Nano-Policy


Following is a precursory investigation towards the future possible shape of a draft Nanotechnology policy for an Australia think-tank to review. To allow broad public consultation and feedback this document has been confidentialized by replacing the sponsoring organizations name with the word 'Bunyip'. As a word of explanation for non-Australian readers, a 'Bunyip' is a strange emu like beast from the aboriginal dream-time that is reputed to live in billabongs (a water-hole made when a river changes course cutting off a previous bend, often the last remnant of water along the river, when the river dries out in our hot summers.).


Precursory Investigation for a
 Bunyip Micromachines & Nanoengineering Policy :
 Not Yet The Official Policy of the Bunyips

Version Dated: 15 March 2001

1. BACKGROUND:

1.1 This document aims to explore, then address with policy initiatives, the opportunities and concerns around the exciting new developments of Micromachines and Nanotechnology. Traditional minimization tools like photo-lithography (used in the manufacture of integrated computer chips) and other techniques of Microengineering, are now being employed to develop Micromachines. In the context of this document 'Micromachines' is to be understood as an umbrella term, or supper-set of devices that also includes products of Nanoengineeringin addition too those of traditional microengineering. This is done to overcome the often common miss-usage of Nanotechnology to refer to any technique able to work at a sub-micron scale. Strictly (and the usage in this document) 'Nanotechnology' is engineering at the atomic scale by direct manipulation of atoms, "A place for every atom and every atom in its place.". For clarity this is called expanded as "molecular nanotechnology" (MNT), or "Drexlarian nanotechnology" {after Eric Drexler the father-figure of the field} the main further terms occasional applied include; molecular-engineering, molecular manufacturing, etc.).

1.2 A nanometer is 1 billionth (1/10^9) of a meter, approximately diameter of ten Hydrogen atoms placed side by side, and 10,000 times narrower than a human hair. The growing fields of nanoscience and nanoengineering are feeding the fundamental understanding and control of matter's very building blocks, thus making the dreams of Micromachines & Nanotechnology enticingly close.

1.3 Nanotechnology unlike any technology since the dawn of life on Earth, has more potential for the realization of Utopia, or the utter (irreversible) destruction of all life (on the planet). More-over this profound paradox of unfathomable cataclysm versus a incomprehensible golden age, may prove to be closer than ten years, while optimists view it as extremely unlikely to be more than thirty years away. But, other citing the 'Heisenbergs Uncertainty Principle', Quantum Mechanics and the Laws of Thermodynamics argue that the nanotechnology concept of a 'universal-constructor' mechanically jamming atoms in desired configurations is nigh impossible outside of highly specialized laboratory conditions. Notwithstanding any implausibility of 'universal-constructor's there is however another more favorable route to nanotechnology, via an artificial synthesis of life-like chemistries building devices, akin to the way natures DNA builds proteins then cells organized in living organisms. While theoretical well justified, as this is exactly what nature does life now, the research effort to this tantalizing culmination may, bear fruit in a short order of a few years or conversely take eons. By comparison while it has only taken a few years to get a rough mapping of the Human Genome, most optimistic estimates are that it will take at least forty years of research to understand the Human Genome workings! One last sobering quote before leaving thorny question of predicted timing for a nanotechnology dawn, in 1932 Albert Einstein confidently predicted "There is not the slightest indication that nuclear energy will be obtainable."!!

1.4 Akin to how Genetic Engineering marks a turning point in the history of life on Earth, as the culmination of a long process where human beings no longer see themselves as part of nature but triumphal over it. Nanotechnology promises to reconfigure the material world molecule by molecule to create anything that can be imagined without defying the law of physics.

1.5 The dreams began with the 1959 lecture "There is plenty of room at the bottom" by the Nobel laureate physicist Richard Feynman who argued the theoretical possibility of building directly with individual atoms. In 1981 his student, Eric Drexler published "Engines of Creation" {on line at http://www.foresight.org/EOC/}the first major layman's exposť Nanotechnology ( the updated web version, is still one of the best introductionary reads.) Ten years later K. Eric Drexler, Chris Peterson, and Gayle Pergamit. updated the thinking with "Unbounding the Future: the Nanotechnology Revolution" {also on line at http://www.foresight.org/UTF/Unbound_LBW/} .

