The following is my post in response to Tim Harper’s blog post: http://www.cientifica.com/blog/mt/2006/09/nanospam.html in reference to the entitled article. (I do not know why Tim calls the Center for Responsible Nanotechnology the Center for “Irresponsible” Nanotechnology. I feel that he is only doing a disservice to the community by doing so. Sorry, Tim!)
Also, we have not yet caught the perpetrators of the 2001 anthrax attacks, lest we have a memory lapse. It only reinforces my contention that it is, unfortunately, very easy to manufacture these deadly pathogens and toxins.
I agree with you that Drexelerian “nanobots” are quite some time away from becoming a reality. However, the fact remains that the amalgamation of nano and bio could be either a boon, or a bane. It could deal a terrible blow to the Humanity from a weapons viewpoint.
We (the U. S.) already have an issue with the detection of biological species coming into the country via the airports. If you could envision nanobioweapons, then the outlook of detection gets significantly less-than-stellar. In that context, that article to which you referred should ring alarm bells all over the world. I can tell you that I have personally worked on such projects (for detection and neutralization) with absolutely incredible results. However, I am certain that the same technology could be used in the opposite direction.
We are currently worried the most only about the spread of nuclear weapons; but these nanobioweapons surely pose a clear, present, and imminent danger to society. Look, all it takes are decent biologists and chemists to whip up a concoction of the “gray goo,” which is not only undetectable at the airports, but their results are also insidious and devastating. Can you envisage all the first-responders and medical professionals, who can become infected with the pathogens (potentially mutable and very communicable) and the diseases’ spreading rapidly by subsequent infection of others? Almost all the “developing” (and certainly the “developed” countries) have the requisite skills to enable this program. The apocalyptic picture is certainly not pretty.
What is your take on it?
Next up: Desktop nanofactories that can pump out cars as well as nano weapons
Melbourne, Sept 22: The potential applications of nanotechnology are limitless, but experts warn that these getting into the wrong hands could be scary.
Mike Treder from the think tank, Centre for Responsible Nanotechnology (CRN) in New York claims that within 15 years, desktop nanofactories could pump out anything ranging from a new car to a sophisticated nanoweapon.
He warns that though the technology could help solve problems like world poverty, it could at the same time wreak economic and social chaos. He says the society needs to start preparing for this brave new world.
“It’s the biggest challenge we’ve ever faced as a species,” ABC quoted Treder as telling a gathering of Australian scientists.
CNR is a non-profit organisation which aims to raise awareness about the benefits and dangers of molecular manufacturing, the precise assembly of products atom-by-atom.
Treder says that researchers are currently working on building molecular-scale machines that could eventually move atoms around to make consumer products like cups and chairs to cars and house bricks.
He says that in less than 15 years raw materials like carbon would be used in the nanofactory, where atoms would be rearranged to make products according to programs downloaded from the internet.
He warns that that though such desktop nanofactories could eliminate poverty and starvation in developing nations, and provide tremendous medical benefits, society needs to guard against its potential risks.
Treder says that CRN is concerned that these desktop nanofactories would lead to a nano “arms race” in which hard-to-detect nanoweapons could be designed, manufactured and tested much quicker than they are today.
“Imagine a suitcase filled with billions of toxin-carrying flying robots that could be released anywhere to target a population. You could make a suitcase full of these things overnight for a few dollars,” he said.
The mass production of consumer goods by private desktop factories could also trigger social chaos due to economic disruption, says Treder.
“If I can make my own car at home for a couple of hundred dollars with a design downloaded from the internet that means I’m not a customer of the auto dealer down the road.”
Waste from such easy manufacturing, or nanolitter, is another issue that needs to be thought about, he says.
“If someone could send you a product online that you don’t want but they just make it pump out of your nanofactory, how are we going to prevent that?”
All theses argument raises the question of whether nanotechnology will be building a better future or destroying the world.