"Size Does Matter" -- So says the cover of a special issue [PDF] Friends of the Earth magazine devoted to nanotechnology.
Among the important questions they ask are:
Much of the issue is devoted to concerns about early generation nanotechnologies, including problems with nanoparticle toxicity and supply chain disruption.
But they also address [see page 12] longer term worries associated with molecular manufacturing:
Certainly our current model of representative democracy can not be upheld in a society where most people have nothing to do and are resentful of the elite which can entertain itself with work. Concurrent with the rise of molecular manufacture then would be the need for ubiquitous surveillance powered and facilitated by nano machines.
Although a different scenario might depict all members of society having the opportunity to choose fulfilling work, it's wise to imagine outcomes that are less optimistic -- and perhaps more realistic -- which this article challenges us to do.
Apart from the obvious impact of molecular manufacturing on democratic society and employment levels, its creation also invites the risks of escalating global terrorism and fuelling an unstable omnicidal arms race.
We're pleased to see these weighty problems being highlighted, and we're especially grateful that the authors of the above article mentioned the recent series of essays produced by the CRN Global Task Force on Implications and Policy.
Near the end of the magazine [page 45], Friends of the Earth calls for a halt to all commercial development of nanotechnology:
The profound ethical questions raised by nanotechnology remain unanswered -- and in many cases unasked... In the absence of any established regulatory system to manage nanotechnology’s risks, and in the absence of mechanisms to enable democratic decision making regarding nanotechnology, Friends of the Earth is calling for an immediate moratorium on all commercial research, development and release of nanotechnological materials and products. We recognise that further scientific research on the health and environmental safety of nano-materials and products is required to inform the development of regulations to manage the risks of nanotoxicity.
CRN disagrees with the value of a moratorium on commercial research and development. But we applaud Friends of the Earth for bringing attention to the many important ethical, social, political, and humanitarian issues of nanotechnology -- especially molecular manufacturing.