David Kirkpatrick

January 8, 2010

Eric Drexler on the NRC’s molecular manufacturing recommendation

Drexler is widely seen as as one of, if not the, father of nanotechnology, and two of his books, “Nanosystems: Molecular Machinery, Manufacturing, and Computation” and “Engines of Creation: The Coming Era of Nanotechnology”  are considered seminal works in the field.

This post from his blog, Metamodern, is about the National Research Council study on molecular manufacturing and Drexler himself describes this post as “arguably the most important post of the series, or of this blog to date.”

Here’s the first few graphs from the link:

A formal, Federal-level study has examined the physical principles ofhigh-throughput atomically precise manufacturing (aka molecular manufacturing), assessing its feasibility and closing with a call for experimental research.

Surprisingly, this recommendation smacks of heresy in some circles, and the very idea of examining the subjectmet strong opposition.

The process in outline: Congress voted to direct the U.S. National Research Council, the working arm of the U.S. National Academies, to conduct, as part of the lengthy Triennial Review of the National Nanotechnology Initiative, what in the House version had been described as a “Study on molecular manufacturing…to determine the technical feasibility of the manufacture of materials and devices at the molecular scale”, and in response, the NRC convened a study committee that organized a workshop, examined the literature, deliberated, and reported their conclusions, recommending appropriate research directions for moving the field forward, including experimental research directed toward development of molecular manufacturing.

(Hat tip: Next Big Future)

April 30, 2009

Discussing cyberattack policy

Filed under: Politics, Technology — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 1:07 pm

A report from the National Research Council.

The release:

Greater transparency needed in development of US policy on cyberattack

WASHINGTON — The current policy and legal framework regulating use of cyberattack by the United States is ill-formed, undeveloped, and highly uncertain, says a new report from the National Research Council. The United States should establish clear national policy on the use of cyberattack, while also continuing to develop its technological capabilities in this area. The U.S. policy should be informed by open national debate on the technological, policy, legal, and ethical issues of cyberwarfare, said the committee that wrote the report.

“Cyberattack is too important a subject for the nation to be discussed only behind closed doors,” said Adm. William Owens, former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and former vice chairman and CEO of Nortel Corp., and Kenneth Dam, Max Pam Professor Emeritus of American and Foreign Law at the University of Chicago School of Law, who co-chaired the committee.

Cyberattacks — actions taken against computer systems or networks — are often complex to plan and execute but relatively inexpensive, and the technology needed is widely available. Defenses against such attacks are discussed, but questions on the potential for, and the ramifications of, the United States’ use of cyberattack as a component of its military and intelligence arsenal have not been the subject of much public debate. Although the policy and organizational issues raised by the use of cyberattack are significant, the report says, “neither government nor society at large is organized or prepared to handle issues related to cyberattack, let alone to make broadly informed decisions.”

The U.S. could use cyberattack either defensively, in response to a cyberattack from another nation, or offensively to support military missions or covert actions, the report says. Deterring such attacks against the U.S. with the threat of an in-kind response has limited applicability, however; cyberattacks can be conducted anonymously or falsely attributed to another party relatively easily, making it difficult to reliably identify the originator of the attack.

Employing a cyberattack carries with it some implications that are unlike those associated with traditional physical warfare, the report says. The outcome is likely to be more uncertain, and there may be substantial impact on the private sector, which owns and operates much of the infrastructure through which the U.S. would conduct a cyberattack. The scale of such an attack can be enormous and difficult to localize. “Blowback” to the U.S. — effects on our own network systems — is possible.

Clear national policy regarding the use of cyberattack should be developed through open debate within the U.S. government and diplomatic discussion with other nations, the report says. The U.S. policy should make it clear why, when, and how a cyberattack would be authorized, and require a periodic accounting of any attacks that are conducted, to be made available to the executive branch and to Congress.

From a legal perspective, cyberattack should be judged by its effects rather than the method of attack; cyberwarfare should not be judged less harshly than physical warfare simply by virtue of the weapons employed. The Law of Armed Conflict (LOAC), an international law regulating conduct during war, should apply to cyberattack. However, there are aspects of cyberwarfare that will not fit neatly within this structure. LOAC was designed to regulate conflict between nations, but cyberweapons can easily be used by non-state groups, making issues such as determining appropriate targets for military retaliation difficult to address. Additional legal constructs will be needed to govern cyberattacks, and the framework of LOAC and the U.N. Charter on the use of armed force would be an appropriate starting point, the report says.

