Foresight Nanotech Institute Logo
Image of nano

Nanosurveillance to detect illegal drugs

From today’s Altair Nanotechnologies press release:

“The president and CEO of Altair Nanotechnologies (Altairnano), today urged the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation to provide increased federal funding for nanotechnology, suggesting that the initiative could be compared to the man-on-the-moon or Human Genome projects…

“As for the chemical/biological sensors, Altairnano continues its work with the universities of Western Michigan and Nevada-Reno to develop arrays capable of detecting a wide spectrum of potential explosives, chem/bio weapons and illegal drugs.”

I’m guessing that the students at those schools are going to be pretty surprised when the researchers there start testing their drug detectors on campus. I speculated on this prospect in my talk at University of Minnesota. Nanodot readers interested in this topic should drop us a note or post a comment below: Is nanosurveillance an issue that Foresight should be addressing? I think so. —Christine

4 Responses to “Nanosurveillance to detect illegal drugs”

  1. Randy Stroop Says:

    The researching students should not use thier drug detecting on campus unless all the students are made aware of it and are doing it voluntairly. If the students choose to use illicit drugs let them be as they are only harming themselves and that is thier own choice.

  2. Nanoman Says:

    “Nano Surveilliance” is a clear abuse of nanotechnologies. Where does it end? The tremendous power of nanotechnology requires tremendous restraint and responsibility on the part of the people and government.

  3. Cesar Says:

    I feel compelled to write a rebuttal to the reactionary claim that Nano Surveilliance is a clear abuse of the technology. These are the same tired devil’s advocate type opinions we’ve seen from the first time security cameras went up in public places and elevators. The benefits are clear, increased safety and quicker response to emergencies. The price is the loss of a presumed privacy in public spaces. I say presumed, since actions in public can be viewed by anyone else coming or going through that public space. Similar objections are heard when the subject of radar guns on highways is on the table.
    To those that shout the kneejerk reaction “Hey, this is a free country.” I answer, “Yes, it is. But it’s not an anarchy.” There is a sane, neccessary and logical acceptance of limits. Your right to drive, for instance, is predicated by the requirement of a license, and in practice, confined by a host of limits and rules put in place for safety and order.
    I think we have an obligation to use nano technology, or any other means at our disposal, to increase the public safety in any area. Cutting noxious emission in factory smokestacks and vehicle tailpipes could be viewed as limits on the owener’s freedoms. The manditory filters cost money to buy and install, and reduces efficiency somewhat. But does the public health not take presidence?
    In summation, the innocent and law-abiding have nothing to fear from any kind of surveillance, nano or otherwise, but they do have much to gain; a safer community in which to live, work and raise children. If that’s not convincing enough, I offer you this. Important decisions should be a careful weighing, what you might lose by what you might gain. A painless unnotice scanning costs what? A theoretical privacy, one routinely surrendered at airports and the entrances to most retail stores. Not too much then. The gain is safety, for some it will make the difference between life and death.

  4. Phillip Huggan Says:

    Yes, but not all a given society’s laws are just. Visisble cameras that prevent assaults from happening in public spaces are good. Red light cameras enforcing an empty intersection at four in the morning waste time. Ubiquitous nanotech senosrs enforcing every minuet by-the-book driving infraction would make everyone a pedestrian.
    And using nanotech surveillence to enforce US drug laws? They are the single biggest failure in modern American society. There are two million Americans in prison under possession sentences. There are not there because they are harmful to society, they are there because they are poor and black or hispanic. Their forced prison labour funds the perpetuation of this process? You want to see this scaled up facilitated with nanotech tools? In summation, using nanotech to enforce drug possession is racist.

Leave a Reply