Many believe that nanotechnology will become one of the most significant scientific and industrial transformations of the 21st century. Like electricity, automobiles, and computers, nanotechnology may change our economy and our jobs, our air and our water, our play and even our relationships.
It is important to think about whose ideas and choices will guide the design and application of nanotechnology. What roles will scientists, engineers, corporations, consumers, regulators, and citizens play? Who may ultimately benefit from the pursuit of nanotechnology, and who may lose out?
These questions are not easy to answer.
Over the past several years, many science museums have begun to introduce nanotechnology to their visitors. This list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) comes from questions that visitors in some of those museums have asked about how nanotechnology might influence our future. These questions are not about the scientific and technical underpinnings of nanotechnology, but rather they are about nanotechnology in society.
There are no certain or absolute answers to these questions. Many of them depend on our beliefs, values, and hopes.
- Some Basics of Nanotechnology in Society
- What do I need to know about nanotechnology?
- Who should play a major role in deciding the future of nanotechnology?
- What lessons have we learned from other technologies?
- Applications of Nanotechnology
- Energy: Will nanotechnology make it cheaper and cleaner?
- Drugs and Cosmetics: Are they risky? If so, should they be used?
- Consumer products: Can manufacturers be trusted to ensure their products are safe?
- Consumer products: Should products containing nanoparticles have warning labels?
- Nanotechnology and Potential Hazards
- Could nanotechnology be dangerous?
- Will nanotechnology have unanticipated effects?
- If we’re not sure that nanotechnology will harm us, should we be concerned or just ignore it?
- Nanobots sound pretty scary. Could they actually take over the earth?
- Nano Research
- How do I know that scientists are working for my benefit?
- What happens when scientists want to stop and think about where their research is going?
- How might nanotechnology affect our privacy?
- Does the need for community security outweigh the right to individual privacy?
- Policy and Regulation
- Does the U.S. government regulate nanotechnology?
- What kinds of laws affect science?
- What should companies have to tell the public about nanotechnology?
- Will the expense of new medical technologies mean they are not available to everyone?
- Are there any particular concerns about nanotechnology and the developing world?
- The Center for Nanotechnology in Society at ASU (CNS-ASU) is the largest center for research, education and outreach on the societal aspects of nanotechnology in the world.