ALTO, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--July 22, 2004--Since
1986 Foresight Institute, a nanotechnology education
and public policy think tank, has worked to educate
the public about molecular nanotechnology. Founded
by Dr. Eric Drexler, author of Engines of Creation
and Nanosystems, and Christine Peterson, president,
Foresight Institute's mission has been to prepare
society for nanotechnology with a focus on balanced
discussion and broad understanding of its potential
by the general public.
A recent study of the American public's views on nanotechnology
has shown a remarkably accurate understanding of its
potential benefits and drawbacks. Conducted by North
Carolina State University researcher, Dr. Michael
Cobb, assistant professor of political science, who
designed the survey and analyzed the data, and Dr.
Patrick Hamlett, associate professor of science, technology
and society, and Dr. Jane Macoubrie, assistant professor
of communication, the results will appear in the next
Journal of Nanoparticle Research.
Funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), the
study found a majority (57 percent) of respondents
selected medical advances as the most important benefit,
followed by environmental cleanup (16 percent), security
and defense (12 percent), and improved human physical
and mental abilities (11 percent). Only 4 percent
saw "cheaper, longer-lasting consumer products"
as the most important benefit.
In choosing which of five risks it was most important
to avoid, respondents' top choice was loss of privacy
due to surveillance (32 percent), followed by a nanotechnology
arms race (24 percent), nanoparticles accumulating
inside humans (19 percent), and economic disruption
with job loss (14 percent). Only 12 percent were most
concerned about the uncontrollable spread of self-replicating
Approximately 70 percent were "somewhat"
to "very" hopeful about nanotechnology.
"It's extremely gratifying to see that the message
of nanotech's benefits and potential downsides has
been heard so clearly by the public," said Christine
Peterson, president and founder of Foresight Institute.
"Foresight has worked hard to present a balanced
view of the future we can expect from nanotech: huge
medical and environmental advances, but with some
key concerns about potential misuse. One of our central
points has been that deliberate abuse is a far bigger
issue than scary accident scenarios of nanobots run
amok. These messages have come through loud and clear."
"Some nanotech promoters, and even some researchers,
have criticized Foresight Institute for mentioning
negative applications," Peterson continued. "This
survey indicates that balanced discussion of nanotech's
benefits and potential drawbacks is being handled
well by the U.S. public. The task ahead is to help
reinforce and maintain the common-sense views already
held by the public, and make sure their concerns are
For more information about the North Carolina State
University study: http://www.ncsu.edu/news/press_releases/04_07/211.htm
About Foresight Institute
Foresight Institute is the leading public interest
organization focused on nanotechnology. Formed in
1986 by K. Eric Drexler and Christine Peterson, Foresight
dedicates itself to providing education, policy development,
and networking to maximize benefits and minimize downsides
of molecular manufacturing. www.foresight.org
Foresight Institute is producing the 1st Conference
on Advanced Nanotechnology: Research, Applications,
Policy, October 22-23, 2004, in the Washington, D.C.
Judy Conner, 650-917-1122
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