Scientists of the future will have to be controlled by an ethics watchdog to prevent a nightmare vision of nanotechnology becoming reality, according to a Church of Scotland expert.
Dr. Donald Bruce, the director of the Kirk's society, religion and technology project, said "it was only a matter of time" before action had to be taken.
We're concerned, though, that the labeling of nanotechnology as part of a "nightmare vision" is not especially helpful. For one thing, every powerful technology brings the potential for both benefit and harm; to reject nanotech altogether and forfeit its great potential for human gain would be highly irresponsible. In addition, the fear that Dr. Bruce expresses about "artificially enhanced humans" does not involve nanotechnology alone; advanced generation nanotech may be an enabling technology for certain kinds of human enhancement, but certainly other technologies will be included, such as biotechnology, genetics, neurotechnology, cognitive sciences, robotics, and perhaps artifical intelligence. Does Dr. Bruce also regard those as "nightmare visions"?
Although such hyperbole sheds more heat than light on the issues, we would be the last to deny that nanotechnology and other emerging technologies should not be carefully monitored and their implications scrupulously analyzed. In particular, of course, we contend that molecular manufacturing will enable profound transformations in many areas, and that its potentially disruptive military, economic, social, environmental, medical, and other impacts must be thoroughly understood, anticipated, and wisely managed.