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Webcast: Nanopundits at National Press Club

Earlier I reported that the National Press Club meeting on nanotech sponsored by IIT’s Center on Nanotechnology & Society would be webcast. It’s now up, in four parts, at the meeting’s web page (requires Real Player). Particularly colorful: Andrew Kimbrell (who opposes nanotech) and Congressman Brad Sherman. Sean Murdock and John Sargent give pro-tech views. I’m on there too. —Christine

3 Responses to “Webcast: Nanopundits at National Press Club”

  1. lowfatbrains.com » Blog Archive » Andrew Kimbrell Speaking at NanoWorld Says:

    [...] The Foresight institute’s Nanodot blog has posted a link to a really interesting discussion from the National Press Club’s meeting about nanotechnology (NanoWorld: Toward a Policy for the Human Future, see here for a press release). Andrew Kimbrell, director of the International Centre for Technology Assessment, gave a speech (from about an hour into the conference) where Nanodot’s blog characterised him as someone who “opposes nanotech”. Just finished listening to his talk (in fact, everyone’s speeches), and I cannot help but feel this characterization to be a terrible misrepresentation of what he was arguing. He did not “oppose nanotech” in so much as he seemed to oppose the non-transparent, corporate and military controlled, profit driven, unregulated, and patented way this technology is being developed, instead wanting to link nanotech development with values, keeping patents within the commons, pushing for transparency etc. I cannot help but agree with much of what he said, probably because he echoed a lot of my own concerns. Here’s a summary of what he spoke about (my apologies if some things aren’t transcribed properly). [...]

  2. Christine Peterson Says:

    Perhaps I should go back and listen to Andrew Kimbrell’s talk again. His was just before mine, so I may have been distracted. In any case, I don’t see how to keep the profit motive from strongly affecting how nanotech is developed. Without it, how would we get costs down so the technologies are affordable? —Christine

  3. Craig Says:

    Thanks for the reply Christine. You’re right in that it’s difficult to see how to progress without the profit motive, and I don’t profess to having the answers (wish I did)! I think a good place to start would be shifting corporate patents into the commons as well as trying to enforce a lot more transparency than there currently is. At least then scientists/consumers/citizens can be aware of the direction the technology is taking and have better luck “steering” it (as I think you mentioned in your speech). As an example, I’ve just been reading through a really interesting book entitled “Spychips” about the new RFID technologies and corporate plans for them, and this provides a very good example as to why corporate secrecy coupled with the profit motive is a major threat to consumers and citizens.

    I agree there is great hope for the future with nanotech, but history demonstrates that corporate control will define the direction development takes i.e. market, consumer and profit driven, and those who cannot afford it (who are normally those who need its benefits the most) will be left out with a “nanotech gap” to compliment the poverty gap. (An example is the big pharma drugs industry which tend to focus on developed world problems – erectile dysfunction and baldness – rather than developing world illnesses, because it is more profitable).

    Something like nanotech – with its profound implications for humans and our bodies – really needs to try avoid the oft-repeated mistakes and patterns of the past. I’m not suggesting we’ll know all the future pitfalls (that’s impossible), but it just seems obvious that history does provide some very valuable lessons we should avoid! It would be nice to deal with something before the fact, rather than afterwards, when it’s too late :)

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