In fact, it can be said that until humans transplant the ecosystem of Earth to other planets, Gaia is essentially infertile.

One revisionist argument that does have some merit is that by ignoring women and minorities, the Turner thesis may be incomplete. In this case, the proper thing to do is to add their experiences, especially those of the First Americans, whose culture could not stand up to the white man’s efficiency in utilizing existing resources. The best lesson this completion teaches is an appreciation for the fact that because there is no life elsewhere in this solar system, we don’t have to worry about oppressing anyone when we develop it. Hence the effect of the Turner Thesis will be even stronger than it was in the United States.

The good news at ISDC was that there are now six private ventures that are commercially developing orbital vehicles, with reasonable business plans that expect to lower the cost to orbit from today's $10,000/lb to a tenth of that within a decade. Specifically, Buzz Aldrin and Ron Jones of Starcraft Boosters, Inc. are currently negotiating with Lockheed-Martin for man-rated launch services with a confident expectation of paying $2,000 per pound by 2003. Historically, when a small group of upper-middle class families can sell their homes and businesses to pay for the trip and for the tools needed to survive in the new frontier, they will go. But most importantly, they need a good reason to go, and in most cases, the reasons are religious in nature. This is what occurred at Jamestown and Salt Lake City, and it will happen on the high frontier, providing a relief valve for dissenters, misfits, and the perceived population explosion, plus it will provide a place with a power vacuum for experimentation of new political ideas. In the high frontier, every individual will have daily reminders of his or her dignity and responsibility. Under such conditions, it will be more difficult for tyrannies to arise, and easier for society to affirm the intrinsic dignity of the human person.

As editor of The Assembler, my own reason for being at ISDC was to chair the panel discussion on Space and Nanotechnology.

Eric Drexler coined the word "nanotechnology" to describe not only the manipulation of matter at nanometer scales ( typical atoms are a third of a nanometer in diameter), but also the digitization of matter -- i.e. treating atoms as if they were bytes. The term "molecular manufacturing" is more descriptive of the generalized and precise atomic control over bulk matter, and it assumes the use of software techniques to control huge numbers of machines, called "assemblers", that can make copies of themselves. These abilities may not seem like much, but some probably results are:

Drexler and I were both grad students, lobbying in DC for an aggressive Space program, when I first heard him talking about this nonsense. Even though I knew of his ground-breaking work on solar sails, I thought he was crazy. Since then, I have realized that not only does he have one of the most imaginative technical minds on Earth, but more importantly, most of his predictions have been becoming true on or ahead of schedule.

The history of technology exhibits a steady trend in expanding the range of our control over matter. This is most obvious in the case of Moore's Law, which is the observation that about every twenty months the size and price of electronics is cut in half while its speed and capability doubles. This trend, which has been remarkably steady for the past 30 years, is dependent on our ability to control smaller and smaller amounts of matter, and by leveraging our tools into building our next generation of tools. However, the end is near. In 1990, researchers at IBM moved 35 xenon atoms, one at a time, to spell out the world's smallest advertisement. By 2005, IBM hopes to sell disk drives based on the same scanning probe microscopy (SPM) technology. By 2015, each bit will require only 100 atoms to store (including overhead), and at this theoretical limit our current scientific knowledge halts.

While Drexler was not present at this year’s ISDC, Stephen Gillett provided enough hard-nosed science and engineering predictions to make up for the absence. A geology professor at University of Nevada Reno, Dr. Gillett described how scanning probe microscopy and bulk chemistry can make precise atomic structures up to 10 nanometers in size, while semiconductor photolithography methods used to make computer chips have a lower limit of 100 nanometers. He reported that this 10 to 100 nanometer gap is just now being filled by selectively binding DNA probes to microphotolithographed surfaces. Later, I found out that while I was making last minute arrangements for the ISDC panel, a different group was building transistors by stretching one-nanometer-thick buckytubes between two standard IC pads 400 nanometers apart. Gillett also described how remediation and waste stream cleanup is providing the economic drivers for the development of nanostructures such as zeolites and molecular sieves. He predicted that within five years, commercially available products with atomically precise surfaces would be entering the market, enabling industry to meet EPA standards at an affordable price. The processes used to build these highly selective "industrial kidneys" will eventually be used to fashion parts of nanosystems that in turn will be used to build the first assembler.

