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August 2006 News on Ethics

Finnish Presidency conference on nanotechnologies August 29, 2006 Key Specialist such as Prof. M. Welland, University of Cambridge, Dr. F. Roure, French Ministry of Finance, Prof. G. Oberdörster, University of Rochester, are analysing the possibilities of nanosciences and nanotechnologies to renew the world.

Nanotechnology patents delayed ...
nanodot August 21, 2006 Christine Peterson: Regardless of how one feels about nanotech patents, having applications pile up at the USPTO indicates a misallocation of resources somewhere. This problem seems likely to increase as the complexity of both the nano patent landscape and nano patents themselves increase.

Nanotech & Science Education
Responsible Nanotechnology August 16, 2006 "Exploring the Nanoworld" is a valuable resource for educators and students who want to learn and teach about nanotechnology. It's a project of the Interdisciplinary Education Group at the University of Wisconsin's Madison Materials Research Science and Engineering Center.

Nanotechnology and the developing world August 16, 2006 Brandon Keim: Worldchanging has already noted nanotechnology's many possible benefits to the world's poor and underprivileged, involving everything from energy storage and drug manufacture to pollution cleanup and crop monitoring. And while emerging technologies are always in danger of being shaped by -- and eventually furthering -- old inequalities, it's at least possible that nano is aleapfrog technology that will be produced by entities sensitive to local needs. If that's true, the trick will be to get cleaner water and cheaper drugs without introducing the nanotech equivalents of organophosphate pesticides and acid rain, or being stalled, a la GM crops, by public fears -- justified and unjustified -- of harm.

Selling Sousveillance
Responsible Nanotechnology August 14, 2006 Chris Phoenix and Mike Treder: The concept of sousveillance -- surveillance by the people, bidirectional surveillance, watching the watchers -- has been proposed by several people, including David Brin and Philippe Van Nedervelde (both members of CRN's Global Task Force). But what could convince people, especially powerful people, to accept this level of openness?

Ethics Watchdog Needed?
Responsible Nanotechnology August 13, 2006 Mike Treder: "Scientists of the future will have to be controlled by an ethics watchdog to prevent a nightmare vision of nanotechnology becoming reality, according to a Church of Scotland expert. Dr. Donald Bruce, the director of the Kirk’s society, religion and technology project, said 'it was only a matter of time' before action had to be taken." That sounds pretty scary. And coming from a well-connected representative of the Church of Scotland, this warning probably carries some weight.

Nanotech advances could limit privacy August 07, 2006 Chris Toumey: ... a second area which I think is even more of a concern is the medical interface. That is, nanomedical diagnostics are providing now better information about one's genetic constitution, now to the point almost of molecular precision. And this is good because it means we're on the verge of some very personalized medicine.

On Supplement to the President's FY 2007 budget
NanoHype August 04, 2006 David Berube: We’re in year 6 and 13 agencies (joining NSET this year were the USDA Forest Service, Dept. of Labor, Dept. of Education, and DOD’s Defense Threat Reduction Agency) are now involved. The strategic plan in the budget request involves seven PCAs (program component areas). I want to observe that the 7th item in societal dimensions. Ordinal ranking is telling. Under PCA7 – $44m is slated for EHS and $38m for educational related activities and implications for society.

Enlightenment Under Fire
Responsible Nanotechnology August 04, 2006 Mike Treder: Paul Starobin has posted a thought-provoking article in the National Journal entitled "Who Turned Out the Enlightenment?" "A fascinating, if somewhat frightening, societal experiment is under way. The question is whether democracy naturally advances science, or whether modern progress in science actually has less to do with heralded forms of government than with the fruit born of a special moment in historical time, the modern European Enlightenment, from which America, courtesy of the Founders, greatly benefited."

Nanotechnology risks & benefits debated at IRGC
nanodot August 04, 2006 Christine Peterson: The International Risk Governance Council held a meeting on nanotechnology in Zurich on July 6-7, 2006, to review and critique their white paper on Nanotechnology Risk Governance.

Normally such events are just about the risks of near-term nanomaterials, but not this one. The IRGC is looking at all sides: both near- and long-term nanotechnology (which they call Frame 1 and Frame 2), and both kinds of risks: the risks of negative outcomes, and the risks of missing out on positive outcomes.

Kirk seeks 'superman' technology watchdog to rein in scientists August 04, 2006 Scientists of the future will have to be controlled by an ethics watchdog to prevent a nightmare vision of nanotechnology becoming reality, according to a Church of Scotland expert. Dr Donald Bruce, the director of the Kirk's society, religion and technology project, said "it was only a matter of time" before action had to be taken.

Beware the well-meaning Westerner
Howard Lovy's NanoBot August 03, 2006 Howard Lovy: This spin on UNESCO's Ethics and Politics of Nanotechnology report concludes that developing nations are unlikely to lag behind the industrial world in nanotech research (this is correct, since poorer nations will likely focus nano research on their specific needs). But then it explores some dangerous, deadly territory.

Nanotechnology: alleviate poverty or reduce inequality?
nanodot August 02, 2006 Christine Peterson: The role of nanotechnology in the developing world is questioned by Prof. Guillermo Foladori of Mexico in his Nanotechnology Law & Business article “Nanotechnology in Latin America at the Crossroads”

Two ideas are being conflated here: (1) Can nanotechnology help poor countries? and (2) Can nanotechnology close the gap between rich and poor countries? The answers are very different.

Nano and Bio in Society Conference August 01, 2006 In attendance will be prominent scientists from around the world on the frontiers in nano and biotechnology research and product development; managers of companies involved in nano and biotechnology research, product development, and product sales; representatives from investment companies and government agencies; universities and regional enterprise agencies encouraging the growth of nano and biotechnology industry segments; and legal and financial advisers collaborating with scientists on emerging issues.

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