The dark side of Nanotechnology

Here’s an interesting article I came across and thought should share with you:

Of all the discoveries we’ve made during the past several decades, nothing can match nanotechnology’s potential to improve our lives. Even at this early stage in its development, the young nanotech industry has already delivered many products to the marketplace–from more effective sunscreens to dust-repelling window coatings and carbon nanofibers stronger than any other known substance. New nanotech products are on the way in dozens of fields; by 2015, nanotechnology is expected to be a $1 trillion industry.

As is true of most significant discoveries, however, nanotech has its dark sides, too. Many groundbreaking technologies can be used (or abused) for warfare. Nanotech is no exception… and the thought of possible military applications of ultra-small machines originally designed to correct medical problems is particularly disturbing. Nano-devices produced to attack plaque in your arteries, for example, could just as easily be programmed to attack your heart valves.

Tiny smart bombs are also a concern. Nano-machines designed to find and repair damaged DNA could also be used to search for “undesirable” genetic patterns, and to kill the host if they are found. The consequences of high-tech “genetic cleansing” are too horrible to contemplate.

Far easier to produce are nano-monitors that could be used by the government to keep track of your whereabouts and report the information whenever you pass a detector or use a cell phone. Given another 9/11 style attack on U.S. shores and the adoption of almost any technological edge in the Forever War is possible.

There is also a significant risk that nano-machines may do unintended damage if their designers overlook essential safeguards. For example, unless they are told otherwise, tiny devices that use proteins to make useful products might decide people are the richest source of raw material available. Which would permanently solve our national obesity problem.

Scientists are also nervous about controlling nano-machines designed to clean up toxic waste sites. When the tiny scavengers run out of material to process, it’s possible they may go looking for other sources–such as the city sewer system or your garage.

The potential of nanotechnology to create problems for us could become much worse a decade or so down the road. That’s because the ultimate goal of the nanotech industry is to make the microscopic devices self-replicating. Once we reach that level of development, a nanotech mistake could quickly become a global catastrophe as billions of nano-machines create billions of nano-machines that create…

Because there is a potential dark side to nanotech, many scientists and other knowledgeable people are calling for caution and the adoption of suitable safeguards. Bill Joy, wunderkind and co-founder of Sun Microsystems, first raised the issue with his April 2000 article in Wired, “Why The Future Doesn’t Need Us“. In May 2003 and again in June 2004, Prince Charles raised the alarm another few decibels when he warned that escaped nanorobots could feed on natural matter and wreak havoc on the planet. ( Doctor and author Michael Crichton described a fictional–but to some degree realistic–nanotech disaster in his popular novel, Prey (2003).

But the reality is that many new technologies involve risk. Consider the outcry if automobiles were invented only now… the very idea that millions of people would be hurtling around in two ton hunks of metal would be met with more than a little resistance and predictions of doom. So far, we have managed not to blow ourselves up with atomic bombs, biological and chemical weapons… and there is no reason to think that humankind, ever adroit at solving technological puzzles, won’t be able figure out a way to harness the best of nanotech without experiencing the worst.

Even so, at this early stage in the development of nanotech, it’s best to keep the potential for unintended consequences in sharp focus.

Hmmmmm……some major food for thought…………………….Jamster


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