Nanotechnology and ethics

Nanotechnology and ethics - GENERAL ARTICLE Societal...

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GENERAL ARTICLE CURRENT SCIENCE, VOL. 90, NO. 5, 10 MARCH 2006 645 Birgit R. Bürgi (e-mail: [email protected]) and T. Pradeep (e- mail: [email protected]) are in the DST Unit on Nanoscience, De- partment of Chemistry and Sophisticated Analytical Instrument Facility, Indian Institute of Technology Madras, Chennai 600 036, India. *Present address: Asian Institute of Technology, AFE Building, P.O. Box Klong Luang, Pathumthani 12120, Thailand. Societal implications of nanoscience and nanotechnology in developing countries Birgit R. Bürgi* and T. Pradeep The historically unprecedented developments of nanoscience and nanotechnology, in view of their phenomenal expansion and growth, in conjunction with their convergence with information science and molecular biology, confront our society and natural environment with new challenges. Techno- logical revolutions have shown that discoveries at the frontiers of science have the potential to pave the way for radically innovative and integrated approaches, providing new solutions for some of the most pressing problems. In order to enable decision-makers to respond to what is best for people at large, the societal implications of the newly emerging fields need to be known and understood. Nanotechnology, unlike any other technology, can find applications in virtually all areas of human life. In spite of being an infant at its evolution, some of the known issues related to nanotechnology suggest a wide spectrum of potential societal impacts. The current public nano-discourse provides sociology with a unique opportunity to switch from a merely passive, observational role to an active participating one, especially where the key players involved meet to find joint and concerted solu- tions for development. Keywords: Developing countries, nanoscience, nanotechnology, societal implications. THE objective of this article is to address the wider societal implications of nanoscience and its deriving technologies on society within the context of the developing world. To prepare readers for the novel scientific and technological terrain, we begin with an introductory historical retrospec- tive of the scientific and technological evolution, from the first Industrial Revolution to the third and onwards to the newly emerging technologies of the 21st century, to illustrate the influence of technological progress on the evolution of the society. The rapid pace of discoveries and development in the realm of nano indicates that this newly emerging field is different from others and therefore gives rise to specific questions, although there are prob- lems common to other advanced technologies. The aim of exploring the world of nano is to discover new properties and to translate new knowledge into the manufacturing process for obtaining enhanced structures and components with novel chemical, physical or biological properties. This futuristic manufacturing method can virtually invade and pervade all areas of human life, since it modifies the iden-
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This note was uploaded on 02/25/2011 for the course EG 1413 taught by Professor Prof during the Spring '11 term at National University of Singapore.

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Nanotechnology and ethics - GENERAL ARTICLE Societal...

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