Foresight Update 43

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A publication of the Foresight Institute

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Eighth Foresight Conference On Molecular Nanotechnology Draws Record Attendance

Conference and Tutorial highlight rapidly expanding interest

The Eighth Foresight Conference on Molecular Nanotechnology brought together leaders in the field of molecular nanotechnology for a comprehensive overview of this rapidly expanding area of research and development. The Conference was held in Bethesda, Maryland from November 3-5, 2000.

Foresight's annual technical conference is a meeting of scientists and technologists working in fields leading toward molecular nanotechnology: thorough three-dimensional structural control of materials and devices at the molecular level.

About 400 people registered for this year's conference, the largest attendance ever. About 270 attended the 1999 conference, so the increase was substantial. The pre-conference Tutorial, a day-long session on the fundamental concepts of nanotechnology, also saw a large jump in attendance, with about 100 participants (about 60 attended the tutorial sessions in 1999).

"This year's conference was particularly important," said conference Co-Chair Jan H. Hoh, a researcher with the Department of Physiology, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. "Advances in basic theory and experimental research are rapidly bringing nanotechnology closer to important and practical applications. In addition to the growth in basic research activities related to nanotechnology, we are also seeing increased interest from the business and venture capital sectors seeking to turn the results of that research to real-world uses."

Over the next few decades, manufacturing is expected to undergo a profound change. Advances in miniaturization will reach the level of individual atoms and products will be designed and built to atomically-precise specifications. In the last year alone, several leading researchers in such diverse fields of molecular electronics and fullerene nanotube materials have formed private-sector firms with the aim of developing commercial products based on their nanotechnology research.

The conference covered topics relevant to the pursuit of molecular control, drawing from fields such as molecular electronics, biochemical molecular engineering, scanning probe microscopy, supramolecular chemistry and self-assembly, natural and artificial molecular machines, nanomaterials and mechanosynthesis, mechanical engineering and robotics, and applications of nanotechnology. Our coverage of the conference presentations appears here.

This year's conference was the first held since the advent of the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI), proposed by President Clinton in his request for the Fiscal Year 2001 U.S. federal budget. The NNI proposes an increse of over $200 million in the government's investment in nanotechnology research and development, and will nearly double federal spending in the emerging field of nanoscale science and technology over the next five years. While the NNI did not receive the full funding requested, most of the increase was approved by Congress (see related story)

In addition, the 2000 Annual Feynman Prizes in Nanotechnology were awarded during a special evening banquet session. The annual Feynman Prizes are sponsored by the Foresight Institute to recognize recent achievements that contribute to the development of nanotechnology, and to encourage and accelerate that development. Also presented were the Distinguished Student Award, and the first Communications Award. For details, see the related story.

Foresight Update 43 - Table of Contents


Foresight Institute Names New Executive Director

Our search for a new Executive Director is over!

Foresight is pleased to announce the addition of Charles A. (Chuck) Piercey to the Foresight staff. Though he is initially working on a part time basis as he extracts himself from his previous position, Chuck has already begun to make a difference at the office, bringing his experience to bear on our current projects.

For the past eleven years, Chuck has been Executive Director of Interex, the International Association of Hewlett-Packard Computing Professionals, an independent, not-for-profit association providing conferences, publications, and contributed software to HP business computer users in 61 countries around the world.

Prior to Interex, Chuck served as the top manager in several start-ups and small to medium size, for-profit businesses involved with products that included ultra-high vacuum equipment for electron beam microscopes, Auger Spectroscopy, and thin-film deposition for integrated circuits, plus con-focal scanning laser microscopes. He has BSME and MBA degrees from Stanford University.

"With the field of nanotechnology growing so fast, it's a great relief to the founding leadership of Foresight that we have managed to recruit Chuck as our new Executive Director," said Foresight President Christine Peterson. "Our original 'Mom-and-Pop' style of management by the founders was good enough for the early days, but only real management skill can bring us through these days of rapid ramp-up. It's a joy to see Chuck's skills and experience being brought to bear on our challenges, which are far greater than those we faced just a year ago. And the staff are greatly relieved to be getting the professional-quality support and direction they deserve!"

We are delighted to have him on board and hope you will join us in welcoming Chuck to the Foresight community.

Foresight Update 43 - Table of Contents


Inside Foresight

by Tanya Jones

Tanya JonesEven the approach of the holidays has not slowed the momentum at Foresight. In this issue, you will see extensive coverage of the Eighth Foresight Conference on Molecular Nanotechnology held this year in Bethesda, Maryland; reports on the awarding of the annual Feynman Prizes and Foresight's first Prize in Communication; and, as always, detailed information on the latest advances in nanotechnology. Congratulations to our Chairpersons for the outstanding job they did with this event. We are all extremely pleased with the success of this conference, despite the logistics of moving the entire office to Bethesda for a week, and we expect to continue adding a bi-coastal flavor to our events in the future. Coverage of the Eighth Foresight Conference begins here.

