Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Nanotechnology: the social and ethical issues

Source: Pew Trusts
"The goal of this paper by Ron Sandler of Northeastern University is to clearly place
social and ethical issues within ongoing debates on the responsible development of nanotechnologies.The paper presents a broad framework to structure the analysis and discussion of ethical issues, which builds on improving our understanding of the social, cultural, and moral context of emerging technologies and assessing the status of these issues as the technologies evolve. The author takes on some of the common misconceptions that undermine our ability to address social and ethical issues early and effectively, such as the “it’s too early to discuss ethics” excuse and the tendency to frame new technologies in terms of their inevitability (and inevitable good). The paper highlights, through theory and research linked to case studies, a wide variety of possible social and ethical issues linked to emerging nanotechnologies, ranging from environmental justice to human enhancement and the myth of the techno-fix—our tendency to favor technological fixes to problems rather than behavioral changes or other major shifts. Indeed, the framework outlined in this paper can be applied to a wide variety of emerging technologies."