Who has the hype?
Nanotechnology—with its myriad evolutionary and revolutionary applications—is coming, and it can’t be stopped. . . Prepare for the inevitability of a world blessed with nano and nano-enabled products and services. The economic promise, the societal potential, and the human desire for rolling back the frontiers of knowledge—to go where no one has gone before—are forces that cannot be held back.
It's coming? What's coming? Better tennis balls? Footwarmers? Skin care products?
Let’s look at a few of the things nano offers as possibilities for societies and individuals, especially in nano’s convergence with other enabling technologies:
* Freedom from pollution through clean production technologies;
* The ability to repair existing environmental damage;
* The ability to feed the world’s hungry;
* The ability to enable the blind to see and deaf to hear;
* The ability to eradicate diseases and to offer protection against harmful bacteria and viruses;
* The ability to extend the length and the quality of life through the repair—and eventually even the replacement—of failing organs.
That's U.S. Under Secretary of Commerce Philip J. Bond in his December 2003 keynote address at the NSET Workshop on Societal Implications of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology. It sure sounds like his version of nanotechnology means more than just "small stuff we can make money with."
Now the technologies under development today—especially the converging technologies of nanotechnology, biotechnology, information technology and cognitive sciences—are so powerful and revolutionary, their applications are likely to create ethical and societal challenges beyond our current framework.
Think about a world of nano haves and have-nots: people who may acquire enhanced cognitive abilities, whose physical abilities may be enhanced, and who may be nourished by foods designed to knock out diseases that others around the world are dying from. Think of the new moral, ethical and societal issues this raises.
Disruptive technologies can transform or eliminate entire industries and occupations, leading to the loss of one’s job—and its accompanying hardships—as well as a shifting of economic power and opportunity among nations, regions and localities.
That's Philip Bond again, in the same speech.
We agree. Nanotech will be "disruptive" and will "transform or eliminate entire industries and occupations."
Who has the hype?
Nano may be the ultimate disruptive technology. Disruptive on a scale larger, I submit, than mass production and digital technology…and that’s saying something.
These are not issues that we can afford to wait to deal with. Our public policy apparatus does not react quickly to change. It is not designed to move quickly. So to engage effectively in the political arena, you must think and act far ahead.
That's still more from Under Secretary of Commerce Philip J. Bond, this time in a speech at the 2003 World Nano-Economic Congress in Washington, DC.
Mr. Bond is exactly right. We cannot afford to wait to begin preparing for the the disruptive implications of nanotechnology. This is not hype, it's reality -- and we may not have much time.
When some government officials and scientists downplay the implications of molecular manufacturing by calling it "hype," we wonder if they realize how contradictory they sound.