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The expression emerging technologies is used to cover such new and potentially powerful technologies as genetic manipulation, artificial intelligence, and nanotechnology. Although the exact denotation of the expression is vague, various writers, such as Bill Joy and Joel Garreau, have identified clusters of such technologies that they consider critical to humanity's future. These proposed technology clusters are typically abbreviated by such combinations of letters as NBIC (standing for Nanotechnology, Biotechnology, Information technology and Cognitive science) or GNR, (for Genetics, Nanotechnology and Robotics).

Transhumanists and others who are optimistic about technology typically see emerging technologies as offering hope for the betterment of the human condition. However, critics of technological progress, and even some transhumanists, such as Nick Bostrom, warn that some of these technologies could pose dangers, perhaps even to human life itself; i.e., some of them could involve existential risks.

Much debate centers on issues of distributive justice in allocating access to beneficial forms of emerging technology. Some thinkers, such as Bill McKibben oppose the continuing development of advanced technology partly out of fear that its benefits will be distributed unequally in ways that could worsen the plight of the poor. By contrast, Ray Kurzweil and Damien Broderick are among those who believe that emerging technologies will aid significantly in eliminating poverty and much human misery.


NBIC, an acronym standing for Nanotechnology, Biotechnology, Information technology, and Cognitive science, is currently the most popular term for emerging technologies, and was introduced to majority through the publication of Converging Technologies for Improving Human Performance, a report produced in part by the National Science Foundation. The term was chosen for its obvious immediate parallels to NBC.

Various other acronyms have been offered for essentially the same concept such as GNR (Genetics, Nanotechnology and Robotics).

Journalist Joel Garreau in Radical Evolution uses "GRIN", for Genetic, Robotic, Information, and Nano processes, while Douglas Mulhall in Our Molecular Future uses "GRAIN", for Genetics, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, and Nanotechnology. Another acronym is "BANG" for "Bits, Atoms, Neurons, Genes".

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