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The Dangers of Nanotechnology Daniel Moore Georgia Institute of Technology Tuesday, November 04, 2003 Overview New technologies bring the potential for new dangers Previous technological advancements and their unforeseen dangers What is nanotechnology and why is it extraordinary?

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the dangers of nanotechnology

The Dangers of Nanotechnology

Daniel Moore

Georgia Institute of Technology

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

overview
Overview
  • New technologies bring the potential for new dangers
  • Previous technological advancements and their unforeseen dangers
  • What is nanotechnology and why is it extraordinary?
  • The (positive) potential of small things
  • Threats
    • Biological
    • Environmental
    • Military
    • Other
  • No policy scenario
  • Policy Suggestions
new technologies and new dangers
New technologies and new dangers
  • Humanity is acquiring all the right technology for all the wrong reasons.
    • R. Buckminster Fuller (1895 - 1983)
  • New technologies have brought with them many troubles.
  • Progress without limits is not the best policy.
previous technological advancements and their unforeseen dangers5
Previous technological advancements and their unforeseen dangers
  • Even “peaceful” uses of technology have had horrible disasters.
  • The Chernobyl disaster was spread by wind to three continents within 9 days.

Spread of Chernobyl radiation

previous technological advancements and their unforeseen dangers6
Previous technological advancements and their unforeseen dangers
  • Not just nuclear
    • The use of CFCs endanger our ozone and the entire climate system on Earth.
    • Silicon breast implants ended up leaking and being extremely dangerous to the patient.
    • Cancer clusters appear near power lines due to radiation.
what is nanotechnology and why is it extraordinary
What is Nanotechnology and why is it extraordinary?
  • The term “nanotechnology” refers to any technology related to features of nanometer scale (i.e. the scale on which viruses and bacteria exist).
  • It gives control over properties of materials and structures at an atomic scale, so that engineering of materials and devices specific to a need is extremely simple and cheap.
  • This kind of control has never before been seen in human history.

Artist rendition of a “Nanobot”

the positive potential of small things
The (positive) potential of small things
  • Nanotechnology may lead to greater control and precision over device design.
  • It might lead to greater control over properties of new materials.
  • It might lead to more targeted drug delivery.
  • It may provide greater sensing technology.
problem the potential threats of nanotechnology
Problem: The Potential Threats of Nanotechnology
  • As with all new technology, we should evaluate nanotechnology not only on its potential gains, but also on its potential threats.
  • Some of these fall into the following categories:
    • Biological
    • Environmental
    • Military
    • Other

Nightmare “Gray Goo” scenario

cells in a petri dish

threats biological
Threats - Biological
  • The advent of nanotechnology allows for new control over our own biology.
  • “Nanomeds” have greatly untested side effects. It is unknown what kinds of alternate problems could be created by altering DNA, cells, and our own biological beings.

“Nanobot” with a red blood cell

threats to the environment and other species
Threats – To the environment and other species
  • CFCs were first developed as safer alternatives to ammonia.
  • When nanotubes, hailed as the harbinger of nanotech, were injected into rats, 15% of them died quickly. “The highest death rate we had ever seen”.

Hole in the ozone layer

Lab rats

threats military
Threats – Military
  • Nanotechnology is being explored for potential military applications.
  • It is cheap, easy to reproduce, and possibly remarkably useful in both armor and weapons.

Is there any doubt our enemies would exploit nanotechnology against civilization were they able to?

Kim Jong Il – Leader of N. Korea

threats other
Threats – Other
  • Nanoassemblers
    • The “Holy Grail of Nanotechnology”
    • Self-copying nanobots
    • “The perfect plague”

Artist rendering of nanoassemblers

what do we do
What do we do?
  • Peaceful Uses Treaty – based on Space treaties
  • Ethical guidelines for working in nanotechnology
  • Close monitoring and coordination of all nanotech research for potential hazards
  • Extensive testing for potential ill effects of all new nanotechnology products
summary
Summary
  • Nanotechnology is an exciting field. However, many of its uses and abuses are unknown.
  • Some foresight today in curbing potential dangers could prevent huge potential disasters in all areas of life.
  • The recommended policy changes will have minimal impact on scientific research and will have a great positive impact on people’s lives.