 

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This study was sponsored by the MacArthur Foundation, Microsoft Corp., and the National Research Council. The National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, and National Research Council make up the National Academies. They are private, nonprofit institutions that provide science, technology, and health policy advice under a congressional charter. The Research Council is the principal operating agency of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering. A committee roster follows.

Copies of TECHNOLOGY, POLICY, LAW, AND ETHICS REGARDING U.S. ACQUISITION AND USE OF CYBERATTACK CAPABILITIES are available from the National Academies on the Internet at HTTP://WWW.NAP.EDU.

[ This news release and report are available at HTTP://NATIONAL-ACADEMIES.ORG ]

NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL
Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences
Computer Science and Telecommunications Board

(more…)

September 7, 2008

Latest DC BS on stem cells

The entire issue around stem cell research just makes me mad. It’s ridiculous that a country like the United States allows Dark Age ideals and intelligence to influence science. This year’s GOP platform includes a call for a ban on any form of stem cell research public or private.

At any rate, here’s the release:

Updated guidelines for stem cell research released

WASHINGTON — The National Academies today released amended guidelines for research involving human embryonic stem cells, revising those that were issued in 2005 and updated in 2007. The Academies originally produced the guidelines to offer a common set of ethical standards for the responsible conduct of research using human stem cells, an area that, due to an absence of comprehensive federal funding, was lacking national standards. Since their initial release, the guidelines have served effectively as the basis for oversight of this research in the United States. In addition, a standing advisory committee — a joint project between the Academies’ National Research Council and Institute of Medicine — was established to monitor and review scientific advances and determine any need for revisions.

Embryonic stem cells have the potential to produce all of the body’s cell types. Researchers are working to harness stem cells’ ability both to regenerate themselves and produce specialized cells that may lead to medical treatments that replace certain types of cells damaged or lost to debilitating illness and injury, such as nerve cells.

One reason for the 2008 modifications is to provide guidance on the derivation and use of new human stem cells that were first developed last year. These cells — called “induced pluripotent cells” — are made by reprogramming nonembryonic adult cells into a stem-cell-like state, in which they can be manipulated to form a wide array of specialized body cells. Although induced pluripotent stem cells can be derived without using embryos, the ethical and policy concerns related to their potential uses are similar to those pertaining to human embryonic stem cells. For example, issues arising from mixing human and animal cells in a single organism are relevant for stem cells from both embryonic and nonembryonic sources. However, derivation of induced pluripotent stem cells does not require special stem cell expertise and is adequately covered by current Institutional Review Board regulations, the report says.

At this time it is still undetermined which stem cell types will prove the most useful for regenerative medicine, as most likely each will have some utility, noted the committee that wrote the report. Therefore, the need for research with human embryonic stem cells still exists despite the availability of new cell sources.

The amended guidelines also clarify that “direct expenses” for reimbursement to women donating their eggs for use in stem cell research may include costs associated with travel, housing, child care, medical care, health insurance, and actual lost wages. This language extends the 2005 guidelines, which stated that women who undergo hormonal induction to generate eggs specifically for research purposes should be reimbursed only for “direct expenses” incurred as a result of the procedure, although they did not specify which expenses qualified as direct. The committee stressed that reimbursement for lost wages is not a payment for eggs; the intent is to leave all donors neither better off nor worse off financially.

To instill a high level of confidence that institutions and their researchers are conducting stem cell research responsibly, the guidelines recommend that the public be informed about the types of stem cell research under way and how the research conforms to the institution’s established procedures. Moreover, the committee strongly suggested as a good management practice that institutions conducting human embryonic stem cell research carry out periodic audits of their embryonic stem cell research oversight (ESCRO) committees to ensure proper performance and make the findings of the audits available to the public. The audits should document decisions regarding the acceptance of research proposals and verify that cell lines in use were acceptably derived.

Additionally, the new guidelines clarify that an institutional ESCRO committee may conduct expedited review for research done exclusively in a laboratory dish or test tube that does not create new lines of stem cells but uses previously derived human embryonic stem cell lines. The original guidelines stated that research is “permissible after currently mandated review and proper notification of the relevant research institution.” However the word “notification” led some experts to question if the requirement could be fulfilled by merely informing ESCRO committees that the research would occur. Although allowing for expedited review, the guidelines still require an ESCRO committee to determine if the human embryonic stem cells have been acceptably derived.

