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Rising threats to nanotech?

Here is an interesting article about growing fear-mongering about nanotechnology. Of course, even one of the founding fathers of the nanotech idea, Eric Drexler, has warned about the underside of this technology.

5 comments to Rising threats to nanotech?

  • But nanoparticles of what? If they are of substances that are potentially damaging or dangerous, if these are then packaged up with other dodgy stuff then the nano effect can matter. There is certainly some real muck in many consumer products being fired up in this way that is hitting many people hard. There are certainly many areas where nano can be of huge benefit, if carefully and sensibly deployed.

  • PeterT

    This is a difficult area for libertarians. We often oppose government action on the grounds that there are negative unintended consequences to it. There are of course many other reasons but this is not what this comment is about. Private action is preferable because it is usually more fully informed and has a dispersed and incremental effect on society. By contrast, government can do stupid things quickly and at a very large scale. War comes to mind.

    However, it is technically possible that private actions ciould have widespread unintended negative consequences. In the ‘grey goo’ scenario, self-replicating nanobots have eaten the world. What has happened here is that the impact of private action has been amplified by the self-replicating aspect of the technology. Not all nano-tech need be self-replicating of course; but I think this example does illustrate that in some cases the precautionary principle can be reconciled with libertarian values, and need not always be met with a ‘pah’.

  • Laird

    “In the ‘grey goo’ scenario . . .” Let’s look at a quote from the article: “the old “gray goo” scenario that no legitimate scientist actually believes in.” (My emphasis.) Did you even bother to read it?

    Luddite claims should always be met with a resounding “pah”, if not something more vulgar. “Gray goo” is the manufactured fear of idiots. It certainly presents no difficulty for libertarians.

  • PeterT

    Laird. No, I didn’t read it as it was irrelevant to the point I was making, which was not about nanotechnology, but about the precautionary principle, and the potential difficulties it poses for libertarians. Clearly you did not read my post properly either.

  • Laird

    Well, Peter, since you specifically mentioned “gray goo” I presumed you were talking about it in reference to the linked article.

    But in any event, I didn’t misread your post: I specifically reject the “precautionary principle” as being the least bit problematical for a libertarian. It is merely a device by which luddites can stymie progress on the basis of the most fanciful of imaginary fears. It is a pernicious fraud, a bug-a-boo only to the seriously credulous.