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What Is Nanotechnology and Why Does It Matter?: From Science to Ethics



What Is Nanotechnology and Why Does It Matter?: From Science to Ethics

Fritz Allhoff, Patrick Lin, Daniel Moore

ISBN: 978-1-444-31800-5 November 2009 Wiley-Blackwell 304 Pages


Ongoing research in nanotechnology promises both innovations and risks, potentially and profoundly changing the world. This book helps to promote a balanced understanding of this important emerging technology, offering an informed and impartial look at the technology, its science, and its social impact and ethics.
  • Nanotechnology is crucial for the next generation of industries, financial markets, research labs, and our everyday lives; this book provides an informed and balanced look at nanotechnology and its social impact
  • Offers a comprehensive background discussion on nanotechnology itself, including its history, its science, and its tools, creating a clear understanding of the technology needed to evaluate ethics and social issues
  • Authored by a nanoscientist and philosophers, offers an accurate and accessible look at the science while providing an ideal text for ethics and philosophy courses
  • Explores the most immediate and urgent areas of social impact of nanotechnology

Preface viii

Unit I What Is Nanotechnology? 1

1 The Basics of Nanotechnology 3

1.1 Definitions and Scales 3

1.2 The Origins of Nanotechnology 5

1.3 The Current State of Nanotechnology 8

1.4 The Future of Nanotechnology 12

1.5 Nanotechnology in Nature and Applications 16

2 Tools of the Trade 20

2.1 Seeing the Nanoscale 21

2.2 Basic Governing Theories 30

3 Nanomaterials 36

3.1 Formation of Materials 36

3.2 Carbon Nanomaterials 37

3.3 Inorganic Nanomaterials 44

4 Applied Nanotechnology 56

4.1 Using Nanomaterials 56

4.2 Nanotechnology Computing and Robotics 62

4.3 Predicting the Future of Technology 67

Unit II Risk, Regulation, and Fairness 71

5 Risk and Precaution 73

5.1 Risk 73

5.2 Cost–Benefit Analysis 79

5.3 Precautionary Principles 82

5.4 Evaluating the Precautionary Principle 89

6 Regulating Nanotechnology 96

6.1 The Stricter-Law Argument 97

6.2 Learning from History 100

6.3 Objections to the Stricter-Law Argument 102

6.4 An Interim Solution? 120

6.5 Putting the Pieces Together 124

7 Equity and Access 126

7.1 Distributive Justice 127

7.2 Nanotechnology and the Developing World 132

7.3 Water Purification 135

7.4 Solar Energy 140

7.5 Medicine 143

7.6 Nanotechnology, the Developing World, and Distributive Justice 145

Unit III Ethical and Social Implications 151

8 Environment 153

8.1 Society, Technology, and the Environment 154

8.2 Environmental Risks of Nanotechnology 159

8.3 Nanotechnology Solutions to Environmental Problems 161

8.4 Overall Assessments: Risk and Precaution 168

9 Military 170

9.1 The Military and Technology 170

9.2 A Nano-Enabled Military 173

9.3 A Nano-Enabled Defense System 177

9.4 Ethical Concerns 179

10 Privacy 185

10.1 Historical and Legal Background 186

10.2 Philosophical Foundations 192

10.3 Radio Frequency Identity Chips 198

10.4 Item-Level Tagging 201

10.5 Human Implants 204

10.6 RFID-Chipped Identification 207

10.7 Is RFID a Threat to Privacy? 210

11 Medicine 215

11.1 The Rise of Nanomedicine 216

11.2 Diagnostics and Medical Records 219

11.3 Treatment 223

11.4 Moving Forward 227

12 Human Enhancement 230

12.1 What is Human Enhancement? 231

12.2 Defining Human Enhancement 234

12.3 The Therapy–Enhancement Distinction 237

12.4 Human Enhancement Scenarios 240

12.5 Untangling the Issues in Human Enhancement 243

12.6 Restricting Human Enhancement Technologies? 252

13 Conclusion 254

13.1 Chapter Summaries 255

13.2 Final Thoughts and Future Investigations 258

References 261

Index 282

“This book deserves to be read by anyone interested in why nanotechnology is important and why it matters, and particularly by anyone new to this field. For those already familiar with some (if not all) of the topics that the book covers, there is still some benefit to be gained from reading about some of the latest applications in areas in which they may not have such detailed knowledge.  It also permits the reader to take a critical stance on the topics and arguments raised in the book, especially since the book’s objective is to prompt the dialogue that is needed to achieve further progress and to continue to broaden the debates.”  (Nanoethics, 1 October 2014)”