Nanomedicine Web Pages Updated

Robert A. Freitas Jr., author of Nanomedicine, has completed an extensive revsion of the nanomedicine pages hosted on the Foresight website. He was assisted by Foresight Webmaster Jim Lewis, who has been extremely busy, taking no pause from the tremendous work he did in assembling the technical conference documentation on the web. As Jim says, "I appreciate the nod, and it was some work to incorporate all the updates, but that work was small compared to the work that Rob did collecting and organizing the updates."

You will now find a comprehensive archive of nanomedical information, including: illustrations, images, and animations, with biographical information on the artists; a listing of recent articles on the subject; and links to the biographies of the growing list of researchers in this field. Almost everyone may find use in the extensive list of commercial and research organizations pursuing nanomedical investigation. I'd like to encourage you to visit to see first hand the many changes that have occurred.

Intellectual Property Conference

A demand for intellectual property reform is growing as advances in technology come in increasingly short intervals. Some contend, and loudly, that the Patent Office has been unable to maintain its integrity. Claims include that patents being issued no longer adhere to the requirements of being both useful and non-obvious and that current term limits are inappropriate to some realms of development, including most information based processes (like software development).

Foresight intends to provide a forum for expressing concerns and addressing methods for changing a system that is rapidly becoming outdated with regards to the growing information economy. We will be pursuing our efforts to cooperate with multiple organizations, including the Santa Clara University Law School,, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation in an attempt to bring about this conference. We will keep you posted as more information becomes available.

Fall Gathering

We can report the success of another Senior Associates' Gathering. This event featured the return of authors Vernor Vinge and Robert Grudin, who both held special sessions at the beginning of the conference to discuss various projects with our members in a more informal setting.

Vernor has recently retired from his teaching duties in order to pursue writing full time, much to the delight of many attendees. He chose to use his session to solicit suggestions for the focus of his next novel. He expressed some difficulty, as there is a loss of momentum in the presentation of new ideas in science fiction, and questioned concerns about re-using ideas, even if they reflect a novel application of the descriptive elements. There are additional drawbacks to being the first to explore new territory, as there is no basis for comparison. This was the case in Vernor's creation of the Zones, and he is accepting explanations for how these may have arisen.

Robert took the opportunity to challenge us with the question: is more power more conducive to social justice? He asserted, and then provided case material for human equality being a modern idea. Informational empowerment will assist the advance of this, and will in turn make honesty a critical rung in corporate development. An intellectual economy is emerging, and there will concurrently emerge new potential for manipulation.

Though there was much additional discussion of the various aspects of this question, I'd like to close the coverage of this session with a thought inherent in the philosophy of the King of Bhutan: the gross national happiness is more important a measure of success than the gross national product. While we can chuckle all we want about measurement difficulties, this nevertheless sounds like a worthy goal for the application of these emerging technologies so near to our hearts.

We also heard from a recent addition to the Senior Associate membership, Douglas Mulhall, who holds the distinction of being the first ecologist to join our ranks. He would like to see the Foresight community focus more on bringing the ecologists and technologists closer together. He informed us that there is a large gap between the level of understanding between these two communities, and hopes to provide the means of drawing us closer together.

Doing so will require an educational effort, as ecologists have a poor understanding of nanotechnology; and the reverse is also true. Nurturing the environment has been a goal of Foresight from the beginning, but we have not yet been able to gain knowledge of the field directly; and Doug hopes to help us change this.

Jim McCoy and Peter Thiel both spoke to the assembled members on their respective attempts to manage electronic currency transactions. While Peter's (through their purchase of is bringing the effortless exchange of money to the digital realm, Jim's efforts focus on the creation of a totally new form of currency, called Mojo.

With the software provided by Mojo Nation, users may choose to contribute disk space, bandwidth, and processing cycles to the network in exchange for Mojo. Eventually, Mojo will be traded in an open market, and will thereby be connected to the monetary system of the realm.

Preparing for Spring

In the fall, Foresight holds a traditional-style conference with speakers and audience. In the spring, things get more exciting, and the format is more radical. A multi-track event, attendees have direct input into both the structure of the sessions and the material presented during this event. If you'd like to attend an invigorating and exhausting event with virtually unlimited interaction among participants and speakers alike, then this is the event for you.

We have selected the dates for this gathering, and we encourage you to mark your calendars with April 20-22, 2001. Palo Alto and the Cabana hotel will again host an assortment of intellectual, commercial, and generally enterprising leaders from a broad range of communities. Topics will include our favorite technologies and forays into social and ethical arenas. Stay tuned for more information as our invited speaker list and registration information become available.

In Conclusion

Last, but certainly not least, I'd like to extend a warm welcome to Foresight's new Executive Director, Chuck Piercey. Chuck is the latest of this year's additions to the Foresight staff, and we have high hopes for his ability to assist us with infrastructure development and internal efficiency. I'd also like to extend this welcome to all those who have joined Foresight this past year, and hope to assure you that we intend to continue upgrading and expanding the quality and scope of Foresight events, exposing our favorite emerging technologies in the mainstream media, and continuing the introduction of outstanding individuals to our community. We thank you all for your support.

Tanya Jones is Foresight's Director of Communications. You can eMail her at

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From Foresight Update 43, originally published 30 December 2000.