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The Flat Horizon Problem. nanotechnology on an upward slope. Mike Treder, Executive Director Center for Responsible Nanotechnology. Stand by the ocean, looking out. It is rare in nature to find a truly flat line, but that’s what the horizon appears to be.

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the flat horizon problem

The Flat Horizon Problem

nanotechnology on an upward slope

Mike Treder, Executive Director

Center for Responsible Nanotechnology

slide2

Stand by the ocean, looking out. It is rare in nature to find a truly flat line, but that’s what the horizon appears to be.

slide3

Of course, the horizon is not a flat line.

It curves, but

gradually,

and it

isn’t

easy

for us

to detect

the curve.

In truth, it’s not

a line at all, because the earth has no edge.

slide4

We can understand, though, why many premodern societies believed the earth to be flat, with an edge somewhere.

After all, that’s how it looks.

slide5

Now, stand in the present, looking toward the future. Does it look pretty much like today, except more modern?

In reality, the future holds many changes: some transformative, some beneficial, and some dangerous.

slide6

The most disruptive future changes may occur as a result of molecular manufacturing, an advanced form of nanotechnology.

slide7

But if the future really will be so different from today, why doesn’t it look that way from here?

the intuitive linear view
The Intuitive Linear View

Change

Time

The problem is human perspective, what Ray Kurzweil calls the “Intuitive Linear View.” When we see something that looks like a straight line, we naturally assume that it is. Although change occurs around us every day, unless we look closely we may not notice it. So, we logically think that last week, last month, and last year were like today, and that next year and a few years after that won’t be much different either.

slide9

Now, stand on the rails of a roller coaster, just before the climb up the highest hill (in your imagination only!).

slide10
Ant

Crouch down low, until your eye is even with the track. Get an ant’s eye view…

slide11

To an ant, the track looks totally flat, like it goes on flat forever. The ant can’t see far enough.

In reality, the track gradually curves upwards.

slide13

Walk up the track toward the big hill. The further you go, the steeper the curve becomes. If you look back, it’s clear how high you have ascended.

But crouch down for the ant’s eye view again, and what do you see?

slide15

Leave the roller coaster now and come back to reality.

Stand up really tall, peer back into history, and imagine how things seemed from the Intuitive Linear View…

slide16
1885:

No such thing as automobiles or airplanes.

slide17

1885:

The British Empire will last forever.

slide18
1926

1926:

No such thing as television or cable.

slide19

1926:

The stock market will rise forever.

slide20

1957:

No such thing as communications satellites or the Berlin Wall.

slide21
Cuba

1957:

The sunny business partnership between Cuba and the USA will prosper forever.

slide22

1967:

No such thing as desktop computers or cell phones.

kennedy king
Kennedy & King

1967:

Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy will be leaders for decades to come.

slide25
1974

1974:

"It will be years, not in my time, before a woman will become Prime Minister.“

— Margaret Thatcher

slide26

1986:

No such thing as the World Wide Web.

slide27

1986:

The Soviet Union and the Cold War will last forever.

slide28
1995

1995:

Spam is a luncheon meat.

slide29
1995

1995:

Terrorism is something bad that happens to someone else .

slide31

2005:

No such thing as molecular manufacturing.

Graphic Rendition of a Desktop NanofactoryCourtesy of John Burch, Lizard Fire Studios

slide32

2005:

Current socio-political conditions and structures will last forever.

slide33

The Myth of

Perpetuation

The idea that nothing really changes… It’s simple to see how wrong this is, but it’s easy to slip into.

slide34

As for nanotechnology’s transformative and disruptive impacts, we’re on the roller coaster heading toward the

big climb. Progress is occurring

every day, taking us closer,

even if we don’t notice the

gradual incline. Soon,

however, the curve

will sharpen and

take us rapidly into

a future for which

we may not

be prepared.

the coming nanotechnology revolution
The Coming Nanotechnology Revolution
  • Not just new products — a new means of production
  • Manufacturing systems that make more manufacturing systems — exponential proliferation
  • Accelerated product improvement — cheap rapid prototyping
  • Affects all industries— general-purpose technology
  • Inexpensive raw materials, potentially negligible capital cost — economic discontinuity
  • Portable, desktop-size factories — social disruption
  • Impacts will cross borders — global transformation
slide36
BIG STEPS in Economic, Social, and Political History

Computers

Automobiles

Change

Railways

Steam Engines

Time

slide41

IndustrialRevolutions

Societal

Impacts

Time

slide42

IndustrialRevolutions

Societal

Impacts

Time

(Measured in decades)

slide43

Nanotechnology Revolution

Societal

Impacts

Time

(Measured in YEARS)

slide44

AcceleratedImpacts

Molecular Manufacturing Revolution

Societal

Impacts

Industrial Revolutions

Time

slide45

The Next Big Step

Computers

Societal

Impacts

Automobiles

Railways

Steam Engines

(Middle Ages)

Time

slide46

The Next Big Step

Nanotechnology

Computers

Societal

Impacts

Automobiles

Railways

Steam Engines

(Middle Ages)

Time

slide47

The Next Big Step

Nanotechnology

Computers

Societal

Impacts

Automobiles

Railways

Steam Engines

(Middle Ages)

Time

slide48

Now is the time to stand up, get out of the Intuitive Linear View, avoid the Myth of Perpetuation, and observe the upward curve…

slide49

Once we have gained perspective, we can begin to make wise decisions for a better and safer nano future!

nanotechnology on an upward slope
Nanotechnology on an Upward Slope

Mike Treder

Center for Responsible Nanotechnology

www.crnano.org

mtreder@crnano.org