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January 31st, 2005
Nanotechnology, Biotech, and Our Common Future
As befits an information-besotted age, we live amidst buzzwords that, like some species of exotic insect, seem to live and die in weeks. You might think that the acronym “NBIC” (Nanotechnology, Biotechnology, Information and communication technology (ICT), and Cognitive science) is such an infocritter. But the phenomena behind this term are complex and profound, and raise difficult conceptual and operational questions for not just environmentalists, but anyone interested in human futures.
NBIC is not simply recognition of four rapidly evolving areas of research and technological advance. Rather, it also indicates that the four components -- which are probably best thought of as frontiers of knowledge, rather than simply new technologies -- are increasingly converging in many ways. The boundaries between them are growing increasingly fuzzy and fluid -- is building a DNA-based computational system ICT, or biotechnology, or nanotechnology?
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