Secret US MM Project
From Wise Nano
Does the U.S. have a secret molecular manufacturing project, perhaps under DARPA?
It's an important question. The U.S. certainly doesn't have an open project. And the "mainstream" is actively discouraging anyone from working on MM. This could be evidence of one of two things:
- The government is working on it, and doesn't want anyone else to.
- The government is clueless.
Some people assume that the U.S. must be working on MM. They point to MIT's "Soldier of the Future" project. But that is not molecular manufacturing. Not even close.
If the U.S. is clueless, then it is likely to get a Sputnik-type surprise one of these years. And let's not forget that before the U.S. won the race to the moon, it lost a lot of other races, including first man in space, first man in orbit, first woman in space, and first unmanned moon landing. Additionally, while a nanofactory might be more impactful than the Moon landing by orders of magnitude, the steps leading to it might be a lot less spectacular than their equivalent counterparts in the Cold War moon race.
Arguments for No:
A bureaucracy only innovates when faced with an imminent threat to its existence. The US defense establishment faced that during the Cold War, when any new concept could be justified as keeping up with a Soviet project. Advocates could point to vague and fragmentary intelligence as evidence of their pet system being developed by the other side, and after Sputnik it was hard to deny this. Another Sputnik could have given the Soviets an opportunity to launch WWIII on their terms. Avoiding that was worth the price of exploring any number of dry holes. Without a peer-level competitor to the United States new ideas have to survive on their own merits and will never overcome bureaucratic inertia.
Arguments for Yes:
The US military is highly aware that in today's world, military supremacy derives from technological supremacy. They have ongoing projects investigating battlefield robotics, "smart dust" survailance networks, powered armor, exotic weaponry, human physical and mental enhancement... And are aware of the historical importance another secret scientific project, the Manhattan project, had. It would be logical to suppose that they have not overlooked the military potential of nanotechnology, nor the consequences if a foe achieved it first. Arguments for YES: Thomas Barnett's recent book, "The Pentagon's New Map", clearly acknowledges that while the Pentagon remains systemically focused on the peer aggressors (which no longer exist) the junior clever-bunnies there are scrambling about to find a meaningful rededication of their strengths into bleeding-edge assets with which they can play GI Joe on future battlefields.
The problem is, most of these guys grew up on fantasy that mano-a-mano ( e.g. Luke vs. Darth) scraps will settle future conflicts, which is exactly how the 'enemy' will not engage an orders-of-magnitude stronger force. They will hold out for bigger toys.
But there are a few who understand Sun Tzu - "Therefore, one who is skilled in warfare principles subdues the enemy without doing battle, takes the enemy's walled city without attacking, and overthrows the enemy quickly, without protracted warfare."
And from them will come small tools that will dissolve the enemy's strength in one way or the other. My worry is, how much thought will be put into the collateral and residual damage that these new small tools will cause. Probably not much.