Recommendations

The recommendations of this report are far-reaching and fundamental, urging the transformation of science at its very roots. But the recommendations also seek to preserve the wonderful accomplishments of science and sustain the momentum of discovery that has been energized by generations of scientists. Only by evolving can science continue to thrive and make the vast contributions to society that it is capable of in the coming decades. There are outstanding opportunities that were not available in the past. The new developments will be revolutionary and must be governed by respect for human welfare and dignity.

Specific Areas for Research and Education Investment

The research and education needs are both deep and broad. In order to connect disciplines at their interfaces, understand and assemble matter from its building blocks, while focusing on a broad systems perspective and improving human performance, research and education must have deep scientific roots and superior communication among the fields of human endeavor.

The following general integrative approaches have been identified as essential to NBIC:

• Development of NBIC tools for investigation and transformational engineering at four levels: nano/microscopic, individual, group, and society

• Integration of fundamental concepts of NBIC across all scales, beginning with the nanoscale

• Investigation of converging technologies that is systems- and holistic-based

• Focus of future technological developments on implications for improving human performance

These principles concern the research methods, theoretical analyses, systemic perspective, and human benefit dimensions of scientific and technological integration. Sharing research techniques and engineering tools is one way that scientists in traditionally different fields can integrate their work. Another is utilization of similar ideas, mathematical models, and explanatory language. Expected to be a major challenge in approaching complex systems is the hierarchical architecture in which various components are integrated and used. Consideration of the human implications of converging technologies will include examination of potential unexpected consequences of NBIC developments, including ethical and legal aspects.

Recommendations to Individuals and Organizations

This report has educational and transformational goals. Building on the suggestions developed in the five topical groups and the ideas in the more than fifty individual contributions, workshop participants recommended a national R&D priority area on converging technologies focused on enhancing human performance. The main transforming measures are outlined in section 4 of this summary.

The opportunity now is broad, enduring, and of general interest. The report contributors addressed the roles that individuals, academe, the private sector, the U.S. Government, professional societies, and other organizations should play in this converging technology priority area:

g) Individuals. Scientists and engineers at every career level should gain skills in at least one NBIC area and in neighboring disciplines, collaborate with colleagues in other fields, and take risks in launching innovative projects that could advance technology convergence for enhancing human performance.

h) Academe. Educational institutions at all levels should undertake major curricular and organizational reforms to restructure the teaching of science and engineering so that previously separate disciplines can converge around common principles to train the technical labor force for the future. The basic concepts of nanoscience, biology, information, and cognitive sciences should be introduced at the beginning of undergraduate education; technical and humanistic degrees should have common courses and activities related to NBIC and the human dimensions of science and technology. Investigations of converging technologies should focus on the holistic aspects and synergism. The hierarchical architecture in which various components are integrated and used is expected to be a major challenge.

i) Private Sector. Manufacturing, biotechnology, and information service corporations will need to develop partnerships of unparalleled scope to exploit the tremendous opportunities from technological convergence, engaging in joint ventures with each other, establishing research linkages with universities, and investing in production facilities based on entirely new principles and materials, devices, and systems.

j) Government. A national research and development priority area should be established that focuses on converging technologies that enhance human performance. Organizations should provide leadership to coordinate the work of other institutions and must accelerate convergence by supporting new multidisciplinary scientific efforts while sustaining the traditional disciplines that are essential for success. Special effort will be required to identify future technological developments; explore their implications for human performance; study unexpected consequences of NBIC developments; and consider ethical, legal, and policy issues. Governments must provide support for education and training of future NBIC workers and to prepare society for the major systemic changes envisioned for a generation from now. Policymakers must envision development scenarios to creatively stimulate the convergence. Ethical, legal, moral, economic, environmental, workforce development, and other societal implications must be addressed from the beginning, involving leading NBIC scientists and engineers, social scientists and a broad coalition of professional and civic organizations. Research on societal implications must be funded, and the risk of potential undesirable secondary effect must be monitored by a government organization in order to anticipate and take corrective actions. Tools should be developed to anticipate scenarios for future technology development and applications. The transforming measures outlined in section 4 above suggest the dimensions of the Federal Government role.

k) Professional Societies. The scientific community should create new means of interdisciplinary training and communication, reduce the barriers that inhibit individuals from working across disciplines, aggressively highlight opportunities for convergence in their conferences, develop links to a variety of other technical organizations, and address ethical issues related to technological developments. Through mechanisms like conferences and publications, professional societies can seed the NBIC ideas in learning organizations, society at large, and funding agencies.

l) Other Organizations. Nongovernmental organizations that represent potential user groups should contribute to the design and testing of convergent technologies and recommend NBIC priorities, in order to maximize the benefits for their diverse constituencies. Private research foundations should invest in NBIC research in those areas that are consistent with their particular missions. The public media should increase high-quality coverage of science and technology, on the basis of the new convergent paradigm, to inform citizens so they can participate wisely in debates about ethical issues such as unexpected effects on social equality, policies concerning diversity, and the implications of transforming human nature.

A vast opportunity is created by the convergence of sciences and technologies starting with integration from the nanoscale, having immense individual, societal, and historical implications for human development. Therefore, the contributors to this report recommend a national research and development priority area on converging technologies focused on enhancing human performance. Advancing knowledge and transforming tools will move our activities from simple repetitions to creative, innovative acts and transfer the focus from machines to human development. Converging technologies are at the confluence of key disciplines and areas of application, and the role of government is important because no other participant can cover the breadth and level of required collective effort. Without special efforts for coordination and integration, the path of science might not lead to the fundamental unification envisioned here. Technology will increasingly dominate the world, as population, resource exploitation, and potential social conflict grow. Therefore, the success of this convergent technologies priority area is essential to the future of humanity.

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