Liking It or Lumping It?

I was interested to see a slight chink appearing in ETC’s opposition to nanotechnologies, who while berating purveyors of nanomedicine do admit that

“Nanotech R&D devoted to safe water and sustainable energy could be a more effective investment to address fundamental health issues.”

This highlights an issue that has been raised many times, whether there is any sense in lumping together all of these various technologies as ‘nanotech.’ From a scientific point of view it makes sense, as all of nanotechnology makes use of some size dependent property, but from the applications side it becomes increasingly unsustainable to oppose nanotechnology as a whole. The Woodrow Wilson Institutes listing of “consumer nanotech products” gives a simple illustration of how widespread and unconnected the applications of nanoscience have already become.

But this is not just a problem for groups such as ETC, it also provides a headache for governments attempting to grapple with the ever shifting sands of nanotechnologies. It is no longer sufficient to set up a broad based nanotechnology program, there has to be some focus. Indeed, rather than jumping on and off the latest scientific bandwagons, switching finding from micro to nano to bio, governments should be seeking to leverage the whole of science to create an economic effect, or to tackle major global issues.

Strengthening the whole of science, from education through to encouraging and financing entrepreneurs to tackle these issues would be far more effective, both economically and politically.

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