 1.6 The breathtaking potential of Nanotechnology has been heralded as;-
"The ability to manipulate matter at the atomic and molecular level has broad implications. Imagine the possibilities: materials with ten times the strength of steel and only a small fraction of the weight -- shrinking all the information housed at the [USA] Library of Congress into a device the size of a sugar cube--or detecting cancerous tumors when they are only a few cells in size." USA's President Clinton speak at the California Institute of Technology, early in the year 2000. US government dream is clearly spelt out in an official brochure "Nanotechnology Shaping the World Atom by Atom" {on the web at http://www.wtec.org/loyola/nano/IWGN.Public.Brochure/}. The report is by the USA's 'Interagency Working Group on Nanoscience, Engineering and Technology' (IWGN) , from the US's NSTC/CT (National Science and Technology Council, Committee on Technology).

1.7 Unlike all other revolutions of technology, that will have preceded the nanotech dawn (including Genetic Engineering / Biotech, one we are just entering) none have possessed the potential to so completely unmake then rewrite the very material foundations of histories' socio-economic assumptions and structures. For the rich variety of chemical stock, old garbage dumps maybe more sort after than a mine of precious metal! "Assemblers" self-replicating microscopic machines are envisaged;- growing buildings of diamond from raw carbon (like coal or charred wood), or as with a Star Trek "replicator" synthesizing nutritional tasty food from stock gases. When this comes to pass, where thence are the old certainties & meanings of; supply & demand, consumption & waste, labour & work, property & capital??

1.8 While the whole scientific, cultural dimension of industrial revolution's roll across Europe took just over two centuries {from 1700 - 1914}. The climax of this first industrial revolution, was only thirty years from 1830 to 1860 when steam railways went from rumored curiosity to ubiquitous transport. {Between 1850 & 1860 in the USA, nearly 34,000 km (21,100 miles) of railway were constructed during the westward expansion.} More recently the accelerating pace of change is characterized by the concept of 'net-time' where e-commerce has endured more change in one year, than the traditional economy would have expected to see in seven. Like wise the nanotech revolution "from rumored curiosity to ubiquitous" could be briefer than five years, but this time also requiring social dislocation to be quenched in the same few years!. Nanotech theoreticians are so acutely aware challenges of exponential accelerating change, that they have labeled the predicament as "Singularity". The question if humanity is physiological resilient enough to surmount this 'Future Shock' is still open to conjecture.


There still needs to be much more in this section outlining the promises and perils of nanotechnology. Maybe citing a few books (technical & Sci-Fi) and websites.

1.9 Charles Banbridge, Rod Logic, Nanocomputers, Alvin Toffler's book "The Third Wave"

1.10 Science Fictions previews of concerns "The Diamond Age" conquered

 1.11 Even in "Engines of Creation" Dexter is at pains to address some of the frightening nightmares that Nanotechnology could confer.

1.12 With the new millennium only a few months old (April 2000) we have among others, the world renowned theorist Bill Joy (co-founder of Sun Microsystems) warning that "Our most powerful 21st-century technologies - robotics, genetic engineering, and nanotech - are threatening to make humans an endangered species". Joy in his 'Wired' magazine article "Why the future doesn't need us." {at http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/8.04/joy_pr.html} argues that world has only thirty years left to avoid a dystopian scenario like Theodore Kaczynski's ( the Unabomber) that 'the fate of the human race would be at the mercy of the machines'.Joy naively called for a voluntary relinquishment of these technologies, as the best first step in guaranteeing the world for human kind rather than dictatorial machines. The debate that followed the article marked the depth of concern existing among independent scientists about the degree of risk associated with the confluence of genetic engineering (GE), artificial intelligence (AI) and Nanotechnology. Concern primarily is over the taxing issue of how difficult it would be to control nanotechnology, without stifling innovation by honorable law-abiding researches on one hand, while on the other hand, not driving research underground away from the public gaze, or just into less scrupulous hands.

