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CRN Publishes List of Future Nanotech Dangers

After months of intensive study, the Center for Responsible Nanotechnology (CRN) has identified 11 separate, significant risks of advanced nanotechnology. CRN is also researching solutions that may effectively address each of those risks. Descriptions of all the risks—and proposed solutions—are now posted online at

Chris Phoenix, CRN’s Director of Research, emphasizes that these are preliminary findings. “These new web pages summarize the existing state of our understanding of molecular nanotechnology, its risks and problems, and possible solutions that can promote safe use while avoiding unsafe or irresponsible use,” says Phoenix. “Some of our opinions will probably change. We are publishing these results now because we are looking for comments and criticism from interested and informed parties.”

It’s important to note that ‘nanotechnology’ means different things to different people. Most of today’s investment and press coverage concerns nanomaterials research, which deals with exploiting novel properties of materials at the nanoscale. CRN’s research and policy papers focus on molecular nanotechnology (MNT), a near-future technology that will build machines and products molecule by molecule, with every atom precisely placed.

Molecular nanotechnology will be a significant breakthrough, comparable perhaps to the Industrial Revolution—but compressed into a few years. The potential benefits to humanity are almost incalculable, but in order to avoid the dangers we must thoroughly understand them and then develop a comprehensive plan to avert them. The first step in understanding the dangers is to identify them, and CRN has begun that important process.

“One of the dangers of talking about risks is that it can prompt knee-jerk reactions in some people,” says Mike Treder, Executive Director of CRN. “There are indeed serious risks, and many of them are quite worrisome. The answer, however, is not to hide our heads in the sand and hope nanotech will go away, because it won’t. Sooner or later, someone will develop MNT, and it will be very disruptive. We need to perform a thorough, rational exploration of all the problems that may arise, and then seek effective solutions.”

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


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