Nature published an interesting paper at the weekend, a Canadian meta study into public attitudes to nanotechnology. The key finding is that “those who perceive greater benefits outnumber those who perceive greater risks by 3 to 1.” That’s probably not too surprising, as the majority of press stories about nanotechnology tend to be along the lines of it curing cancer or making things better and/or more useful, but it’s nice to have some confirmation of this.
Michael Todd has some more thoughts on this, with the usual headline that the results are ‘surprising’ – I’m not sure that they are.
The researchers also found that “a large minority of those surveyed (44%) is unsure” – which once again correlates with my London based experience which suggests that around 50% of people who work in electrical superstores or man call centres don;t have a clue what they are talking about, but manage to form an opinion nonetheless (the exception to this rule seems to be builders and plumbers merchants who not only know exactly what they are talking about but show Herculean patience when dealing with lesser mortals.)
In a nutshell then, people don’t mind nanotechnology, or any other technology too much if they perceive that it will have a positive impact on their daily lives, and will put up with a modicum of risk in order to enjoy the benefits. A bit like a chicken crossing the road then.