Future of Humanity Institute logo

Global Catastrophic Risks Conference - Abstracts

Small Machines, Big Choices: The Looming Impacts of Molecular Manufacturing

Mike Treder and Chris Phoenix

Unlike most nanotechnologies, molecular manufacturing—a prospective new way to build powerful products atom by atom—likely will introduce global catastrophic risks. Although this near-future development also could bring many benefits, the dangers are great enough that some form of international regulation may be required. Among those dangers are a fast-moving arms race leading to global war, severe economic and social disruption, worldwide oppressive governance, environmental degradation, radically enhanced intelligences, and more. In assessing the above risks, a major variable is how long it will take to develop nanotechnology to a point of exponential distribution of molecular manufacturing. Because that is not yet known, further studies are urgently needed.