1.13 Alternatively to protect against the dark-side of nanotechnology international licensing bodies have been proposed by industry. Sadly the track-record for the success of international treaties, has not been that bright when national self-interest is at stake. First is the abject failure of the "Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty" to deliver in any meaningful sense on its promises (there are more nations with bombs now, than when the treaty came into being). Both the "UN Chemical Weapons Convention" and the "Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention" have been stymied and neutered by various short-sighted legislators, during the problematic process of nations being required to ratifying the conventions. Once ratified, treaties are often effectively rendered meaningless, by a lack of money or power for enforcement, particularly when faced with the obstructions by local authorities. Finally as in the case USA's planned anti-missile shield's unequivocal breach of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty flagrant demonstrates, there is the ever present danger that larger signatories will simple walk-away from a critical treat obligation when the treaty is no-longer 'convenient' for them.

1.14 Unfortunately the recent history of managing innovation from the labs to the street is not much rosier than the treaties. The farcical underestimation of public concern over the introduction of Genetic Modified food-stuff to the super-markets shelves, is a clear warning to the yawning cultural divide that has open up at the close of the twentieth century between a more educated, cautionary and skeptical public on one hand versus big business, corporate scientist, the add-men and big government on the other.

1.15 Unlike the protection provided in law for other Intellectual Properties (copyright & moral rights), patents were primarily developed for economic reason. The issuing of patents sort to encouraging sometimes risky investment by granting a monopoly limited in time to exploit the results of research and development work (R&D). Also it was envisaged that patents would promote progress by encouraging the free sharing of knowledge invested in the development of the patented article, so that others in the market place would be encouraged to create competition by bettering the patented article, with the additions of their own new patentable improvements.

1.16 Unfortunately the original noble aspiration of the patent systems have become warped in the last thirty or so years. The reasons for this are varied among the industrialized nations, but primarily among them is the near exponential explosion of developments, coupled with the accelerating rate of change within Western Society since the end of the Second World War. In the original conception patents were for protection of novel inventions. One could not patent something that was artifact of common or traditional knowledge, that is to say in the jargon evidence of "prior art". The other major restriction was exclusion of ideas, the expression of ideas being the provenience of copyright law.

 To rationally contexualize the hopes & fears some sort of Taxonomy or Matrix of;- functionality, by scale, by benefit & risk, would be good aid to focus the readers response, before getting into the meat of the following analysis and proposals.


2. FRAMEWORK:

This section the WHAT & WHY of the document. It spells out the relevant assumption, principals were are operating from.

2.1 From both an ecological and social perspective, the sheer possibility that nanotechnology may deliver a future utopia, raises very urgent, generally unseen problems and threats in our present world. The most pressing concern being, the false legitimacy that nanotech's promise gives, to the myth that all the worlds problems can be solved at some latter day by technological fix. That scarce resources and never to be repeated opportunities will be lost, while a misguided quest for some future 'silver bullet' is pursued, rather than taking wise, prudent remedial steps now, before the biosphere is irretrievably sacrificed to greed.

2.2 While skillful media, social, political and ecological action may surmount the negative repercussion of any silver bullet cop-out, there still remains another monumental challenge. How is humanity's perceptions (particularly the west's mind-set) to be moved from a 'survival of the fittest' paradigm, to a less aggressive, ecologically sustainable 'survival of the wisest'. The severity of any negative potentials of Micromachines and Nanotechnology, will be a direct measure of humanity's failures at this heroic educational and spiritual endeavor now before these magical machines have irretrievably escaped from the laboratory. So rather than technology being seen as a means for our salvation, it now (in the foreknowledge of nanotech's aspirations ) needs to be seen as a worthy mechanism to enrich us, once we have sensibly overcome our current menaces (ecological, sociological, ethical and moral).

2.3 Any novel technology is initially neutral in the public mind. An innovative technology is readily associated with benevolent or sinister overtones in the popular imagination by how it is first employed or promoted. Perceptions aside even things vital necessary for life such as water can take-on qualities of horror when encountered or portrayed in life threatening situations like; floods, drowning and water-torture!

