Weapons, Ethics and a Pint of Black Sheep

Two new nanotech books popped up today, dealing with defence and ethics, and sure to provoke plenty of debate in our local.

Rosalyn W. Berne’s ‘Nanotalk:Conversations With Scientists and Engineers About Ethics, Meaning, and Belief in the Development of Nanotechnology.’ The description seems to fit exactly what we seem to wind up doing in the bar at all these nanotech conferences, maybe we should look for the hidden microphones?

“Nanotalk is a book of conversations and explorations with thirty five such nano-research scientists and engineers who share their ideas, experiences, perceptions, and beliefs about their work, humanity, nature, change, and the future of the world with nanotechnology. Precisely because of the unknowable nature of nanotechnology research and development, conscientious foresight and ethical reflection are warranted every step of the way. Not only do nanotechnology research and development represent enormous financial commitments, but they also require a profound leap of faith regarding its possible outcomes. Using these conversations as the basis of reflection and deliberation, the author explores the possible significance of nanotechnology to humanity and how it might be pursued conscientiously and ethically.”

Less cosy fireside reading is Jürgen Altmann’s ‘Military Nanotechnology: Potential Applications and Preventive Arms Control.’ Before anyone starts claiming that CRN have already thought about it all, MNT is described as a “still hypothetical scenario.”

As usual, we’ll quibble with the conclusion that “in the long term, preventing misuse of NT and associated powerful technologies will require very intense inspection rights and criminal law, calling for strengthening civil-society elements in the international system.“ At this risk of turning blue, puce or even black in the face we would still like to see a sensible proposal for the regulation of nanotechnologies as opposed to their applications. We suspect that such a regulatory framework is also a “still hypothetical scenario.”


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