Synopsis of Recommendations

The recommendations of this report are far-reaching and fundamental, urging the transformation of science, engineering and technology at their very roots. The new developments will be revolutionary and must be governed by respect for human welfare and dignity. This report sets goals for societal transformation and educational. Building on the suggestions developed in the five topical groups, and the ideas in the more than fifty individual contributions, the workshop recommended a national R&D priority area on converging technologies focused on enhancing human performance. The opportunity is broad, enduring, and of general interest.

a) 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 NBIC.

b) Academe. Educational institutions at all levels should undertake major curricular and organizational reforms to restructure the teaching and research of science and engineering so that previously separate disciplines can converge around common principles to train the technical labor force for the future.

c) Private Sector. Manufacturing, biotechnology, information and medical service corporations will need to develop partnerships of unparalleled scope to exploit the tremendous opportunities from technological convergence, investing in production facilities based on entirely new principles, materials, devices and systems, with increased emphasis on human development.

d) Government. The Federal Government should establish a national research and development priority area on converging technologies focused on enhancing human performance. Government organizations at all levels should provide leadership in creating the NBIC infrastructure and coordinating 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. 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.

e) Professional Societies. The scientific and engineering communities 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 and medical organizations, and address ethical issues related to technological developments.

f) Other Organizations. Non-governmental organizations that represent potential user groups should contribute to the design and testing of convergent technologies, 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 unique missions. The press 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 inequality, policies concerning diversity, and the implications of transforming human capabilities.

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. The participants in the meetings that prepared this report recommend a national research and development priority area on converging technologies focused on enhancing human performance. This would be a suitable framework for a long-term, coherent strategy in research and education. Science and 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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