Foresight Institute publishes guidelines for development of nanotechnology

From: Martin Ling (
Date: Sat Jun 17 2000 - 13:53:44 MDT

Foresight Publishes Guidelines for Development of Nanotechnology

Palo Alto, California -- June 14, 2000 -- Foresight Institute today
announced publication of the first public version of the "Foresight
Guidelines on Molecular Nanotechnology" to assure that research in this
rapidly emerging field proceeds safely and responsibly. Based on the
report of a February 1999 workshop in Monterey, Calif., sponsored
jointly by the Foresight Institute and the Institute for Molecular
Manufacturing, publication of the Foresight Guidelines begins an open
discussion about the appropriate framework within which to develop
nanotechnology. Nanotechnology is predicted to become the basis for
remarkably powerful and inexpensive computers, fundamentally new
medical technologies that could save millions of lives, and new
zero-pollution manufacturing methods that could create greater material
abundance for all. Abuse of the technology could also cause considerable

"The Foresight Guidelines are a safety framework within which
nanotechnology can emerge in the coming decades with minimum risk and
maximum benefit," said Ralph Merkle, Principal Fellow at Zyvex and
member of Foresight's Board of Advisors. "Developing nanotechnology
within a context of public oversight and discussion in democratic
countries is the safest approach. To do this we must continue a vigorous
program of research and development. This is essential for an informed
public discussion, as well as to pre-empt secret development by
undemocratic regimes."

Neil Jacobstein, Chairman of the Institute for Molecular Manufacturing
and Crown Fellow at the Aspen Institute said: "The Foresight
Guidelines are an important step in the direction of technologists
exercising social responsibility long in advance of deploying molecular
nanotechnology. We included a brief review of the issues, as well as
development principles and some initial guidelines for device design.
The Guidelines represent the beginning of a technology policy dialog,
which will succeed over time if researchers, policy experts, and the
public work together to understand the specific types of nanotechnology,
and their associated benefits and risks. We intend to evolve the
Foresight Guidelines into a viable strategy for responsible
nanotechnology development."

Jim Von Ehr, President and CEO of Zyvex, said: "This is an important
document that deserves careful reading by all concerned. As one of the
first nanotechnology companies, Zyvex fully supports the Guidelines and
is pleased that two of our senior scientists were able to participate
in their preparation. I expect that a sense of professional ethics will
compel nanotechnology developers to individually subscribe to these
principles. These Guidelines are so important that grant-making
agencies, even military ones, should require a pledge of adherence as a
precondition of funding advanced nanotechnology development."

The basis of the Foresight Guidelines began in analysis and discussions
dating back to the late 1970's, when K. Eric Drexler first realized the
profound impact that these future technologies could have on the human
condition. The full development of nanotechnology is still decades
away, providing time for open discussion about what additional
guidelines and enforcement mechanisms are appropriate.

Christine Peterson, President of the Foresight Institute, said: "The
Internet has changed the world, economically and politically, but
compared to what's coming, we ain't seen nothin' yet. The future will be
so different from human history that we can barely imagine it -- yet we
need to if we're going to make reasonable decisions."

The Institute for Molecular Manufacturing (IMM),, is a Palo
Alto based nonprofit foundation formed in 1991 to carry out research
aimed at developing molecular nanotechnology. IMM sponsored the writing
of the first technical book on nanotechnology, Nanosystems: Molecular
Machinery, Manufacturing, and Computation (Wiley Interscience, 1992),
and the first technical book on medical nanotechnology, Nanomedicine
(Landes Bioscience, 1999). It also supports the development of the
Foresight Guidelines, and other ongoing nanotechnology research.

The Foresight Institute,, is a Palo Alto based
nonprofit educational organization founded in 1986 in response to the
book, Engines of Creation, in which Drexler said "the approaching
breakthroughs [in nanotechnology] will become steadily more obvious.
They will eventually seize public attention. Our chances will be better
if, when that time comes, a sound set of ideas has been hammered out
and has begun to spread..." The organization's series of Foresight
Conferences on Molecular Nanotechnology is the oldest and most widely
respected in its field. The Foresight Update is a newsletter on
technical, social and other developments in nanotechnology. Foresight
sponsors the prestigious annual Feynman Prize in Nanotechnology, named
after the Nobel Prize winning physicist Richard Feynman. The Foresight
Guidelines are available on the web at:


-----[ Martin J. Ling ]-----[ ]-----

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