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the warning bells




"Scientists think about things like ethics, but they don't let it interfere with their work.

Businesses and venture capitalists tend to think that the science will speak for itself and that society will just accept the idea that the benefits of nano-technology outweigh the risks.

- Dr. Emmanuelle Boubour, Rice University
  For years, industry experts and the media have been forecasting the impending storm – where nanotechnology collides with ethics and public policy.  Here are some of the early calls for nanoethics, which are increasingly growing louder and more urgent:

The Red Herring: 

“...nanotech is a sitting duck, just as biotech was, until the industry realizes it must take ethics seriously and quickly educates the public on the risk/reward proposition.”


“There's no denying that even some of the more modest applications of nanotechnology would have profound effects on our society.  So, it's probably a good thing that the technology is still in a fledgling stage – that gives us a few decades to debate before nanobots change the world, even if they don't take it over.”

Joint Center for Bioethics:

“Despite the potential impact of NT [nanotech], and the abundance of funds, our research revealed that there is a paucity of serious, published research into the ethical, legal, and social implications of NT.  As the science leaps ahead, the ethics lags behind.  There is danger of derailing NT if the study of ethical, legal, and social implications does not catch up with the speed of scientific development.

The only way to avoid such a moratorium [on the deployment of nanomaterials] is to immediately close the gap between the science and ethics of NT.  The lessons of genomics and biotechnology make this feasible. Either the ethics of NT will catch up, or the science will slow down.”


There's a lot of hype around nanotechnology, but there's also great potential... The science is barrelling forward, but the ethics aren't, and there's very little public engagement.... The first step is a fully-informed public - that's the gap we have to close, so we can optimise the benefits and minimise the risks...I don't want the science to slow down. I want the ethics to catch up.” - Dr. Peter Singer, Joint Center for Bioethics
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