Good and Bad News About Global Risks

The World Economic Forum publishes its Global Risks Report 2013 today, and my opinion is buried in there somewhere among the other thousand experts. It’s always a fascinating document, although it is a survey of opinion, hence nanotechnology being defined as a high likelihood high impact risk eight years ago! That said, the first paragraph of the report flags carbon nanotubes …

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Nano Food -Twisting My Melon?

Every few years there is a call for nano materials and food to be labeled and the rationale is that in the case of GMO’s it allowed consumers to make an informed choice. An article GM a “cautionary tale” for nanotechnology  caught my eye: However, the author states:“The GM food rejection in OECD countries provides an illustration of what needs to …

The Nanotech Threat from the Developing World

Much of the past decade has been spent worrying about the potential toxicity of nanomaterials. We have had numerous government-funded projects, scores of publications by environmental groups, intense lobbying demanding the labelling of nanomaterials, and even a law suit. But while the developed world agonises over the use of nanomaterials, much of the rest of the world is simply getting …

Nanotechnology in the UK – You Have To Be In It To Win It

There has been plenty of discussion from all quarters about how the UK failed to grasp the significance of nanotechnology, and instead spent years fretting over heath and safety implications. Without any real nanotechnology related activity in UK industry, worrying about the potential downside is like spending all your time planning what you will do if you win the lottery. …

Innovation Starvation or Risk Avoidance?

While working on our report on Using Emerging Technologies to Address Global Risks, one of my favourite SciFi authors, Neal Stephenson, popped up with an essay on Innovation Starvation. It echoes Tyler Cowen‘s arguments that all the easy big stuff has been done,  and that all we have left to look forward to are incremental improvements rather than world changing …

What Is Technology For?

(Foreword to Using Emerging Technologies to Address Global Risks , October 2011) This is a question that often comes up in our dealings with global policy makers who spend huge sums on scientific research while simultaneously being fearful of its consequences. Many believe that it is somehow important for the economy in an undefined and non-quantifiable manner, or that it is some …

Nanotech Regulation – Fostering Innovation While Protecting Public Health

The White House Emerging Technologies Interagency Policy Coordination Committee (ETIPC) has developed a set of principles (pdf) specific to the regulation and oversight of applications of nanotechnology, to guide the development and implementation of policies at the agency level. I’m glad to see that it addresses those two old bugbears, the confusion between risk and hazard and the prejudging of issues …

Nanotech Isn’t Green Enough – But Compared to What?

I’ll leave the professional report readers such as 2020Science to wade through the Friends of the Earth’s latest broadside against nanotechnology which claims that it “isn’t green enough.” This brief report in “The Australian” neatly sums up the argument, which is that although nanotechnology has been spoken of as a solution to some aspects of climate change, it is is …