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Saturday, November 20th, 2004, 07:11 PM

Preparing for nanotechnology

Foresight Institute's goal is to guide emerging technologies to improve the human condition. Foresight focuses its efforts upon nanotechnology, the coming ability to build products—of any size—with atomic precision.

The incredible breadth and diversity of nanotechnology presents an important question: How should society prioritize its investment in nanotechnology? What are the areas on which governments, corporations and investors should focus for the highest payoff, both financially and societally? What are the biggest problems to be solved, and thus the biggest market opportunities?

A recent summary of the top nanotechnology-based products of 2003 cited ski-wax, breathable waterproof ski jackets, wrinkle and stain resistant clothing, deep-penetrating skin cream, digital camera displays, coating for sunglasses, tennis rackets and tennis balls. While these are important steps in the commercialization of nanotechnology, they do not address the important challenges facing humanity.

The Millennium Project is one of the most prominent efforts to comprehensively articulate the major Global Challenges facing humanity in the new millennium, http://www.acunu.org/millennium/challeng.html. An examination of these "Millennium Challenges" shows that a substantial number of them can be directly addressed by nanotechnology. These include achieving sustainable development, providing clean water to everyone, balancing population and resources, making powerful information technology available to everyone, combating infectious diseases, reducing the threat of terrorism, and meeting global energy needs. In addition, nanotechnology development can positively change the context for addressing many of the other challenges. source (http://www.foresight.org/News/index.html)