Books of Note
Books are listed in increasing order of specialization and reading
challenge. Your suggestions are welcome. And remember, if a book's
price looks too high, your library should be able to get it through
interdepartmental loan. -- Editor
Hardball: How Politics is Played, Told by One Who Knows the Game, by
Christopher Matthews, Harper& Row, 1989, softcover, $8.95. As
nanotechnology approaches funding and moves toward policy formulation,
we'll need to understand how Washington works. Here's the straight
(and entertaining) story.
The Art of the Long View, by Peter Schwartz, Doubleday, 1991,
hardcover, $20. Superb guide to how to look ahead using scenario
planning, by the president of Global Business Network. To be reviewed
in a later issue.
The Magic Machine: a Handbook of Computer Sorcery, by A.K. Dewdney,
W.H. Freeman, 1990, softcover, $15.95. A collection of his columns
from Scientific American, including one on nanocomputers.
Proceedings of the Fifth International Conference on Scanning
Tunneling Microscopy/Spectroscopy and First International Conference
on Nanometer Scale Science and Technology, eds. Richard J. Colton et
al, American Institute of Physics, 1991, hardcover. Same as the 1991
Mar/Apr Journal of the Vacuum Science and Technology B, which is much
easier to find. An excellent collection of recent proximal probe
experimental work. Includes a proposal for a protoassembler (on the
path to molecular nanotechnology): "Molecular tip arrays for molecular
imaging and nanofabrication" by Drexler.
The Foresight Institute receives hundreds of letters requesting
information and sending ideas. Herewith some excerpts:
Nanotechnology would be very good and very bad for the idea of human
settlements not on a planetary surface [described in The High Frontier
by Gerard K. O'Neill]. Specifically, it makes the concept both
possible and unnecessary.
Nanotechnology should make O'Neill's idea feasible by making
construction of extraterrestrial settlements far cheaper than they
otherwise would be. This is important, because high cost is probably
the most important impediment to the realization of extraterrestrial
settlement. Nanotechnology should also help by making it feasible to
have a completely closed ecology with molecular machines instead of
It seems to me that nanotechnology would also destroy most of the
rationale for space settlements. The primary justification put forward
by O'Neill et al. was to build solar energy satellites to satisfy
Earth's electricity needs. The development of nanotechnology should
make it possible to obtain considerable amounts of energy at low cost
with ground-based solar energy or geothermal energy. The manufacture
of items in space will also disappear as a rationale for the
settlement or industrialization of space. Yet another reason for space
colonization was to remove polluting industries from Earth. This was a
weak reason from the beginning; it would be cheaper to improve
pollution control technology. But with nanotechnology, this reason
disappears. Manufacturing with nanotechnology is likely to be
It is quite possible that I am being too pessimistic. There may be
other reasons for extraterrestrial settlement that I have not
John W. Martin
Editor: You are right to point out that many of the earlier strategies
for making space industrialization into a paying proposition will be
made obsolete once molecular manufacturing is in place. However, solar
power satellites (and so forth) were regarded as short-term tactics in
the long-term strategy of space settlement. The primary motivations
have not changed: space resources exist, and life expands to take
advantage of unused resources. Further, the fate of the dinosaurs
shows that it would be unwise to restrict all the diversity of today's
biosphere to one vulnerable planetary surface. Nanotechnology should
lower costs to the point that we can afford to put our eggs in more
than one basket. See the article elsewhere in this issue on the
National Space Society's conference coverage of nanotechnology.
On the active shield concept outlined in Engines of Creation:
The active shield is somewhat naive because even if such a shield were
developed it could in certain circumstances be breached, especially by
a militarily-minded opponent. Also the idea that each country or
culture can have its own shield is not necessarily a good idea, as
it's important for other countries and organizations to be able to
"interfere" to protect against human rights abuses, etc. Interference,
for genuinely justifiable reasons of course, is vital to the progress
of mankind, as can be seen throughout history.
Keith P. Byrne
Editor: The question of how to both enable adequate defenses and still
protect human rights will become increasingly difficult as military
technologies advance. Imagine the recent Gulf War with
nanotechnology-based weapons on both sides, or on only the wrong side.
This is the sort of complex issue we plan to explore in greater detail
when adequate hypertext discussion software becomes available, perhaps
Special thanks go to Chris Rodgers for two years of highly
competent Foresight work; she leaves us now to continue a career in
Special thanks are due to Fred Stitt, who served as publisher
of Foresight Update for its first four years. His assistance during
these early years has been greatly appreciated.
Thanks also to:
* Stewart Cobb for taking on the main leadership position within the new
Molecular Manufacturing Shortcut Group within the National Space Society.
* BC Crandall for his arduous work on completing the Foresight conference
proceedings (MIT Press, late 1991).
* James Lewis for his earlier (also arduous) work at the start of the
* Marc Stiegler, Ray Alden, and Jim Bennett for founding IMM; Lynne Morrill
for directing it; Eric Dean Tribble for recruiting Miss Morrill.
* ERATO researcher Christopher Jones and Kiyomi Hutchings for Japanese
* Ralph Merkle and Leonard Zubkoff for computer time and help.
