Thursday, December 21, 2006

Listen to them

What would you do?

What would you do if someone presented you with convincing evidence that something catastrophic (1) was about to happen to the human race, and that unless your country spent billions of dollars on technologies to defeat said catastrophe, you and your way of life could literally become a thing of the past (e.g. everyone dies or is reduced to a state of universal extreme poverty)?

You have probably read about the possibility of a killer meteor strike between 2026 and 2028 (2). How much would you be willing to authorize your government to spend if we learned definitively that it was going to strike? If this or any other meteor or comet was on a collision course with Earth would you authorize $1 trillion to save the planet? $100 billion? $10 billion? (3). And consider that this is but one of many known civilization-ending events.

A different but no less frightening possibility

What would you do if someone presented you with convincing evidence that a technology that is being marginally funded today might present the same catastrophic potential as one of the well known civilization-ending events?

What would you do if someone presented you with convincing evidence that a technology that is being marginally funded today may yield the greatest gifts that humankind has ever received?

What if you learned that they were one in the same…

Molecular Manufacturing (MM) has the potential to be either; destroyer or savior. Many learned, credible and respected people honestly believe that MM is one of if not the most important things humanity should be focused on, immediately, if not sooner. They base their belief on hundreds of years of collective research and collaboration into one or more areas pertaining to MM. And the best they can say at this moment is “We don’t know when MM will happen. There are, however, several paths leading to it, and we’re pretty sure that one will succeed, and within the next couple decades. We’re also not sure of it’s impact, but we believe that either extreme is possible. We also believe that one of the more favorable futures could happen if we start discussing MM, now. With input from a much larger group of stake holders (RR note: that’s you and I and all of us folks) a few core groups should be able to find a good path, provided modest funding.”

With $10 billion you could fund an aggressive MM R&D program; a program that helps us learn more about how we can steer clear of the dangers, and that helps us realize the grand vision. And, possibly, one that in a few short years answers the most fundamental question "what needs to be done to help us realize one of the best futures?"

So now we come to the point of this post, the tip of the nanotube if you will, and the Question: “If any one of many potential civilization-ending events was in the works or about to happen, and if you would authorize the spending of billions of dollars to spare us from it, why not at the very least give these learned, credible and respected folks an honest listen regarding MM? If they’re right, then we have to consider spending those dollars, and the sooner the better. So ask them questions of your own, right here. Assert your stake holder obligations and participate!

And yes, listen to their critics, especially those that engage in honest debate.

Learn more about MM at:
The Center for Responsible Nanotechnology
The Foresight Nanotech Institute
Preparing for Nanotechnology

Full disclosure: I happen to believe that should the well-defined stepping-stone technologies receive enough funding, molecular manufacturing is in our near future (5 to 25 years). I also believe that without extensive preparation and planning, things could go horribly wrong.

When might MM happen? Who knows. I wouldn’t be surprised if by 2012—especially given the possibility of existing unknown programs—and I would be surprised if not by 2030. We are an ever-inquisitive bunch of caffeine injected monkeys, sticking our tool wielding hands into and prying open the secrets of the universe with mad abandon; sometimes succeeding beyond our wildest imaginings, and sometime… not. I’d be very surprised if we didn’t crack this nut, soon.

I also happen to believe that we’ll choose one of the paths that leads us to universal abundance, where no one is lacking for their basic needs. Those needs include adequate food, safe water, a clean environment, housing, medical care, education, public safety, fair labor, unrestricted travel, artistic expression and freedom from fear, tyranny and oppression. I also believe that MM will enable humankind to realize it’s dream of traveling to the stars, and will allow for a world where we work only to follow our passions, while enabling us to live longer, healthier, and more productive lives.

(1) Meteor or comet strike, Yellowstone magma pool erupts, the once in a thousand-year tsunami, monster earthquake, etc. “These are risks that would imperil humankind as a whole and/or have major adverse consequences for the course of human civilization.” From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. link

(2) “The risk of an impact by asteroid 2004 MN4 went up slightly on Saturday, Dec. 25. It is now pegged at having a 1-in-45 chance of striking the planet on April 13, 2029. That's up from 1-in-63 late on Dec. 24, and 1-in-300 early on Dec. 24. Astronomers still stress that it is very likely the risk will be reduced to zero with further observations. And even as it stands with present knowledge, the chances are 97.8 percent the rock will miss Earth.” Source:

See also link. An example of what might happen if we got hit by a meteor the size of the moon. (RR note: I included this one because it is an interesting video)

(3) As of 2000, there were at least 7 countries with a GNP of $1 trillion or more, and 6 more at $500 million or more. So it is very likely that a $1 trillion investment would be authorized to prevent a civilization-ending event.

Nanotechnology Q&A, Pt I ~more

“If you had the attention of the entire world, what would you say regarding molecular manufacturing?”

Brian Wang Important discoveries and radical breakthroughs are happening now with molecular manufacturing. For instance, a fairly advanced form of DNA nanotechnology is being created (DNA origami, Ned Seemans Work).

Analog superconducting quantum computers will be released next year by Dwave systems. Quantum computers will be very useful for molecular simulation which will in turn drive the science and development even faster.

Radical breakthroughs are possible and need to be part of the planning and funding process. If you or your country are only backing incremental gains then you will fall behind. You need an entrepreneurial minded approach, and "out-of-the-box thinking" engineers and scientists who will find ways around the many challenging hurdles to radical breakthroughs.

Funders need to consider the following:

1. More focus needs to be on molecular manufacturing efforts with the greatest potential. For instance, Freitas and Merkles work on Diamondoid Mechanosynthesis holds great promise. There is a high percentage chance that molecular manufacturing will generate a great deal of societal change; from aggressive adoption and super-fast roll out of lightweight materials in cars and other products where weight and strength are primary factors.

2. Create a portfolio of advanced technologies that include a large portion - 15-25% - that shoot for radical breakthroughs in life extension, regeneration, extending human capabilities, revolutionary energy sources and space access.

Winners in molecular manufacturing will have been aggressive and creative.

~Brian Wang, Futurist, advanced nanotechnology blog