from the well-worth-reading dept.
A Rand Corporation "foresight" report on "The Global Technology Revolution: Bio/Nano/Materials Trends and Their Synergies with Information Technology by 2015" examines the potential effects of several technological trends over the next 15 years.
As described by the authors in their introduction, the report covers "[a] number of significant technology-related trends appear poised to have major global effects by 2015. These trends are being influenced by advances in biotechnology, nanotechnology, materials technology, and information technology . . . [the] implications are varied and can include social, political, economic, environmental, or other factors. In many cases, the significance of these technologies appears to depend on the synergies afforded by their combined advances as well as on their interaction with the so-called information revolution."
Although the authors feel "the present period in molecular manufacturing research is extremely exciting", their basic conclusion about advanced nanotechnology is rather cautious:
"Although molecular manufacturing holds the promise of significant global changes . . . it remains the least concrete of the technologies discussed here. Significant progress has been made, however, in the development of component technologies within the first regime of molecular manufacturing, where objects might be constructed from simple molecules and manufactured in a short amount of time via parallel atomic force microprobes or from simple self-assembled structures. Although the building blocks for these systems currently exist only in isolation at the research stage, it is certainly reasonable to expect that an integrated capability could be developed over the next 15 years . . . A series of important breakthroughs could certainly cause progress in this area to develop much more rapidly, but it seems very unlikely that macro-scale objects could be constructed using molecular manufacturing within the 2015 timeframe."
The full report is available online, and as an Adobe Acrobat PDF file.