2.4 New developments require funding to proceed. Typically the returns that competing investments offer, balanced against the risk of the venture, determines the success of an undertaking in attracting funding. Exception to this superficial business acumen arise when, the undertaking is driven by other agendas like personal goals, dreams, pride and obsessions, or more sinisterly nationalistic jingoism, paranoia's or fear. In most cases it is thus possible to promote or discourage a particular line of investment by making it more or less risky, or manipulating the parameters of it's financial attractiveness (such as;- tax advantages, limited liability, government grants, provision of infrastructure).

THE BUNYIPS:

2.5 call for the rejuvenation of the ecological, social, philosophical and ethical dimension of societies educational and cultural agendas. So that both, school children in all grades of formal education, as well all adults in all walks of their daily lives may aspire to gentler, more creative life-style harmonious with, and enriched by their fellow souls and the natural world in all its' diversity and grandeur.

2.6 oppose the patenting & recognition of other countries' patents and other intellectual property rights over life forms. All patenting of natural life forms involves biological processes not under the direct control of the scientist. They cannot be regarded as inventions but expropriations from life. Many recent patents are unethical; they destroy livelihoods, contravene basic human rights, create unnecessary suffering in animals or are otherwise contrary to public order and morality. Many biotech patents involve acts of plagiarism of indigenous knowledge and biopiracy of plants (and animals) bred and used by local communities for millennia. The implications of centralizing corporate control of the genetic 'blueprint' of life, and resulting monopolization of genetic "intellectual property" by the bioengineering industry are immense.

2.7 oppose the validity or recognition of any countries, patenting & intellectual property rights (other than the moral right of attribution) in relation to artificial life-forms.

2.8 call for the precautionary principle to be enshrined in a legislated seven year moratorium on the any release of Micromachines into the broad environment as a matter of urgency.The potential risks of Micromachines to health and environment has not been even debated todate. Axiomatically, the long-term consequences for human health and the wider environment of a general release of Micromachines will remain unknown for the foreseeable future.

2.9 call for development of legislation at both national & international to implement a "Micro-Nano Threat Quarantine Practice".

2.10 the "Micro-Nano Threat Quarantine Practice"should instigate a rigid segregation of Micro-Nano technological & commercial environments (funding, staffing, operatives, institution, companies, government departments, research, development, control of & stock sources, suppliers, administration & regulation, manufacturing, production, quality control & quality assurance, risk assessment, authorization, marketing, distribution, reclamation & recycling), from any association or relationship (commercial & legal) with quarantined threat (cursed) source. The quarantined threats being;- weapon manufacturers, military command & establishment, surveillance - investigation - spy & intelligence operatives & organizations, security industry, police, prison & justice services, secrete services, including suppliers of specialized products (being those that exceed normal utilitarian everyday functions) to any quarantined threat, inclusive of other suppliers .

2.11 The practical outworking of the Quarantines would be that individuals, stock-holders, departments, companies, organizations, among the quarantined threats would be allowed no dealings of a technical, commercial or legal nature with anyone or thing involved in the micro-nano section of society. This obviously excludes casual social interactions, but would prevent for example a worker from a quarantined threat being a common party with a Micro-Nano worker in say a housing loan.

2.12 Anybody, firm or organization that desires to move from the micro-nano sector to a quarantined sector, or visa-versa is free to do so after a five year disassociation in other sectors and profession within the society, like farming, arts, medicine, mining, tourism, transport, housing, etc., etc.

There still needs to be much more in this section outlining promising technical solution and policy direction to meet the challenges of micromachines, nanotechnology & singularity. Citing a few books (technical & Sci-Fi) and websites.

2.13 Open Source. Hypalogus al-la Freenet.

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 Micro-Nano Threat Quarantines Practices praxis custom manner order direction arrangement command bindings praxis Practices Regime


It then contains the analysis of the issue, developing a justification and strategies for the position.

3. POLICY DETAIL:

THE BUNYIPS WILL:

This section is the HOW where the theoretical Framework is projected onto desired actions in the short-term, medium and long term to realize the vision articulated in the Framework.

3.1.  Universal (Generic) Nanotech Assemblers should destructively react with oxygen {burn, corrode, rust or decay. The faster demise being more desirable}.