“However, for the reader looking for general background about nanotechnology and many of its social and ethical issues, the book is worth reading, as long as its arguments are carefully scrutinized and increased understanding of connections among such issues is not expected.”  (Bioethical Inquiry, 2011)

“I highly recommend this book. It is certain that nanotechnology’s advance will continue, affecting many facets of our lives. Fritz Allhof, Patrick Lin, and Daniel Moore have provided the best available overview of the many changes that one can expect to see as a result of nanotechnology’s continued advances, and the many ethical implications inherent in this advance. While the authors ask many more questions than they answer, they prepare the intellectual landscape for the ethical debates that are certain to take place over the coming years regarding the often-insidious infusion of various manifestations of nanotechnology into our society.”  (Journal of Military Ethics, 19 April 2012)

"In their recent publication, What is Nanotechnology and Why Does it Matter: From Science to Ethics, the authors Fritz Allhoff, Patrick Lin, and Daniel Moore search for answers to these two questions-questions which, whether directly addressed or not, underlie all scholarly, political, and consumer protection writings on nanotechnology. In this 260 page, thirteen-chapter book, the authors come impressively close to providing satisfying answers to these questions." (Amber Hottes, Nanotechnology Law & Business, Volume 7, Issue 2)

"As with a number of other such books in print, "What is Nanotechnology and why does it Matter?" brings both scientific knowledge and Ethical/Legal/Societal implications (ELSI) to bear. It heralds the profound changes of nanotechnology while attempting to provide an effective way to deliberate ELSI, as nanotechnology unfolds into full development. In seeking to "tame a riot of speculation" [ix], Allhoff, Lin, and Moore reveal much of the complexity of the ongoing discourse on this matter, leaving quandary on multiple related issues. The tripartite layout of the book demarcates particular areas of expertise represented by the individual authors, in an unusual collaboration that brings distinctive breadth to a relatively well-published area of inquiry." (Rosalyn W. Berne, The Journal of Philosophy, Science & Law, Volume 11, 10 October 2011)

"The book is well-suited to be used either as a coherent text for introductory courses focused specifically on nanotechnology, or used as stand-alone chapters that can be selected to augment and supplement readings in a wide range of courses in fields such as public policy, engineering, sociology, or philosophy of science. The highly interdisciplinary perspective offered in this book should also serve as a model of how scholars can effectively collaborate across fields in ways that break down obstacles and connect findings across disciplines that are all-too-often isolated." (Evan S. Michelson, Science and Public Policy, 2011)

"Overall What is Nanotechnology and Why does it Matter? From Science to Ethics makes an important contribution to the literature as it offers an overview of the nature and implications of nanotechnology. Scientists, researchers, students, industry executives and policymakers will find this volume extremely informative and useful. As advancements in nanotechnology will take place, further dialogues and debates are needed to move nano-products responsibly into the market." (Fabrice Jotterand, International Journal of Applied Philosophy,2010)

"This book was very carefully constructed.  Painstaking internal cross-reference refer the reader to fuller discussions of topics in other chapters.  Nearly every chapter, at the start and conclusion, includes a few sentences on scope." (Nanotechnology Law & Business, summer 2010)

  • Nanotechnology is crucial for the next generation of industries, financial markets, research labs, and our everyday lives; this book provides an informed and balanced look at nanotechnology and its social impact
  • Offers a comprehensive background of nanotechnology itself, including its history, science, and tools, providing a clear understanding of the technology
  • Explores the areas where nanotechnology will have the most immediate social impact, including the environmental, medical and military issues it raises
  • Authored by a nanoscientist and two philosophers, who together provide a balanced analysis of the field and its ethics