* Gayle Pergamit for screening job candidates.
* Ted Kaehler for organizing the successful nanotechnology discussion
group within CPSR, and much other help.
* Mark Hopkins, Margaret Jordan, Duncan Forbes, and many others for
support within NSS.
* Dave Forrest (belatedly) for leading the MIT Nanotechnology Study
Group for years until his research had to take precedence; he has now
escaped the Institute.
* Iwao Fujimasa for obtaining RCAST (U. Tokyo) as a conference sponsor.
* Chairman Stig Hagstom and Mike Kelly for Stanford Dept. of Materials
Science conference sponsorship.
* Russ Mills for his popular and long-running technical column, and
layout of the newsletter.
* Ed Niehaus for ongoing public relations assistance and good advice.
* Lynne Morrill of IMM for finding Foresight job candidates.
* Mark S. Miller for planning the presentation of ideas for the first
report of the CPSR discussion group.
* the Xanadu and AMIX programmers for creating needed social software.
* Phil Salin for giving Foresight an early account on the AMIX
* Josh Hall for moderating the sci.nanotech newsgroup on USENET.
* Jamie Dinkelacker for media advice.
* Tracy Schmidt for thoughtful policy comments.
* Kathleen Shatter for conference planning.
* Jeffrey Soreff for technical critiques.
* Mike McManus of Cambridge Scientific for improving the Chem 3D Plus
software in response to our requests.
Thanks to the following for sending technical articles and
media coverage: Joe Bonaventura, Jim Conyngham, Doug Denholm, Robert
Edberg, S.F. Elton, Jerry Fass, D.J. Fears, Joseph Fine, Dave Forrest,
W.C. Gaines, A.P. Hald, William Hale, G. Houston, Stan Hutchings,
Christopher Jones, Marie-Louise Kagan, Cherie Kushner, Henry Lahore,
Tom McKendree, Bob Newbell, John Papiewski, John Primiani, E.A.
Reitman, Naomi Reynolds, Jeffrey Soreff, Alvin Steinberg, Ralph
Tookey, and Jack Veach.
A request to those sending articles: please don't underline or
highlight within the text, and please be sure the publication and date
are on the article; thanks.
From our "Thanks" column it's clear that many readers are already
sending in articles, both technical and nontechnical. We'd like to
make this more systematic for the technical articles, with volunteers
agreeing to monitor specific journals. If you routinely look at one or
more of the following and are willing to send us copies of relevant
articles, please contact us: Angewandt Chemie, JACS, J. Appl. Phys.,
Appl. Phys Lett., Protein Engineering, J. Computational Chemistry, J.
Molecular Electronics. As always, articles from other publications are
welcome. We already monitor Science, Nature, and Science News. We'd
also appreciate help from Japan in identifying relevant journals and
obtaining abstracts in English of key articles.
Someone with routine access to NEXIS could help us by running periodic
searches on the word nanotechnology.
Layout help is needed on the Macintosh, using Pagemaker software.
We are in need of the following materials and help: a fax machine and
a laser printer for the Macintosh. Office space in the Palo Alto area
is needed as well. Volunteers with legal or fundraising experience are
needed. Note that donations of equipment or funds are tax-deductible
in the U.S. as charitable contributions.
If you or your company can help with any of the above, please call us
STM '91, International Conference on Scanning Tunneling Microscopy,
August 12-16, 1991, Interlaken, Switzerland. Contact Ch. Gerber, fax
(1) 724 31 70.
Second Foresight Conference on Nanotechnology, Nov. 7-9, 1991.
Invitational technical meeting sponsored by Foresight Institute,
Stanford Dept. of Materials Science and Engineering, University of
Tokyo Research Center for Advanced Science and Technology, Institute
for Molecular Manufacturing. For researchers in enabling science and
technology. Contact 415-324-2490; fax 415-948-5649.
Science and Technology at the Nanometer Scale, American Vacuum Society
National Symposium, Nov. 11-15, 1991, Seattle, WA. Contact James
Murday, Code 6100, NRL, Washington, DC 20375-5000; fax 202-404-7139
(or American Vacuum Society).
Ecotech, Nov. 14-17, Monterey Conference Center, $500/$250 nonprofit.
Participating organizations include Apple Computer, CPSR, Econet,
Foresight Institute, Global Business Network. Will explore the
technologies of ecology and their application; see article elsewhere
in this issue. For businesspeople, scientists, environmentalists,
public policy makers. Includes a talk and workshop on nanotechnology.
Contact Mike Whitacre, 619-259-5110.
Nature Conference on Nanotechnology, Jan. 27-28, Tokyo. See the
journal Nature for details.
Bionic Design International Workshop, Jan. 29-30, Tsukuba, Japan.
Includes track on molecular machine systems. Contact Foresight for
Third Conference on Technology, Entertainment & Design, Feb. 20-23,
1992, Monterey, CA. Confirmed speakers include Stewart Brand, Jaron
Lanier, Paul Saffo, John Sculley, Edward Tufte. Great fun, but
expensive. Contact 619-259-5110; fax 619-259-1495.
