Ethics in Nanotechnology

The Issue Of Ethics In The Development Of Nanotechnology

Ethics are an important part of a scientific development that one cannot overlook. While some will look at technological capabilities and potential profits, others must consider the impact that the technology has on society and our world. This is the case in the development of nanotechnology, and concerns about ethics in Nanotechnology are increasing.

There are many positive ventures highlighted here, with social and medical benefits. Some are now concerned about what could happen if nanotech moves into other industries, and into the wrong hands.

Are these concerns justified, and should we pay more attention to who is using this tech?

Ethics In Nanotechnology

When looking at ethics and worth in nanotechnology, we have to start with the benefits.

There are many ways that nanotechnology can help the world. We see this in manufacture through material reuse, increased precision, and miniaturization.

In environmental areas, there is the link with toxins clean-ups, recycling and reducing resource consumption. One of the biggest areas of development and hope here is with medicine.


Medical Field Using Nanotechnology

Nanotech can help with surgical procedures, cancer screening, antimicrobial dressings, disease treatment and drug delivery systems. Naturally, a lot of the positive focus on nanotechnology and ethics falls here.

There is nothing but positive potential here because all these ventures are clearly designed to help people. Add in the environmental and technological benefits, and we see why so many people keen to develop nanotech further.

Potential Threats In Using Nanotech

There are also some threats from other developments and questions of ethics in nanotechnology.

There are always going to be those that see the potential for this new process as a way of creating weaponry and other dangerous components.

It might not be long before nanotechnology leaves the medical facilities and enters ammunition factories and war-rooms. There is the potential for the use of small weapons and explosives.

There is also the chance to use disassemblers for further military use. Others have considered the potential of nanotechnology in surveillance. This would see these new particles used for more efficient monitoring and tracking software.

There are clear implications for ethics here in both areas. There is the classic case of a real scientific discovery manipulated and used for what many may consider an evil end.

In one country the tech could be then used in explosives to blow up enemy territories and terrorist cells. In another, it could be helping to rebuild those injured in conflict with tissue regeneration and other medical practices.

Ethics questions the level to which this is acceptable. As for surveillance, there is already distrust over the means with the government can trace us in our everyday lives.

The problem continues with the potential dangers of developing nanotechnology even further.

In addition to these concerns over ethics, there is the added fear that current techniques will grow into the questionable new ground.

The first of these if the issue of the self-replicated nano-machine. This means a form of technology that can multiply and regenerate.

While this could be beneficial in some areas, there are concerns over some control humans would have this tech. It all links up with concerns over artificial intelligence(AI) and sentient beings. There is only so far that we are honestly prepared to go here.

Gray Goo Scenario

The other issue is the Gray Goo Scenario. While this sounds like something from a science fiction show, there is some reality here. There is the potential that these nanoparticles could attack physical structures and biological organisms on a molecular level.

Nanotechnology could be a significant threat to the single purpose of disassembling molecules. This is a concern if let loose in the wrong place. However, the likelihood of this actually happening and no one having any control seems a bit far-fetched and even Eric Drexler who made this idea popular thinks it might be wrong.

Are These Concerns Justified?

There are those that over-hype the threat of nanotechnology. Some see it as some terrible plague that will eventually destroy the earth. While this is over-the-top, it will pay to keep an open mind and remain vigilant in the use of this technology in different industries.

In the right hands, with the right control, it could be a great tool for positive change. In the wrong hands, and with unregulated development, it could move into questionable areas. It could be dangerous on both a global and molecular scale.

For now, developers, scientists, and government agencies need to keep ethics in mind, not just business and profit.

One comment

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