Friday, January 14, 2005

Why nanoethics?

I was having a conversation tonight and was asked what was the big deal about considering the ethical implications of nanotechnology and I thought that I would publish my answer here.

Why nanoethics? Well, for all of history, man has been defined by both who he is (what is a human) and what he does. Indeed, many have suggested that the term homo sapiens ought to be replaced homo faciens. Over the years, from ancient Greece and Rome with water clocks and catapults to current day, our technology has acted upon us and changed what it is that humans do and what it is that humans are. It is important to care about what man will be. We need to recognize that there is more at stake in technology than just improving life. We must strive to protect and preserve human dignity and the ideas and practices that make us human.

We face two interlocking and interplaying revolutions in technology nowadays. There is the biotech revolution (with stem cells leading the debate) and there is the nanotech revolution. It is important to consider these two together as they are enablers of each other. Their development has and will continue to occur in parallel. In one, we are changing and impacting life and humanity in very new ways and changing the very DNA that makes us up.We need to recognize that there is more at stake in technology than just improving life. We must strive to protect and preserve human dignity and the ideas and practices that make us human.

There is also the nanotech revolution. It's development is focused on impacting nature and technology on the order of an individual atom, one of the most fundamental building blocks of nature (and, surely, one of the most basic ones that can with reasonable energy that is available on Earth). Using and developing this technology changes directly how man interacts with the world and thus man himself. We need to recognize that there is more at stake in technology than just improving life. We must strive to protect and preserve human dignity and the ideas and practices that make us human.

So, in a nutshell, that is why nanoethics.

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