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Spring 2003 Gathering

Foresight Vision Weekend

Annual Senior Associates Gathering
"Molecular Myth, Manufacturing, Money and Mania—
Will the real nanotechnology please self assemble!"

Discussion Topics
(subject to change)

May 2-4, 2003
Hotel Crowne Plaza Cabaña Palo Alto
Silicon Valley, California

The meeting is off the record; no media writeups please.

Sign-up for the discussion topics that most interest you either by sending an email to or upon registering at the weekend. First come, first serve basis

1. Who Will Lead Nanotech: International, US, China or...?
Lots of money is being spent around the world, but who will win? Would a crash international cooperative effort be the best, fastest, and safest path? Or a US program: public, private, secret? Special attention should go to Greater China (includes Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore and overseas Chinese): their scientific strength, labor cost advantage, attitude toward intellectual property, and possible government commitment to molecular nanotech.

2. Funding Nanotech: Public and Private
Venture capital is too short-term to fund our kind of nanotech — molecular manufacturing — but are there more visionary sources of private capital? Governments of the US and other countries are spending billions on "nanotech". How can we get some spent on molecular manufacturing?

3. Spreading Nanotech Benefits
Can the benefits of molecular manufacturing be spread faster: If intellectual property laws are reformed? If the technology is developed as open source — and would that be safe? What about economic disruption: will everyone be able to find a job in an advanced nanotech economy — doubtful, since they can't today — and if not, is there a way to minimize the human cost and maximize the benefits for everyone?

4. Convergence: Nano, Bio, Info & Cognitive Technologies
The convergence of these fields has been talked about at Foresight for quite some time, but a recent NSF report has raised the awareness of this topic. The report, "Converging Technologies for Improving Human Performance", focuses on emerging technologies in the fields of nano-, bio- and information technology as well as cognitive science — collectively called NBIC. How does, or should, this impact Foresight's mission and/or message?

5. Nanotech Warfare & Terrorism: How Likely, How Bad, How Preventable?
What are the destabilizing and violent scenarios related to the emergence of full blown and robust nanotech. How probable are they? Which of the bad and likely ones can be prevented or minimized: nanotech-enhanced first strike, nanotech arms race, early nanotech conventional capabilities? Given the manifest challenges of controlling weapons of mass destruction in today's world, what are the implications for developing a viable mix of defense, deterrence, (enforceable) arms control, and other strategies for surviving the emergence of nanoweapons? Surveillance will be used for nanotech arms control: is 100% transparency the only path for both safety and freedom?

6. Participating in the NanoRevolution: Technical and Non-Tech
Given the aging of the more-developed countries and increased competition for advanced science and engineering talent, where will we find tomorrow's nanoscientists and engineers? How many PhD's (and in what areas) do we need to graduate per year to discover, innovate, and build momentum comparable to the software industry? Can technical professionals outside nanotech — like many of us at this meeting — make the switch, and how? And what about the non-technical among us: our goal of "Preparing society to deal with nanotech" will be much more likely to work with the involvement of many experts from many disciplines, including economists, sociologists, historians, anthropologists, actuaries, lawyers and legal scholars, ethicists, political scientists, philosophers, artists, mathematicians, and of course politicians, in addition to various types of scientists, engineers, and technologists. How can productive multi- and inter-disciplinary collaboration of all these professionals be encouraged and facilitated?

7. Regulating Nanotech
Already the demand is being made for a moratorium on nanotech. How should we respond for best effect? Can we use this as an opportunity to promote productive public discussion about whether or how to regulate nanotechnology R&D? Can we help craft wiser choices than techno-utopian laissez-faire or precautionary paralysis?

8. Nanoenvironmentalism & Space Settlement
Molecular manufacturing can eliminate chemical pollution — a dream goal for those of us who care for the Earth. How can we communicate this and reach out to the environmental community for help in pursuing this vision? Will nanotech-enabled space development and settlement help with our aim of environmental restoration here on Earth, and if so, how can ownership of space resources be fairly allocated to encourage it, given how fast the winners of the nanotech race may be able to expand into space?

9. Machine Intelligence and Other New Entities
Genetic engineering, body enhancement technologies, and nanotech will result in the creation of new entities, such as augments (normal humans who have been technologically augmented with implants), enhants (genetically enhanced humans), cyborgs (human brains surrounded by robotic bodies), uplifts (animals who have been genetically modified to have human-sized brains), uploads (human personalities uploaded into faster hardware), 'dividuals' (copies of a personality surviving in more than one physical representation), and AIs (artificially intelligent computers). What are the criteria for personhood in a nanotech era with such a wide range of entities? Consider also that machine intelligence, especially running on the powerful hardware made possible by nanotech, could soon outmatch humans. Is AI a potential problem and if so, how do we manage it?

10. Life Extension & Anti-Aging in a Pre-Nanotech Era
We want to be around to help the future work out. What can we do to slow our own aging before nanotech arrives? Typical answers range from the easy (taking supplements) to the hard (caloric restriction) to the expensive (health monitoring and correction by high-end anti-aging medical labs, including hormone treatments). But none of these can be expected to give generally healthy people with a good diet more than a few years of extra life. Already-feasible biotech might do much more, giving billions more people a bridge to the nanomedicine of the more distant future. What might work, what won't, and who supplies reliable information on these fast-changing techniques?


Spring 2003 Gathering

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