National security implications of long-term nanotechnology

The U.S. Navy’s Thomas Vandermolen looks at defense aspects of advanced nanotech in a footnoted paper over at Nanotechnology Now. He argues against a do-nothing strategy:

Given MNT’s tremendous potential for both peaceful and violent applications, controlling it with a “do nothing” strategy is analogous to providing nuclear reactors to every country under the assumption that none will use them to develop nuclear weapons. This strategy is unlikely to work, and is in fact highly dangerous.

He concludes:

As the most recent National Defense Strategy notes about disruptive technological advances: “…such breakthroughs can be unpredictable, [therefore] we should recognize their potential consequences and hedge against them.”49 Whatever form U.S. strategy takes to deal with molecular nanotechnology, it must not be reactive in nature. The threats enabled by MNT will likely evolve faster than bureaucratic solutions can cope.

Not a cheerful conclusion, but perhaps a realistic one. Timeframe estimate is 10-to-50 years. —Christine

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