These assemblers will give us unbelievable power, and Drexler founded the Foresight Institute to investigate ways to guide us in exercising that power. Even if we do learn to exercise that power wisely, it appears that the molecular manufacturing revolution will be the last industrial revolution for the human race. Among other things, not only can India and Pakistan have nuclear capability, but so can every other nation, group, and individual on this planet. In addition, since humans are made of atoms, we will probably remake ourselves. The current debate on cloning is a good example on the controversy, for not one person in ten, or even a hundred, can explain why cloning is wrong, or why it is ok. The advent of molecular nanotechnology forces us face the difficult question of what it means to be human. How human nature, and the laws on which that is based, will change in a continuum that ranges from augmented humans to advanced machines and uplifted animals, who all show very human-like characteristics, should provide fodder for philosophers for many years. Unfortunately, we don’t have many years – ideas have consequences, and we need to start asking the difficult questions now. A technology is coming, within a decade or two, which can make an all-out nuclear exchange look like a Saturday afternoon picnic. We better have our answers ready, and we can’t afford to be wrong.


Radical Change in Editorial Policy


It is the expressed mission of the MMSG to use molecular nanotechnology to help build a space-faring civilization that will build communities beyond Earth. It will remain our goal until we achieve it. Our strategy for achieving that goal has been to inform activists, the general public, and policy makes in business and government of the value of our mission. Most of the articles presented in these pages have been technological in nature, partially because MNT has seemed so speculative that it seemed necessary to buttress our mission statement with evidence that it was a reasonable one. But a few things have convinced me that this policy is no longer the best one.

First, X-33 proponent Allen Sherzer has claimed (with reasonable justification) that with four commercial companies building launch capability without government support, we are a gnat’s eyelash from lowering the cost to orbit. So he asked the question, "At this point, what can stop us?" I had no answer, but he pointed out that a failure of the public school system to produce enough engineers to build and maintain a technological culture might send the USA back into second world status.

Second, Scott MacLaren was not able to participate in the ISDC panel discussion on MNT because of family matters. Instinctively, I emailed him that it was ok, because we can’t build a space-faring civilization, nor any civilization without families. Afterwards, it struck me that my comment was more true than I had realized. As one optimistic L-5’er said many years ago, "We’re building the space-faring civilization now, here on Earth, because civilization consists of living in cities."

Also, I was reminded by the mistake made by the space activist community after Apollo. We were fascinated by the technical details of astroidal mining, radiation shielding, and space habitat design. But unfortunately, we ignored politics, money, and how the world really works. We designed beautiful castles in the sky, but ignored the grungy details in how they would actually get built. For those with an engineering or scientific background, this mistake was understandable, but we are all paying for it now. We still don’t have O’Neil colonies, in situ resource processing, or even low cost to orbit. So what important facet of our environment are we ignoring now? I am not certain, but I suspect that any blindness we have right now is due to an incorrect assumption about reality, otherwise known as "religious beliefs" – whether we are discussing Mac versus Unix, or Islam versus Secular Humanism. But every religion, no matter how strange it seems to outsiders, requires some evidence, and it is on these claims of evidence that we much decide what assumptions we will make in shaping the last industrial revolution.

Finally, the Foresight Institute has decided that progress in MNT is progressing fast enough for them to hold their conference every year instead of just every other year. Our ideas are no longer crackpot science fiction. So what can stop us from fulfilling our mission before 2020?

I’m not sure what can stop us, but as editor, I will be making more of an effort to find articles that challenge our basic assumptions about reality. This does not mean that I will be promoting controversial ideas simply for entertainment value, such as UFO conspiracy theories. But I will be looking for challenges to our complacent assumptions about what our mission means. For example, what is a human civilization, and on what does it really depend? Will a community of 10,000,000 clones be considered part of a civilization? It depends on human beings, for one. But MNT will change human beings drastically, if for no other reasons than increased wealth, virtual immortality, and enhanced prosthetics. In addition, we will have the endless resources and room of Space. So how will an space-based MNT culture differ from what we expect? Will anything remain the same? We will still require atoms, energy, and information to maintain homeostasis within some boundaries that contain subsystems that when summed up constitute whole individuals.

 Looking at controversies currently in the news, it seems that the most volatile issues are framed in moral terms: abortion, euthanasia, and capitol punishment. This has also been true historically (i.e. slavery, war, women’s suffrage, labor unions). So it is reasonable to expect that this will hold true in the future. So look for the opening salvo soon!

 Tihamer Toth-Fejel

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