In concurrence with my previous post/quote, Philip Ball from Nature News has written an excellent opinion article about the paper Safe handling of nanotechnology that is published in this week’s issue of Nature. In this paper an international team of scientists present a five-point scheme for the “safe handling of nanotechnology”. But as Philip Ball points out:
To be fair, no one denies that a technology’s ‘safety’ depends on how it is used. Yet history must leave us with little confidence that research programmes or public debates will anticipate all, or even the major, social impacts of a new technology.
After all, once a new technology makes it to market or governments or any other agent of society that can usually be deemed a “scientific liability”, there’s no knowing where a new technology can lead to.
Technologies are one of the key drivers of social change, for better or worse. They simply do not exist in isolation of the society that generates them. Not only can we not foresee all their consequences, but some of those consequences aren’t present even in principle until culture, sociology, economics and politics (not to mention faith) enter the arena.