The Association of the United States Army (AUSA) published this book review (for inclusion in the print version of their magazine). The full review is below and a link to the review is on the AUSA website at this URL:

Here is the full review:

Nanoweapons: A Growing Threat to HumanityLouis A. Del Monte. Potomac Books. 244 pages. $29.95

By Scott R. Gourley
Contributing Writer

There are times when a book best serves as the starting point for new discussions or to broaden existing discussions on military technology. Ominous title aside, Nanoweapons: A Growing Threat to Humanity fulfills the role of starting the discussion.

Drawing on three decades of experience as a physicist and business executive leading the development of microelectronics and sensors key to the integrated circuit industry, author Louis A. Del Monte presents a broad look at the emergence of nanotechnology—the science of manipulating materials on an atomic or molecular scale—and the potential implications of “nanoweapons” in future warfare.

In defining the technology, Del Monte offers the criteria used by the U.S. National Nanotechnology Initiative, which calls for only one dimension of the macroscale product to be in the nanoscale of 1 to 100 nanometers.

“This interpretation opens the door for numerous scientific fields to engage in nanotechnology research and application, including the fields of surface science, organic chemistry, molecular biology, semiconductor physics and microfabrication,” he says, noting that the multidisciplinary research category brings with it “unprecedented optimism and serious concerns.”

The concerns in this book are focused on what he asserts to be the weaponization of the technology and specifically the risk of losing control of those weapons.

After combing through the available open-source literature, the author makes projections about the research, the leading countries involved and what some of those research directions might be. Because of the limited amount of information on nanoweapons research he could uncover, the author asserts it is ongoing classified work and then relies on a level of supposition and conjecture to spotlight hypothetical nanoweapon threats like self-replicating smart nanobots, able to build copies of themselves from raw materials and operating in ways similar to biological viruses.

The rough time frame of 2050 is presented as a possibility for when two “technological singularities” may occur—first, a point when artificially intelligent machines exist that exceed the combined cognitive intelligence of humanity, and then a point when the self-replicating smart nanobots will “have completely changed every aspect of human existence” and “have the potential to render humanity extinct.”

While some readers might dismiss the resulting vignettes as a cross between Terminator and Star Trek, the presentations are based on intriguing open-source threads that the author weaves into an interesting fabric based on his experience with the rapid evolution of integrated circuits. Common supporting caveats include: “My insight suggests,” “speculation on my part,” and “based on publicly available information.”

Those looking for hard data on weapons will not find it in this book. In fact, the author’s commercial background results in occasionally confusing statements that overlook current military realities, such as: “Nanoelectronics and nanosensors have the capability to make artillery projectiles ‘smart,’ meaning that they will have properties that resemble guided missiles.”

However, the author’s insight is founded on a broad technology background and does include many thoughtful suggestions on how categories of nanoweapons could be regulated as extensions of existing arms agreements.

The strength of the book is in establishing awareness and either starting or expanding discussions on some of the issues surrounding the potential of nanoweapons. If the author’s 2050 timeline is correct, this issue is not far in the future. That time frame is more than a decade prior to the planned U.S. retirement of its F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and likely a time when the Army will still employ upgraded models of many current combat systems.

Clearly, it’s not too soon to expand some of the discussion on the warfighting implications resulting from nanotechnology.