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CRN Calls for Global Administration of Molecular Nanotechnology

The Center for Responsible Nanotechnology (CRN) is calling for the creation of a special administrative system to deal with the problems of molecular manufacturing. This proposal was the focus of a presentation by Treder at the recent Discovering the Nanoscale academic conference in Darmstadt, Germany. “We don't need it today,” said CRN Executive Director Mike Treder, “but it will take time to create, and the technology could arrive before we're ready.”

Molecular nanotechnology (MNT) describes the principle of building products from the bottom up, molecule by molecule, with atomic precision. Such a powerful technology could create a wide variety of problems. CRN believes that no existing body can effectively manage all the benefits and risks.

“Faster and more precise manufacturing is desirable for many reasons,” said Chris Phoenix, CRN's Director of Research. “But it appears that MNT could be developed quickly enough to destabilize many social and political institutions, unless we prepare well ahead of time.”

The issues are not simple. “To maximize creativity and humanitarian benefit, people must be able to invent stuff and even to give it away. That has to be balanced against commercial interests, including protection of intellectual property,” said Phoenix. “There also will be major security issues that could cross all borders. You can't construct a complex system to deal with all this at the last minute.”

Prior to the advent of MNT, a collaborative international administrative structure will have to be designed and created to oversee the use of molecular manufacturing. “At worldwide levels, where things move slowly, this might take as long as twenty years,” said Treder. “Advanced nanotechnology could arrive sooner than that, so urgent action is called for now.”

CRN was a non-profit research and advocacy organization, completely dependent on small grants and individual contributions.


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