Nanotechnology: the race to…?

By | February 24, 2013
There's doubtlessly large value in nanotechnology. My eyes also twinkle when I think of the many possibilities: medical treatments, self-cleaning surfaces, morphing surfaces, environmental cleanup, etc. But the more concerning questions are, what is the developed technology intended to do? Can we trust the leaders – in particular China – to uphold human safety standards in used and deployed nanotechnologies, in both industrial processing applications as well as in consumer products? Are safety standards in place for other nanobots? If weaponry or sabotage is a designed result, are there international treaties around it's use? Who will end up being market gatekeepers?

/via +michael barth

Reshared post from +Sally Morem

This interesting essay discusses the possibility of developing a monopoly on nanotechnology, and of the danger of nanotech weaponry.  I personally don't believe a monopoly on replicators is possible, especially IF they grow out of 3-D printer technology.  No one has a monopoly on that tech.

Once nanobots are included in the tech, it will be so easy to begin replicating the replicators, distributing to family and friends, and telling them how to replicate and distribute.  Long before any nation or corporation could even begin to take steps to protect rights to the tech, it will have spread around the world.  [Image of horse leaving barn before door is closed]

Nanoweapons are a different thing altogether and need a different discussion.

Leading Countries Race Towards Nanotech | Accelerating Future
Via TNTLog, the “Nanotech Dragon”: This is a scatterplot of current nanotech funding and scientists/engineers per capita in various countries. The US, Japan, and China are clearly in the lead today – …

8 thoughts on “Nanotechnology: the race to…?

  1. barqzr davi

    your argument seems to place a greater onus on China and other nations attempting industrialization, than other developed lol, nations even bothered attempting until forced to
    perhaps this will convince that they will address these issues as they become more extroverted, and in the process put the heat on other offenders (read usa)

  2. Michael Kelly

    I do wonder if the lure of nanotechnology for military applications will end up being too much of a siren call for nations to resist.   In ancient times, armies could salt the fields of their enemies to assure that the foe would remain starving and weak.

    What about nanotechnology applications that could easily absorbed by plants but that prevented the body from absorbing nutrients?   If armies march on their stomach, then what would something that causes people to use 3-5x more food and still slowly starve to death be worth?  How would that affect a warring nation?   Suddenly, larger armies and larger populace would no longer be the advantage.

    Do you think that public health and safety implications and issues with possible release of this technology would stop any nation from at least looking into something like that?   What about nanotechnology applications that allowed previously a previous harmless bacteria or virus to become incapacitating?

    Is any of this likely?   Perhaps not, but it might be enough for money, time, research and other resources to be used to look for it and one thing that history teaches is that when we apply enough of that to find ways to intentionally inflict harm – we come up with discoveries that are very good at doing just that.

    I imagine that the worst application of nanotechnology that we should all be concerned about has not been found yet, but it assuredly will be.   

    If we use history as our guide, the most harm from nanotechnology will probably not come from any military application, but instead from some commercial use that has dangerous side effects that were either unforeseen or covered up.

    Clearly the issue is not that nanotechnology is good or bad, just a new technology we are starting to understand how to use.  We aren't not even completely clear on how it impacts our environment yet as far as what to prevent and what to allow.

    What is clear is that history tends to show that with a new technology, we often rush to apply it before the actual effects/dangers are fully understood.   This has happened with chemistry, it has happened with electricity, it certainly has happened with radiation – and thus almost assuredly will happen with nanotechnology.

  3. Dieter Mueller

    These CyberUtopians talk about Nanotechnology & Nanobots in such general Terms it's "unhelpful" – it's like saything that with the Invention of Microchips the Streets were automatically filled with Robots and AIs …

  4. Oleg Kiorsak

    +Sophie Wrobel

    when "nano"-materials will become cheaper to add into foods and cosmetic products, or to be used within the manufacturing process rather than any more traditional means, then surely big question will arise as far as "trust"…

    and not only in China…

    if my memories are not too confused it actually was you who had a post here some time ago about how inhaling "nano" particles raises similar concerns as asbestos…

    and it took "only" 100 years in case of asbestos, and ONLY in "first world" thus far – not in countries like India where
    it's still "ideal material":

    (also DW: you can google up much more disturbing images btw)

    of course "nano"-materials is only a fraction of what the broad term of nano-technologies means, but it is definitely the one to watch out…

    (CC +Gaythia Weis )

  5. Sophie Wrobel

    +barqzr davi fair point. I also don't doubt China's research capability. But there are two key problems with China now:
    1. Produced foods and products may be bad for human health due to poor manufacture, processes, and lack of policy / enforced standards (in some cases there is no policy, which creates the problem in the first place), and
    2. China has political alliances with non-US-friendly nations. If they develop nanotechnology weaponry and sell to one of those nations… obviously, the other side will want to stockpile too.

  6. barqzr davi

    just as a note Sophie , China is doing quite well regarding safety if you place them on a relative stage  in their industrial/tech to where the west was while industrializing , imho it's unfair to think that China must enter at the levels that it took other nations literally hundreds of years to reach

  7. Gaythia Weis

    I think that it should be pointed out that the graphic above is based on "per capita".  The fact that China has a great number of peasants who fill in the denominator of that statistic should not obscure the absolute numbers of however "nanotech funding and scientists/engineers" was determined.


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