- SANTA BARBARA, CA (PRWEB) October 3, 2005 - – The
Nanoethics Group today officially launched as a non-partisan
think tank to study the societal, ethical and policy
implications of nanotechnology – or the manipulation
of molecule-sized materials to create new products.
Driven by public anxiety and a lack of information
in this area, the research group will tackle a broad
range of unanswered and troubling questions about
the new science, from terrorism to health concerns
predict that the new
science will profoundly
affect modern life, much as the Industrial Revolution
has. Nanotechnology is an entirely new way to think
about manufacturing – such as building things from
the ground up, one atom at a time – and is expected
to give us such products as digital monitors that
are as flexible as plastic wrap, and in the distant
future, even steak without the cow. However, as business
and investors rush to capitalize on the trend, few
have paused to think about the implications of the
brave new science.
"If we had given foresight to how the invention
or discovery of electricity, factories, automobiles,
nuclear power and the Internet might affect people
and society, we might have done a much better job
in managing their negative consequences – such as
economic disruption, urban sprawl, pollution, nuclear
arms race and high-tech crimes," explained Patrick
Lin, Ph.D., research director for The Nanoethics
Group. "Today, we find ourselves in a unique position
to learn from our past, and we now understand the
critical need to make predictions about nanotechnology"s
future in order to guard against possible catastrophes
groups and the broader public have been calling
for such a study, with the media picking up on
this building crescendo. In the past few weeks,
a study entitled "Informed Public Perceptions of
Nanotechnology and Trust in Government" by Woodrow
Wilson International Center for Scholars found that
approximately 40% of concerns expressed by survey
participants focused on three key areas: true unknowns,
regulation and human health risks. Other concerns
identified include: environmental effects, privacy,
military uses, "playing God," social upheaval and
The Nanoethics Group will address important issues
such as these and help educate the public which is
still largely unfamiliar with the new science and
how it might affect their lives for better or worse.
Some of the scenarios to be explored include:
Terrorism. Radical groups can use nanotech as new,
unimaginable forms of torture, such as disassembling
a person at the molecular level or worse. How do
we prevent this abuse, if we can at all?
Privacy. As products shrink in size, eavesdropping
devices too can become invisible to the naked eye,
more mobile and even implantable in our bodies without
our knowledge. What are the privacy issues at stake?
Health. Artificial red blood cells might continue
to deliver oxygen in the event of a heart attack.
In an athlete, it would boost performance. Like steroids,
should we regulate nanotech if used for human enhancement
versus healing purposes?
other organizations in the field, The Nanoethics
Group is led by professional ethicists with qualifications
in both nanotechnology and communications. Co-founder
Fritz Allhoff, Ph.D., is a professor at Western Michigan
University and was recently a senior research fellow
at the American Medical Association"s Institute of
Ethics, and Patrick Lin, Ph.D., will also be a post-doctoral
associate at Dartmouth College, under a submitted National
Science Foundation research grant.
Even before its official launch today, the research
team has already been working quietly for a couple
years, including on a number of active projects such
as: the Center for Responsible Nanotechnology's task
force to develop comprehensive policy recommendations
for the safe use of molecular manufacturing, and
other work with distinguished experts, such as James
Moor, Ph.D., chairman of Dartmouth College's philosophy
department, and John Weckert, Ph.D., of Australian
National University and Charles Sturt University.
Lin continued, "In addition to turning a much-needed
spotlight on nanotechnology and its impact on society,
we hope to strike a balance between business executives
and others who are trying to brush aside ethical
concerns and the other extreme of alarmists who predict
gloom and doom. We think the truth is somewhere in
For more information, please visit www.nanoethics.org .
Patrick Lin, Ph.D.
The Nanoethics Group, Research Director
Patrick at nanoethics.org
The Nanoethics Group
Patrick Lin, Ph.D.