Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Basics, Pt. II

In keeping with my post titled The Basics, Pt. I I’d like to present an interview I did with my friend Vic Peña, CEO, nanoTITAN, Inc., and Member of the PCAST Nanotechnology Technical Advisory Group (NTAG).

Please talk about some of the social, legal, cultural, ethical, religious, philosophical and political implications of molecular nanotechnology (MNT, a.k.a. molecular manufacturing or MM).

I believe that molecular nanotechnology will profoundly impact the entire socio-economic-technological spectrum of the human experience for the betterment of all humankind. This profound impact will be progressive, with increasing promise to improve the lives of humankind.

As MNT becomes reality, challenges to the framework and values of our present societies worldwide will surface. The legal profession, and political entities, will find that current laws and policies will have to be improved to meet the demands of intellectual property protection, producers' liability, and consumer protection. Most certainly also, National Security.

Concurrent with the development of MNT, political involvement in the establishment of laws and oversight needs to occur. International covenants and treaties will have to be developed to assure the lawful, orderly, and peaceful proliferation of MNT's promise. I would see something akin to the Geneva Convention as a set of guidelines from which to establish an international standard for the use and implementation of MNT worldwide. This said, I would not like a constraining bureaucracy to impede the research and development of the scientific and technological discoveries yet to take place, "for the betterment of all mankind."

There is an educational aspect to this also, as not only will our schools and universities be required to graduate scientists and engineers, but whole new generations of business, law, policy, and social studies graduates will be needed to provide the societal balance required for MNT to have a beneficial effect on humankind.

Finally, ethical, religious, and philosophical beliefs will be tasked, and the tenets upon which these beliefs are built will have to withstand some of the assaults that they will surely experience. Science can be a powerful argument, and our values built upon ethics, religion and philosophy must recognize that a whole new era is upon us.

In your opinion, what should be done - starting right now - to mitigate (if not eliminate) the potential downsides to MNT, as well as to maximize the potential upsides?

I stated earlier, that we (our National Leadership) should be considering a Geneva Convention like structure to focus on the peaceful evolution and development of MNT. Additionally, Educational Institutions as well as Academia should begin preparing for the demands that MNT will bring upon us all. I believe that if people are educated both as a work force, and as consumers, the advantages of MNT will be demanded and the nefarious uses that it can pose will be constrained or at least controlled.

Regarding the nanoscale sciences: Talk a little about education, where we're doing it right, where improvements can be made, and why.

I think that we, the United States of America, are not producing enough talent in the sciences and technologies to maintain our lead in nanotechnology. But beyond the scientists and engineer nanotechnologists, we need to focus on the requirements that nanotechnology will put on our business, legal, policy, and social graduates. One great program recently came to my attention, and that is the "Nano*High" Program at UC Berkley, where every Saturday, lectures and lab tours are offered for free to any interested high school student. This is a great model and should be emulated Nation-wide.

Read the entire interview here

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