Nanotechnology's True Potential
14 Nov, 2008 11:14 am
It is disappointing to still find articles like this one in the UK Independent that are short-sighted and actually misleading about nanotechnology:
The last several years have seen significant progress in getting the public, the press, and even governments to take seriously the true potential of nanotechnology. It's not that we think issues such as nanoparticle toxicity aren't important, but to suggest that they "put the world at risk" is to miss the far more significant dangers -- and opportunities -- of nanotechnology that are now on the horizon. Limiting the discussion of both risks and benefits only to nanoparticle applications prevents readers from making an informed judgment of nanotechnology's much broader implications. When molecular manufacturing is achieved (as seems more certain and more imminent all the time), our societies will be faced with making fundamental decisions about economic disruption, environmental effects, military balances of power, humanitarian interventions, and more.
The US National Science Foundation suggests that we are already in the second generation of nanotech (which they call "Active nanostructures"), that we are not far from third generation nanotech ("Systems of nanosystems"), and that fourth generation nanotech ("Molecular nanosystems") may be less than ten years away.
Again, we don't discount the need for understanding and dealing with the genuine problems of today's nanoscale technologies, but we must not allow near-term concerns to distract us from the much larger challenges that may soon be upon us. Moreover, if we don't start paying attention to those issues now, we could find ourselves unprepared and overmatched by the monumental impacts of this powerful technology.
Originally published in Responsible Nanotechnology