One move at a time:
"Daring ideas are like chessmen moving forward. They may be beaten,
but they may start a winning game."
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, German writer and scientist
ethical and policy questions facing nanotechnology are broad and require a
thoughtful strategy to organize and study the issues. Without that,
it’s too easy to scatter our focus and head down unproductive paths, given
the sheer number of controversies as listed previously.
three-tiered approach makes sense out of the confusion and provides a
roadmap towards an informed understanding of the issues. While each
paper or report can stand alone, there are few fast and easy answers in ethics, so
therefore our roadmap serves to continue the dialogue with a logical flow.
the first stage, as with any complex discussion, we need to get our bearings, air out
key assumptions and address foundational issues. This gives us a firm
starting point and ensures we have as much consensus as possible in basic
areas. Research papers in this stage may address questions such as:
What’s wrong with the current arguments supporting nanotech?
How do we weigh the benefit vs. harm of nanotech – or can we?
What is our obligation to prevent harm?
Do scientists need to worry about ethics in the first place?
we can begin to look at near-term, practical issues, as opposed to scenarios
that are more science-fiction at this point, such as “the Gray Goo” or
killer nanobots. The questions asked in the second-stage reports include:
Do we have an obligation to assist developing nations or share
What are the health and environmental issues at stake?
What criticisms made against biotech might resurface for nanotech?
Will nanotech violate our right to privacy – or just redefine it?
What parallels between nanotech and other scientific developments, such
as nuclear power and asbestos, can we draw to gain helpful insights?
Finally, we can begin exploring long-range, more theoretical questions,
after addressing the more immediate issues above. Some of the reports in
this stage help answer questions such as:
Are we “playing God” by tinkering with nature? Is that bad?
What is the impact on economic trade if we can make anything we want?
If nanotech really can extend our lives, how does that affect
overpopulation and quality of life?
are working on a full list of research topics and abstracts, so please let
us know if you would like more details or to suggest a new area of study.