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The Foresight Institute is a Palo Alto, California-based research non-profit that promotes the development of nanotechnology and other emerging technologies. The institute holds conferences on molecular nanotechnology and awards yearly prizes for developments in the field.
The Foresight Institute and its founder Eric Drexler have been criticized for unrealistic expectations, ignoring quantum effects in their design, lack of practical output, and technical obsolescence.
The Foresight Institute was founded in 1986 by Christine Peterson, K. Eric Drexler, and James C. Bennett to support the development of nanotechnology. Many of the institute's initial members came to it from the L5 Society, who were hoping to form a smaller group more focused on nanotechnology. In 1991, the Foresight Institute created two suborganizations with funding from tech entrepreneur Mitch Kapor; the Institute for Molecular Manufacturing and the Center for Constitutional Issues in Technology. In the 1990s, the Foresight Institute launched several initiatives to provide funding to developers of nanotechnology. In 1993, it created the Feynman Prize in Nanotechnology, named after physicist Richard Feynman. In May 2005, the Foresight Institute changed its name to "Foresight Nanotech Institute", though it reverted to its original name in June 2009.
The Feynman Prize in Nanotechnology is an award given by the Foresight Institute for significant advances in nanotechnology. Between 1993 and 1997, one prize was given biennially. Since 1997, two prizes have been given each year, divided into the categories of theory and experimentation. The prize is named in honor of physicist Richard Feynman, whose 1959 talk There's Plenty of Room at the Bottom is considered to have inspired and informed the start of the field of nanotechnology. Author Colin Milburn refers to the prize as an example of "fetishizing" its namesake Feynman, due to his "prestige as a scientist and his fame among the broader public."
The Foresight Institute also offers the Feynman Grand Prize, a $250,000 award to the first persons to create both a nanoscale robotic arm capable of precise positional control and a nanoscale 8-bit adder, with both conditions conforming to given specifications. The Feynman Grand Prize is intended to emulate historical prizes such as the Longitude prize, Orteig Prize, Kremer prize, Ansari X Prize, and two prizes that were offered by Richard Feynman personally as challenges during his 1959 There's Plenty of Room at the Bottom talk. In 2004, X-Prize Foundation founder Peter Diamandis was selected to chair the Feynman Grand Prize committee.
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