Future committee deliberations will consider items for which additional information-gathering and more extensive debate and discussion may be necessary. For example, the National Institutes of Health determined that the human embryonic stem cell lines declared in 2001 by President George W. Bush to be eligible for federally funded research were derived from embryos donated with informed consent and without financial inducement. Based on this determination, the Academies’ 2007 guidelines had deemed those lines to have been acceptably derived. However, questions about their derivation were raised when this report was near completion. In addition, a breakthrough in the ability to “reprogram” adult cells from one type to another in a living animal was recently announced. The committee will continue to monitor developments in stem cell research to decide whether any future changes to the guidelines are warranted.

 

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The report was sponsored by the Ellison Medical Foundation, the Greenwall Foundation, and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. The National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, and National Research Council make up the National Academies. They are private, nonprofit institutions that provide science, technology, and health policy advice under a congressional charter. The Research Council is the principal operating agency of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering. A committee roster follows.

Copies of 2008 AMENDMENTS TO THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES’ GUIDELINES FOR HUMAN EMBRYONIC STEM CELL RESEARCH are available from the National Academies Press; tel. 202-334-3313 or 1-800-624-6242 or on the Internet at HTTP://WWW.NAP.EDU. Reporters may obtain a copy from the Office of News and Public Information (contacts listed above).

[This news release and report are available at HTTP://NATIONAL-ACADEMIES.ORG ]

NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL

Division on Earth and Life Studies

Board on Life Sciences

and

INSTITUTE OF MEDICINE

Board on Health Sciences Policy

HUMAN EMBRYONIC STEM CELL RESEARCH ADVISORY COMMITTEE

R. ALTA CHARO, J.D.1 (CO-CHAIR)
Warren P. Knowles Professor of Law and Bioethics
Law School and School of Medicine and Public Health
University of Wisconsin
Madison

RICHARD O. HYNES, PH.D.1, 2 (CO-CHAIR)
Investigator
Howard Hughes Medical Institute; and
Daniel K. Ludwig Professor of Cancer Research
Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research and Department of Biology
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Cambridge

ELI Y. ADASHI, M.D., M.S., FACOG1
Professor of Medical Science,
Former Dean of Medicine and Biological Sciences, and Frank L. Day Professor of Biology
Warren Alpert Medical School
Brown University
Providence, R.I.

BRIGID L.M. HOGAN, PH.D.1, 2
George Barth Geller Professor and Chair
Department of Cell Biology
Duke University Medical Center
Durham, N.C.

MARCIA IMBRESCIA
Trustee
Arthritis Foundation; and
Owner
Peartree Design
Lynnfield, Mass.

TERRY MAGNUSON, PH.D.
Sarah Graham Kenan Professor and Chair
Department of Genetics; and
Director
Carolina Center for Genome Sciences
University of North Carolina
Chapel Hill

LINDA B. MILLER, O.T.R., M.S.1
President
Volunteer Trustees Foundation
Washington, D.C.

JONATHAN D. MORENO, PH.D.1
Senior Fellow
Center for American Progress; and
David and Lyn Silfen University Professor and Professor of Medical Ethics and of the History and Sociology of Science
Center for Bioethics
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia

PILAR NICOLE OSSORIO, PH.D., J.D.
Associate Professor of Law and Bioethics
Law School
University of Wisconsin
Madison

E. ALBERT REECE, M.D., PH.D., M.B.A.1
Vice President for Medical Affairs, and Dean
School of Medicine
University of Maryland
Baltimore

JOSHUA R. SANES, PH.D.2
Professor
Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, and
Paul J. Finnegan Family Director
Center for Brain Science
Harvard University
Cambridge, Mass.

HAROLD T. SHAPIRO, PH.D.1
President Emeritus, and
Professor of Economics and Public Affairs
Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs
Princeton University
Princeton, N.J.

JOHN E. WAGNER JR., M.D.
Professor of Pediatrics, and
Scientific Director of Clinical Research
Stem Cell Institute
University of Minnesota Medical School
Minneapolis

STAFF

ADAM P. FAGEN, PH.D.
Study Co-Director, Board on Life Sciences

BRUCE M. ALTEVOGT, PH.D.
Study Co-Director, Institute of Medicine

FRANCES E. SHARPLES, PH.D.
Director, Board on Life Sciences

1 Member, Institute of Medicine
2 Member, National Academy of Sciences