Roland Dürre
Thursday October 29th, 2009

“Nano Technology and Ethics?” or “Think Before You Act!”

With a budget of 750 million Euros, nano technology is among the best-sponsored projects in the EU. The money spent on it is ten times what the humanities get. The total sales of nano technology in the EU roughly equals what they get by way of public sponsorship.

The produce is so small that it can transgress the threshold between blood and brains, thus being able to penetrate all human cells. They are long-lasting. Once introduced into our environment, the process is not reversible.

Unintentionally, nano particles are produced when modern Diesel motors are active. They are developed on purpose for conserving the attractive look of chocolate, making teeth sparkle whiter; preventing clothes from smelling of perspiration or making tennis rackets that can be wielded with even more power behind them.

Arguments used for justifying nano technology are mostly its huge potential for treating complex maladies such as Altzheimer’s decease and its use in gerontology. In the military and many other sectors, immense headway is also expected through nano technology.

Futurologists assume that nano technology has a modification potential similar to that of IT.

If we had started evaluating nano technology early on in an ethically responsible discourse, we would probably have come up with the following and other requirements to be met before its application:

  • All products containing nano technology must be marked.
  • Nano products that can spread into the environment must be proven to cause no harm.
  • The nano products must be easily disposable or disintegrate by themselves quickly.
  • Whenever nano technology is applied, a weighing must take place. It must show that the actual benefit justifies the risk.

Basically, these issues are all self-evident. Today, you demand them more and more often. Yet with this new technology, what happened was that we first sponsored it on a large scale. Now, at long last, some people slowly start asking questions.

Again, we have fallen victim to the allurement of profit and the hope of more health or even a longer life. Or, as the bankers say: greed leaves no place for brains (and ethics).

RMD
(Translated by EG)

P.S.
I can well understand that now many people view nano technology sceptically. The same is true for nuclear energy and gene technology. Demanding more caution when new technologies are developed has nothing to do with “typically German hostility towards technology”. It is not fair to throw this reproach into the faces of all critics.

2 Kommentare zu ““Nano Technology and Ethics?” or “Think Before You Act!””

  1. Chris Wood (Thursday October 29th, 2009)

    For a balanced view of this subject, see http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nanotechnologie. NT may develop into something significant, but at present both the possibilities and the dangers are mostly just hype. Roland concentrates on the latter. 750 Million EURO p.a. subvention in Europe is really very little, particularly considering all the different aspects that are grouped under this term. Many times as much would be made available to save a medium sized bank. I presume this also includes (perhaps 50%) research into the dangers.
    Consider Roland’s four rules for the use of NT. Shouldn’t they hold for everything? Consider the same four rules but with “sharp edge” or “round thing” substituted for “nano”.
    And the budget of “Geisteswirtschaft” in Europe is at least 100 times larger. The main part of this in Germany is probably religion, with about 5% of all tax. But the media play their part too. In Britain, no tax goes directly to churches, but the Anglican Church, being the second largest landowner (after the National Trust), also has a good income. It is a pity that the ratio of “Geisteswissenschaft” to “Geisteswirtschaft” is so low.

  2. rd (Thursday October 29th, 2009)

    Sorry, aber Religion zähle ich nicht zu den Geisteswissenschaften. RMD

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