Geoffrey Hunt, of the European Institute of Health & Medical Sciences, has written an interesting paper on "Nanotechnology and Survival - Ethics and Organisational Accountability":
Nanotechnology may help the human race to survive the global problems we have created; or it may accelerate our downfall. This depends very much on the development and globalisation of another innovation, not in technology, but in human relations. . .
Nanotechnology has the potential to bring about a revolutionary transformation of our material world, a transformation that may surpass that brought about by information technology and telecommunications. Yet there is currently little or no public knowledge of, let lone involvement in, the rapid expansion of this technology and its dangers.
What is needed is a public accountability framework in which experts, industry representatives and government officials have their role among other stakeholders.
However, Hunt's paper discusses both current nanoscale technologies and longer-term molecular engineering. We believe it is a mistake to put them together in one basket for policy consideration -- each is important to address, but they offer different problems and will require different solutions.
He concludes with a recommendation for an "International Nanotechnology Agency":
The United Nations should convene an international conference with a view to the creation of a permanent international multi-stakeholder body to review, monitor and regulate [nanotechnology] developments. There is as much reason to create such a body as there was to create the International Atomic Energy Agency with its monitoring powers.
This last statement is certainly true, but we caution against convening deliberations on nanotechnology's risks, benefits, and options for effective administration until further study is completed. At the present time, there are many more questions than answers -- about capabilities, threats, and opportunities -- and that's not a good climate in which to make far-reaching decisions.