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Current Results of Our Research

These pages, marked with GREEN headings, are published for comment and criticism. These are not our final findings; some of these opinions will probably change.   LOG OF UPDATES 

CRN Research: Overview of Current Findings   

bulletTimeline for Molecular Manufacturing   
bulletProducts of Molecular Manufacturing
bulletBenefits of Molecular Manufacturing
bulletDangers of Molecular Manufacturing  
bulletNo Simple Solutions
bulletAdministration Options
bulletThe Need for Early Development
bulletThe Need for International Development
bulletThirty Essential Nanotechnology Studies
bulletStudy #24     YOU ARE HERE

Thirty Essential Nanotechnology Studies - #24

Overview of all studies: Because of the largely unexpected transformational power of molecular manufacturing, it is urgent to understand the issues raised. To date, there has not been anything approaching an adequate study of these issues. CRN's recommended series of thirty essential studies is organized into five sections, covering fundamental theory, possible technological capabilities, bootstrapping potential, product capabilities, and policy questions. Several preliminary conclusions are stated, and because our understanding points to a crisis, a parallel process of conducting the studies is urged. 

CRN is actively looking for researchers interested in performing or assisting with this work. Please contact CRN Research Director Chris Phoenix if you would like more information or if you have comments on the proposed studies.

Study #24 What beneficial or desirable effects could this have?
  Explore positive factors that will promote the development and deployment of molecular manufacturing (MM).
Subquestion How much could the technology reduce illness and disability?
Preliminary answer Simple things like water filters and fast, cheap, easy medical sensors could make a big difference. At first, rapid diagnosis of disease would allow effective quarantine. Later, the ability to rapidly develop products should accelerate medical research and speed the process of finding cures; large-scale quarantine operations may become unnecessary even for new diseases. And the ability to monitor a body in detail and in real time should reduce the risks of new therapies, streamlining research still further. Prosthetic devices, including sensory prosthetics, would be greatly improved.
  Advanced automated treatment devices could be made very cheaply, allowing semi-skilled delivery of medical care. Think of automatic defibrillators in airports. Now project that approach into devices with wide-spectrum real-time biochemical sensors that can dispense appropriate medicines.
  Surgical robots could become far smaller, more capable and automated, less invasive. Even without bloodstream robots, a catheter-based approach can be used to clean important blood vessels or repair cartilage. A smart catheter could be smaller than a hair, and used by a general practitioner in an outpatient context.
Subquestion To what extent could the technology alleviate underdevelopment?
Preliminary answer A general-purpose self-contained factory could bootstrap a region's productivity in a matter of weeks. The main limiting factor would be the availability of designs to solve local problems. But see Gershenfeld on "fab labs".
Subquestion Could this help with food and water shortages?
Preliminary answer Diamond-building chemistry could not directly make food. But it could make greenhouses, allowing more reliable food production with less resource usage. It could also make water filters and the required energy supply (solar), both for increasing fresh water supplies and treating runoff or wastewater.
Subquestion How much and in what ways (e.g. replacing manufacturing, infrastructure, extraction) could it alleviate environmental problems?
Preliminary answer Most of today's components that rely on extracted materials, such as metals and rare earths, could be emulated with higher performance by nano-built systems. Carbon-based products could be disposed of by clean combustion. More automation means fewer people have to work in factories, reducing transportation requirements for both people and materials. More efficient agriculture could reduce soil loss, water use, and agricultural runoff. Cleanup of existing problems would be easier with better and cheaper sensors and robotics.
  Some serious thinkers are concerned about a global environmental collapse in the next few decades, even apart from the Peak Oil problem. Large-scale use of MM could alleviate much environmental pressure, and actively correct many problems.
Subquestion Which natural disasters could it prevent or alleviate?
Preliminary answer Easier access to space makes it much easier to deal with asteroids. Also, vastly cheaper construction of telescopes makes it easier to spot them. Large-scale engineering projects could defuse volcanoes and even calderas by turning them into massive geothermal energy projects. Stronger construction could resist earthquakes and hurricanes. Also, large-scale construction of automated aircraft/helicopters could suppress wildfires and aid in rapid evacuations. Better sensors would allow better prediction of weather and climate. (For more, see Our Molecular Future by Douglas Mulhall.)
Subquestion How much could these benefits reduce social unrest?
Preliminary answer Poverty, contagious and parasitic disease, and hunger could be drastically reduced at extremely low cost. To the extent that these fuel social unrest, the application of these technologies would reduce the unrest. However, new problems such as social disruption and boredom may emerge.
Subquestion How much cost savings does this represent?
Preliminary answer Most sources of product cost would virtually disappear. Even design cost might decrease, as shown by the Open Source software movement. Indirect costs of technological activity, such as pollution, could be substantially reduced.
Subquestion How much commercial incentive is suggested by these questions?
Preliminary answer The difference between production cost and user value of nano-built products will be astronomical. This provides a high incentive for developing the technology—and then manipulating policy so as to maintain artificial scarcity. Artificial scarcity would cancel many of these benefits.
Conclusion Molecular manufacturing could be a major benefit to humanity, saving lives, mitigating environmental problems and hazards, and reducing misery enough to substantially reduce social unrest. However, this all depends on policy.
Other studies 1. Is mechanically guided chemistry a viable basis for a manufacturing technology?
2. To what extent is molecular manufacturing counterintuitive and underappreciated in a way that causes underestimation of its importance?
What is the performance and potential of diamondoid machine-phase chemical manufacturing and products?
4. What is the performance and potential of biological programmable manufacturing and products?
5. What is the performance and potential of nucleic acid manufacturing and products?
6. What other chemistries and options should be studied?
What applicable sensing, manipulation, and fabrication tools exist?
8. What will be required to develop diamondoid machine-phase chemical manufacturing and products?
9. What will be required to develop biological programmable manufacturing and products?
10. What will be required to develop nucleic acid manufacturing and products?
11. How rapidly will the cost of development decrease?
12. How could an effective development program be structured?
What is the probable capability of the manufacturing system?
14. How capable will the products be?
15. What will the products cost?
16. How rapidly could products be designed?
Which of today's products will the system make more accessible or cheaper?
18. What new products will the system make accessible?
19. What impact will the system have on production and distribution?
20. What effect will molecular manufacturing have on military and government capability and planning, considering the implications of arms races and unbalanced development?
21. What effect will this have on macro- and microeconomics?
22. How can proliferation and use of nanofactories and their products be limited?
23. What effect will this have on policing?
25. What effect could this have on civil rights and liberties?
26. What are the disaster/disruption scenarios?
27. What effect could this have on geopolitics?
28. What policies toward development of molecular manufacturing does all this suggest?
29. What policies toward administration of molecular manufacturing does all this suggest?
30. How can appropriate policy be made and implemented?
Studies should begin immediately. The situation is extremely urgent. The stakes are unprecedented, and the world is unprepared. The basic findings of these studies should be verified as rapidly as possible (months, not years). Policy preparation and planning for implementation, likely including a crash development program, should begin immediately.

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