With all of the talk about new discoveries and advancements in nanotechnology, a new topic of discussion is coming to the surface. The idea of nanoethics, "understanding of the risks and benefits of nanotechnology among scientists, policy makers and the general public," is being more widely discussed as the field grows and progresses.
A previous post on nanoethics appears here, and I’m seeing more and more discussion as the idea becomes part of the agenda.
We’ve already heard from The Nanoethics Group, and seen the journal NanoEthics, (no direct relation, I’m told), and now comes an anthology collection of 40 authors, Nanoethics: The Ethical and Social Implications of Nanotechnology, that "gives the reader an introduction to and basic foundation in nanotechnology and nanoethics, and then delves into near-, mid-, and far-term issues. "
While there is the expected crossover between these three items, authors from one will certainly appear in another’s publication, the increasing volume with which nanoethics is being discussed is noteworthy.
Responsible development of both the technology and any accompanying regulation cannot be made in a vacuum. Consideration of the wider societal impacts, both positive and negative, is critical in order to have worthwhile discussions. The ends of the spectrum have already been voiced: a complete lack of regulation on the developing science until more is known on the one hand, and a total moratorium on technological advancement until the risks are sufficiently understood and accounted for on the other. While I can’t speak for my co-authors, I believe the answer lies somewhere in the middle. As to the second argument, the proverbial genie is out of the bottle–scientific advancement cannot be stopped at this stage. R&D labs, universities, and private companies will continue to research and learn about nanotechnology. As to the first argument, a complete disregard for the potential hazards that may develop is, at best, irresponsible.
We’ve not heard the last of the nanoethics discussion, and quite the contrary, I think we’re just hearing the beginning. But that’s just my opinion, I’d be curious to know what you think.