April 13, 2003

Technology cannot be defeated or conquered by national armies.We have focused too much on the territories, and not sufficiently on science and technology. The role of science in our lives is not a matter of futurism, nor one of doubt – it is a subject of concrete consequence. Its growing role affects all aspects of our lives. Science, and its technological applications, has turned into the present-day meal-ticket for mankind. It is replacing land and its riches as the principal resource in the economic growth of today’s world.

While science is now making its appearance in our economy, technology has already transformed global economy and international policies. Innovations are more important than size.

Science has no borders. Thus, the economy has become global. Technology cannot be defeated or conquered by national armies. Hence, nowadays, also strategy has become global. Wars in the course of history were largely territorial – to defend territories or destroy them. In today’s age, the object of wars, as perceived by terrorist organizations, is to prevent science from changing archaic agendas.

Technology cannot be defined as a merely technical matter, nor can it be regarded as simply constituting a collection of instruments and alloys. Technology must be approached in the context of values.

Technology demands transparency. Venture capital will not be invested in regions distinguished by fraudulent accountancy practices. Technology must be an open book to the world, for prosperity is global, and poverty national. It calls for truth, because there is no such thing as deceptive science or scientific deception. It calls for democracy, to safeguard freedom of research.

The political impact of modern science is greater than yesterday’s ideological imprint. An East and West divided by ideologies no longer exists. Neither are North and South divided economically. The largest of the highly populated nations – China and India – are currently joining the ranks of the modern world, as are a long list of countries in the five continents of the globe.

Science compensates for Israel’s modest geographical scale. Israel’s new technology is the source of greater returns than that provided by its agriculture and industry put together.

This is a dramatic change in the history of the Jewish people, that has always been poor in territory. Science and technology opens new horizons for Israel’s economy, transcending the limitations of our shortage of land and abundance of borders.

At the end of the road, reactionary terrorism will disappear from the Middle East (as Nazism and Communism vanished from Europe), and our region too will develop and bloom as are China and India, not to speak of Europe and America.

We are already poised on the brink of a revolutionary breakthrough. We are facing a new dimension in the field of science: nanotechnology. That which has been achieved by the atomic bomb in the field of military strategy, will be accomplished in the future by nanotechnology in the sphere of civil potential.

The atomic bomb essentially constitutes the collision between two nuclear masses at a certain speed, unleashing tremendous energy that had been contained in the nuclear structure. Nanotechnology is a re-alignment of nuclear structures and molecular structures, making it possible to produce new materials, new dimensions, new engines, new energies, unknown to the world beforehand.

Nano is a reference to one millionth part of a millimeter. It derives from the Greek word for “dwarf” – nanos. Until now, we used voluminous material for building purposes: wood, iron, sand. This can be replaced by nano-material that is invisible to the naked eye. It will be possible to produce computers the size of a pinhead. Engines that will barely be seen. New metals that are thinner, lighter and stronger, requiring very little energy to propel them.

It will be possible to “travel” internally in a person’s body and get rid of diseases and malformations; to reach unknown depths and higher peaks than we had ever dared dream about; to desalinate water, conserve fruit and vegetables, manufacture clothes that are heat and cold resistant, and manufacture products digitally.

Who knows? It might also be possible to create military units without soldiers. After all, unmanned aircraft already exist.

The world is now entering the nano era in a big way. Billions of dollars are invested in this field of research. And numerous countries are joining in. We cannot allow Israel to lag behind in this worldwide effort.

Forty-five years ago, under the unique leadership of David Ben-Gurion, I had the opportunity to develop a nuclear option for the State of Israel. At the time, many looked upon this initiative with skepticism. Today, we know its importance.

The pursuit of nanotechnology is an extension of the nuclear policy in a constructive form. Israel needs to make a superhuman effort once again and join this new global trend, so as to secure itself a seat in the first row of participants.

The present condition of research programs, research institutes and that of universities is not sufficient, particularly in the wake of the economic slowdown. We need to make an extraordinary national effort to fix this unpropitious situation.

I believe it is possible to raise funds for this national scientific project, from governmental, public and industrial sources, thus enabling universities, research institutes and the industrial sector to enter the nanosphere as soon as possible.

Such an effort would not only create jobs for scientists, but for industry. In order to attract a greater number of qualified scientists, we will need qualified teams, outstanding students, better infrastructure and laboratories, better coordination of initiatives to create an effective mass-effort, new sources of funding, and better cooperation between industry and academia. We will also have to promote the opportunities presented by this initiative in the public consciousness.

The nanotechnology initiative should be dedicated to the memory of Ilan Ramon who, together with his friends, undertook their mission to space with the object of breaking new ground and making new discoveries in this arena. He paid with his life to pave an untrodden path, to promote knowledge, and with the intention of enriching our lives with knowledge and opportunities as yet unknown.

(Adapted from a speech given at the Knesset)

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Jason Harris

Jason Harris

Executive Director

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