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In an article published yesterday on www.spiked-online.com, members of the scientific community imagine what society would have lost, had the Precautionary Principle governed science in the past. (See the article)
My organization, the Center for Responsible Nanotechnology, has done an analysis of the Precautionary Principle and its appropriate application to the study and development of nanotechnology.
The development of molecular nanotechnology (MNT) carries numerous risks, including the production of potentially unhealthy nanoparticles, the possible creation of tiny, destructive, self-replicating robots, and many others. The Precautionary Principle is often invoked when dealing with situations that might be hazardous; however, the label "Precautionary Principle" is attached to at least two different ideas, which must be analyzed separately.
A CRN research paper (available online) discusses two forms of the Precautionary Principle, which we call the "strict form" and the "active form".
Because the strict form of the Precautionary Principle does not allow consideration of the risks of inaction, CRN believes that it is not appropriate as a test of MNT policy. Inaction poses at least three severe risks:
1) No other solution may be found for certain pressing problems.
2) Inaction on the part of responsible people could simply lead to the development and use of MNT by less responsible people.
3) Lack of understanding of the technology will leave the world ill-equipped to deal with irresponsible use.
The active form of the Precautionary Principle, however, seems quite appropriate as a guide for developing MNT policy. Given the extreme risks presented by misuse of nanotech, it appears imperative to find and implement the least risky plan that is realistically feasible.
For more detailed information, please see the complete paper.
See you in the future!
The Center for Responsible Nanotechnology™ is headquartered in New York. CRN is an affiliate of World Care®, an international, non-profit, 501(c)3 organization. For more information on CRN, see www.CRNano.org.
Reprinted with premission.
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