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Future Imperative

What if technology were being developed that could enhance your mind or body to extraordinary or even superhuman levels -- and some of these tools were already here? Wouldn't you be curious?

Actually, some are here. But human enhancement is an incredibly broad and compartmentalized field. We’re often unaware of what’s right next door. This site reviews resources and ideas from across the field and makes it easy for readers to find exactly the information they're most interested in.

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The future is coming fast, and it's no longer possible to ignore how rapidly the world is changing. As the old order changes -- or more frequently crumbles altogether -- I offer a perspective on how we can transform ourselves in turn... for the better. Nothing on this site is intended as legal, financial or medical advice. Indeed, much of what I discuss amounts to possibilities rather than certainties, in an ever-changing present and an ever-uncertain future.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Regulating Nanotech? -- Nano, Soc

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The Washington Post just printed this article on the growing push to regulate nanotech in the U.S.

At issue are "nanomaterials," made of intricately engineered particles and fibers as small as 1/80,000th the diameter of a human hair. At that scale the laws of chemistry and physics bend, giving familiar substances novel chemical, electrical and physical properties.

Unfortunately, some of these properties include substances which are not toxic in bulk form becoming quite dangerous in nano form, such as carbon nanofibers setting off fatal immune responses in test animals. Given how much stock many futurists place in nanotechnolgy's power to reshape the world and the whole of humanity, it's worth keeping up with these trends.

The Center for Responsible Nanotechnology foresaw this eventuality long ago, and has been trying to forestall both dangers and calls for to end research by promoting responsible nanotech research and manufacturing. Their site declares:


Advanced nanotechnology may build machines that are thousands of times more powerful—and hundreds of times cheaper—than today's devices. The humanitarian potential is enormous; so is the potential for misuse. The vision of CRN is a world in which molecular manufacturing is widely used for productive and beneficial purposes, and where malicious uses are limited by effective administration of the
technology.

CRN acts to raise awareness of the issues. We believe that even a technology as powerful as molecular manufacturing can be used wisely and well—but that without adequate information, unwise use will be far too common. The mission of CRN is to raise awareness of the issues presented by nanotechnology: the benefits and dangers, and the possibilities for responsible use.

In order to provide well-grounded and complete information, clear explanation, and workable proposals, CRN studies, clarifies, and researches the issues involved—political, economic, military, humanitarian, and technological. CRN presents the results for both technical and popular audiences, and works to supply the information as effectively as possible. The purpose of CRN is to investigate the ethical, legal, and social implications (ELSI) of molecular manufacturing, and to educate those who will influence its use or be affected by it.

We shall see how successful CRN's strategy will be in time. Obviously, given the reaction that Western Europe has had towards genetically modified "Frankenfoods," it's clear that a strong public reaction can have a huge impact on how certain products are received in the marketplace.

Presently, the debate is raging over whether a voluntary system of reporting and safeguards with lower levels of research spending on the potential ill-effects of nanoparticles is adequate, or if a mandated system of reports and safeguards and a robust safety research program would be preferable.

Hopefully we won't end up having our minds made up by some kind of a disaster -- anymore than we'll want to blinded to very real risks by some kind of spectacular breakthrough. (Much as such a breakthrough would be otherwise welcomed...)


Future Imperative

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