Technology

CONCERNS ABOUT NANOTECHNOLOGY

One of the most pressing issue on nanotechnology is the concern about possible risk, both to health and to the environment, associated with nanoparticle toxicity. The consideration arise in connection with the level of risk that should be tolerated. The problem is not so much that there are unknown to be dangers but rather that, because of the wide range of different nanoparticles with different properties, there are inherent difficulties in assessing risks and in formulating regulations to control them. There is debate, too, about whether current regulations are adequate to cover materials at the nanoscale or whether new regulations are required.

How nanotechnology could help bring about the utopian dream can be understood in terms of six categories, where “molecule by molecule manufacturing” would; be self-sufficient and “dirt-free”, create unprecedented objects and materials, enable the production of inexpensive high-quality products, be used to fabricate food rather than having to grow it, provide low-priced and superior equipment for health care enable us to enhance our human capabilities and prosperities. So, if the optimists are correct, we have much to be excited about as developments in nanotechnology proceed.

Arguments for the pessimistic view can be organised into six categories, where developments in molecular manufacturing could result in; severe economic disruption, premeditated misuse in warfare and terrorism, surveillance with nano-level tracking devices, extensive environmental damage, uncontrolled self-replication, misuse by criminals and terrorists. Consequently, nanotechnology’s pessimists and critics present a variety of the enthusiastic predictions. Assessing issue that arise at the nanoscale is important because of the kinds of “policy vacuum” that can arise, three distinct kinds of concerns that warrant analysis are: privacy and control, longevity, and runaway nanobots. Initially, we might assume that because nanotechnology could be abuse -e.g., used to invade privacy, produce weapons etc. However, we would commit a logical fallacy if we used the following kind of reasoning: because some technology, X, could be abused or because using Technology X could result in unintended tragedies, X should not be allowed to be developed. Consider some examples of why this form of reasoning is fallacious. Automobiles and medical drugs can both be abused, and each can contribute to the number of unintended death in given year, even when used appropriately. It would be fallacious to conclude that we should ban the development of these products merely because they could be abused and because they will inevitably lead to unintended deaths.

Argument for how best to proceed in scientific research and development when there are concerns about harm to the public good, especially harms affecting the environmental and health areas, are often examine in terms of a scheme known as the “precautionary principle”.

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