DIAC-92: Directions and Implications of Advanced Computing, May 2-3,
1992, Berkeley, CA. Sponsored by Computer Professionals for Social
Responsibility and ACM. Includes civil liberties, privacy. Contact
Doug Schuler, 206-632-1659, 206-865-3832,
The April Byte held a roundtable on innovation in which nanotechnology
was characterized as a source of significant innovation, making major
strides. The May 4 New Scientist described the book Engines of
Creation (on the topic of nanotechnology) as "the best analysis of the
future of technology" among books shortlisted for the Science Book
Prize in Britain. The IEEE publication Computer (May 1991) featured
coverage of Eric Drexler's plenary lecture at the Compcon conference;
unfortunately the author got some numbers wrong in his energy
dissipation calculation. Local coverage of the National Space Society
conference (San Antonio Express-News, May 26) was dominated by the
nanotechnology component of the conference; see article in this issue.
Nature (May 9, p. 90) covered MITI's plan for a large-scale angstom
technology project; see article in this issue. World Monitor (April)
described nanotechnology in an article on robots, but that coverage
had many inaccuracies; the author evidently used other media pieces as
his source of data on nanotechnology. The Discovery Channel magazine
(TDC) included a commentary by Eric Drexler on nanotechnology in July.
American Way (an in-flight magazine) covered the topic in its June 15
issue. Paul Saffo of the Institute for the Future gave a good brief
description in his "Looking Ahead" column in the Los Angeles Times
(June 26). The IBM publication Creativity! (June) included their Chief
Scientist's remarks in favor of the bottom-up (sometimes called
"atom-by-atom") approach to nanotechnology and miniaturization; see
quotations in this issue.
There is an electronic discussion group on nanotechnology called
sci.nanotech on the USENET computer network; it can be reached by
members of the general public who subscribe to a commercial service
such as Portal, the service we use. Portal can be reached by calling
408-973-9111, or sign on automatically by having your modem dial
415-725-0561. Another service, the WELL, also carries sci.nanotech;
they can be reached at 415-332-4335 (voice) or 415-332-6106 (data).
Both Portal and the WELL are based in the San Francisco Bay Area but
are accessible to those outside the area. If similar services exist in
your local calling area, it may be less expensive to use them instead
of the services described here. We look forward to hearing from you
CPSR Reports on Nanotechnology
The nanotechnology special interest group within Computer
Professionals for Social Responsibility Palo Alto chapter made its
first preliminary report at a CPSR meeting on July 3. The following
members of the group made presentations:
* Ralph Merkle, head of the new Xerox PARC Computational
Nanotechnology Project, explained the basic concepts of molecular
nanotechnology and manufacturing.
* Ted Kaehler, Apple computer scientist and founder of the special
interest group (who earlier helped start CPSR itself), discussed both
beneficial effects and categories of accidents that could result from
various applications of the technology.
* Mark S. Miller, a computer scientist at Xanadu Operating Company,
described ways in which the technology could be abused and why
computer professionals are well placed to address the overall policy
issues raised by development.
* Chris Peterson, a director of Foresight, discussed the plans the
group has for further discussion and presentation of the resulting
conclusions for review by larger groups within CPSR. The long-term
goal is to guide public policy in this area.
* BC Crandall, editor of Nanotechnology: The First Foresight
Conference (MIT Press, scheduled for Nov. 1991 publication), described
information resources available, organizations CPSR may be interested
in collaborating with on this topic, and news from Japan.
For more information contact Ted Kaehler at 408-974-6241 or
kaeh...@applelink.apple.com. Meeting notices are sent to members of
the Palo Alto chapter of CPSR (you need not be a computer professional
to join), or can be obtained electronically from Ted. CPSR can be
reached at P.O. Box 717, Palo Alto, CA 94301.
Write to Foresight
One of Foresight's main goals is to communicate the concepts of
nanotechnology and molecular manufacturing to members of various
groups, from scientists to students. You can help us refine these
explanations: How do the people you know generally react to these
ideas? Please write us and describe your experiences explaining
nanotechnology to others. Which ideas are easy to get across and which
are difficult? Which examples and explanations are most effective? How
do these depend on the listener's background? Please describe any
problems you've encountered. And, last, please tell us a bit about
yourself. Send to Foresight Institute, Attn: Conversations, PO Box
61058, Palo Alto, CA 94306; or email to fore...@cup.portal.com.
IBM Sees 'Bottom-up' Path
IBM Chief Scientist and Vice President for Science and Technology, J.
A. Armstrong, spoke at the Symposium on the 100th Anniversary of the
Birth of Vannevar Bush. His theme was "The Continuing Triumph of
Miniaturization." Among his remarks were these: "I believe that
nanoscience and nanotechnology will be central to the next epoch of
the information age, and will be as revolutionary as science and
technology at the micron scale have been since the early 70's. . .
Indeed, we will have the ability to make electronic and mechanical
devices atom-by-atom when that is appropriate to the job at hand."
(Creativity!, June 1991, Vol. 10, No. 2, pp. 1-6)
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