3.2  Nanotechnology may not use lead, chlorine or radioactive elements as a feed-stock.

 3.3  Micromachines may not contain, or be made with, organochlorines, known toxins or carcinogens.. Neither may process in, nor the activities of, and eventual decay of the Micromachines precipitate further contamination of the environment with organochlorines, toxins or carcinogens.

3.4  Campaign and sponsor at an international level for UN resolution, to extend the "Micro-Nano Threat Quarantine Practice" to an international convention. The "UN Micro-Nano Threat Quarantine Resolution", should established a process where breaches of the Quarantine by a Nation (or organization or company of that country), will if convicted extinguish guilty country as a sovereign nation. Forfeiting ownership of all assets (including outstanding debt) of the guilty country not with-in its previous borders. The former citizens of the guilty country automatically becoming stateless persons. The guilt or otherwise of country to be determined through prosecution by the International Court in the Hague, or by a two thirds vote of the members in the general assembly of the UN supporting the extinguishment of the guilty country's as a sovereign legal entity. Such a structure over-comes the historical difficulties of nations, firstly not joining or ratifying international conventions or treaties, and secondly with-drawing from or undermining institutions that may obstruct their selfish nationalistic ambitions, then lastly the disfiguring effect on justice of the super-power vetoes in the UN security council.

Foresight suggested Guidelines need to be recast and expanded to better integrate with the broader scope of the policy, overcome cultural bias, and most importantly redress the fallacy of industry self-regulation.
"Self regulation is, no regulation!" Sid Einfel (founder of the NSW Dept. of Consumer Affairs / Fair Trading)

Development Principles ( FiDP) É

 FiDP  #1 . Artificial replicators must not be capable of replication in a natural, uncontrolled environment.

FiDP  # 2. Evolution within the context of a self-replicating manufacturing system is discouraged.

FiDP  # 3. Any replicated information should be error free.

FiDP  # 4. MNT device designs should specifically limit proliferation and provide traceability of any replicating systems.

FiDP  # 5. Developers should attempt to consider systematically the environmental consequences of the technology, and to limit these consequences to intended effects. This requires significant research on environmental models, risk management, as well as the theory, mechanisms, and experimental designs for built-in safeguard systems.

FiDP  # 6. Industry self-regulation should be designed in whenever possible. Economic incentives could be provided through discounts on insurance policies for MNT development organizations that certify Guidelines compliance. Willingness to provide self-regulation should be one condition for access to advanced forms of the technology.

FiDP # 7. Distribution of molecular manufacturing development capability should be restricted, whenever possible, to responsible actors that have agreed to use the Guidelines. No such restriction need apply to end products of the development process that satisfy the Guidelines.

Specific Design Guidelines (FiSDG) É

FiSDG  # 1. Any self-replicating device which has sufficient onboard information to describe its own manufacture should encrypt it such that any replication error will randomize its blueprint.

FiSDG  # 2. Encrypted MNT device instruction sets should be utilized to discourage irresponsible proliferation and piracy.

FiSDG  # 3. Mutation (autonomous and otherwise) outside of sealed laboratory conditions, should be discouraged.

FiSDG  # 4. Replication systems should generate audit trails.

FiSDG  # 5. MNT device designs should incorporate provisions for built-in safety mechanisms, such as: 1) absolute dependence on a single artificial fuel source or artificial "vitamins" that don't exist in any natural environment; 2) making devices that are dependent on broadcast transmissions for replication or in some cases operation; 3) routing control signal paths throughout a device, so that subassemblies do not function independently; 4) programming termination dates into devices, and 5) other innovations in laboratory or device safety technology developed specifically to address the potential dangers of MNT.

FiSDG # 6. MNT developers should adopt systematic security measures to avoid unplanned distribution of their designs and technical capabilities.

Draft only: Comments and suggestions are welcome.

W. Shaun Gray, e-mail : greens@NOtinMeats.auzgnosis.com
(PleaseNote: You will need to remove the " NOtinMeats. " SPAM-trickster part of the e-mail address before sending anything)

É From "Foresight  Guidelines on Molecular  Nanotechnology"  http://www.foresight.org/guidelines/current.html

Last updated 26-June-2013
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