Visionary Congressional report on nanotechnology

Nanowerk brings our attention to a new report by the Joint Economic Committee of the U.S. Congress titled Nanotechnology: The Future is Coming Sooner Than You Think (pdf), apparently authored by Senior Economist Joseph V. Kennedy and sponsored by Rep. Jim Saxton (R-NJ). On molecular nanosystems:

At this stage a single product will integrate a wide variety of capacities including independent power generation, information processing and communication, and mechanical operation. Its manufacture implies the ability to rearrange the basic building blocks of matter and life to accomplish specific purposes. Nanoproducts regularly applied to a field might search out and transform hazardous materials and mix a specified amount of oxygen into the soil. Nanodevices could roam the body, fixing the DNA of damaged cells, monitoring vital conditions and displaying data in a readable form on skin cells in a form similar to a tattoo. [Link added. –CP] Computers might operate by reading the brain waves of the operator.

On the Singularity:

Technology is likely to continue, but at this stage some observers forecast a period at which scientific advances aggressively assume their own momentum and accelerate at unprecedented levels, enabling products that today seem like science fiction. Beyond the Singularity, human society is incomparably different from what it is today.

The Republican angle shows up near the end:

But policymakers should not fool themselves into thinking that a collective political process can guide the future any better than the market can. Regulations need to be based on clear cost/benefit calculations supported by scientific evidence. And regulations to address specific identified risks should not delay the advancement of a broad range of products that will surely bring large social and economic benefits.

Here’s a familiar-sounding assertion, at least to Foresight members:

Whether or not one believes in the Singularity, it is difficult to overestimate nanotechnology’s likely implications for society.

Yes indeed. —Christine

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