Ethics and technology 'in the making': An essay on the challenge of nanoethics [Book Review]

NanoEthics 1 (1):21-30 (2007)
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Abstract

After reviewing portions of the 21st Century Nanotechnology Research and Development Act that call for examination of societal and ethical issues, this essay seeks to understand how nanoethics can play a role in nanotechnology development. What can and should nanoethics aim to achieve? The focus of the essay is on the challenges of examining ethical issues with regard to a technology that is still emerging, still ‘in the making.’ The literature of science and technology studies (STS) is used to understand the nanotechnology endeavor in a way that makes room for influence by nanoethics. The analysis emphasizes: the contingency of technology and the many actors involved in its development; a conception of technology as sociotechnical systems; and, the values infused (in a variety of ways) in technology. Nanoethicists can be among the many actors who shape the meaning and materiality of an emerging technology. Nevertheless, there are dangers that nanoethicists should try to avoid. The possibility of being co-opted from working along side nanotechnology engineers and scientists is one danger that is inseparable from trying to influence. Related but somewhat different is the danger of not asking about the worthiness of the nanotechnology enterprise as a social investment in the future.

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