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Home > News > The Ethics and Politics of Nanotechnology

July 10th, 2006

The Ethics and Politics of Nanotechnology

Nanotechnologies currently are one of the most rapidly developing fields of technology with many promising applications in medicine, energy, manufacturing and communication. Like any new technology, it raises ethical issues; and the possible benefits and harms are increasingly discussed, as well as its implications for international relations in science and technology policies. UNESCO can take initiatives to map the ethical dimensions of nanotechnologies from a global perspective, and to explore implications for its Member States and possible actions for the Organization.

(Ed.'s note: "The shaping of the debate by science fiction consideration as would be unfortunate (for example it should be made widely known that the apocalyptic visions of the gray goo scenario or the utopian views of nanomanufacturing are irrealistic in the light of current scientific knowledge)." First, labeling nanomanufacturing as "science fiction" is akin to applying the same label to transcontinental flight at the time of the Wright Brothers; one way or another it is very likely to happen, and probably within the lifetimes of babyboomers. Second, the grey goo scenario, while improbable (and not necessary to the success of current molecular manufacturing proposals), is not without merit; whether bio- or nanotech-based, eventually something like "grey goo" is likely to be within our ability to construct. See for details.

For those who would look a bit further into the future, where the time between new scientific discoveries grows ever shorter (and hence the need to plan grows ever more important), I suggest that starting to plan, now, for nanomanufacturing is a MUST. A good place to start is at the website of The Center for Responsible Nanotechnology at, and at their blog, Responsible Nanotechnololgy at


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