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What Is Nanotechnology and Why Does It Matter?: From Science to Ethics

By: Fritz Allhoff, Patrick Lin, Daniel Moore

ISBN: 978-1-4051-7544-9
Paperback US$39.95

ISBN: 978-1-4051-7545-6
Hardback US$99.95

304 pages
March 2010

Ongoing research in nanotechnology promises both innovations and risks, potentially and profoundly changing the world. This book helps to promote a balanced understanding of this important emerging technology, offering an informed and impartial look at the technology, its science, and its social impact and ethics.

  • Nanotechnology is crucial for the next generation of industries, financial markets, research labs, and our everyday lives; this book provides an informed and balanced look at nanotechnology and its social impact
  • Offers a comprehensive background discussion on nanotechnology itself, including its history, its science, and its tools, creating a clear understanding of the technology needed to evaluate ethics and social issues
  • Authored by a nanoscientist and philosophers, offers an accurate and accessible look at the science while providing an ideal text for ethics and philosophy courses
  • Explores the most immediate and urgent areas of social impact of nanotechnology


Fritz Allhoff, PhD
, is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Philosophy at Western Michigan University and Research Associate in the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics at The Australian National University.  Patrick Lin, PhD, is an Assistant Professor in the Philosophy Department at California Polytechnic State University (San Luis Obispo) and an Ethics Fellow at the US Naval Academy.  Daniel Moore, PhD, is a nanoscientist at IBM and was trained at Georgia Institute of Technology.




Unit 1: What is Nanotechnology?

1. The Basics of Nanotechnology.

1.1: Definitions and Scales.

1.2: The Origins of Nanotechnology.

1.3: The Current State of Nanotechnology.

1.4: The Future of Nanotechnology.

1.5: Nanotechnology in Nature and Applications.

2. Tools of the Trade.

2.1: Seeing the Nanoscale.

2.2: Basic Governing Theories.

3. Nanomaterials.

3.1: Formation of Materials.

3.2: Carbon Nanomaterials.

3.3: Inorganic Nanomaterials.

4. Applied Nanotechnology.

4.1: Using Nanomaterials.

4.2: Nanotechnology Computing and Robotics.

4.3: Predicting the Future of Technology.

Unit 2: Risk, Regulation, and Fairness.

5. Risk and Precaution.

5.1: Risk.

5.2: Cost-Benefit Analysis.

5.3: Precautionary Principles.

5.4: Evaluating the Precautionary Principle.

6. Regulating Nanotechnology.

6.1: The Stricter-Law Argument.

6.2: Learning from History.

6.3: Objections to the Stricter-Law Argument.

6.4: An Interim Solution?

6.5: Putting the Pieces Together.

7. Equity and Access.

7.1: Distributive Justice.

7.2: Nanotechnology and the Developing World.

7.3: Water Purification.

7.4: Solar Energy.

7.5: Medicine.

7.6: Nanotechnology, the Developing World, and Distributive Justice.

Unit 3: Ethical and Social Implications.

8. Environment.

8.1: Society, Technology, and the Environment.

8.2: Environmental Risks of Nanotechnology.

8.3: Nanotechnology Solutions to Environmental Problems.

8.4: Overall Assessments: Risk and Precaution.

9. Military.

9.1: The Military and Technology.

9.2: A Nano-enabled Military.

9.3: A Nano-enabled Defense System.

9.4: Ethical Concerns.

10. Privacy.

10.1: Historical and Legal Background.

10.2: Philosophical Foundations.

10.3: Radio Frequency Identity Chips.

10.4: Item-Level Tagging.

10.5: Human Implants.

10.6: RFID-chipped Identification.

10.7: Is RFID a Threat to Privacy?

11. Medicine.

11.1: The Rise of Nanomedicine.

11.2: Diagnostics and Medical Records.

11.3: Treatment.

11.4: Moving Forward.

12. Enhancement.

12.1: What is Human Enhancement?

12.2: Defining Human Enhancement.

12.3: The Therapy-Enhancement Distinction.

12.4: Human Enhancement Scenarios.

12.5: Untangling the Issues in Human Enhancement.

12.6: Restricting Human Enhancement Technologies?

13. Conclusion.

13.1. Chapter Summaries.

13.2. Final Thoughts and Future Investigations.



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