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Church of Scotland wants nanotechnology to respect certain limits drawn from…the arts?

Rocky Rawstern of Nanotechnology Now brings our attention to an article in The Scotsman on the views of Dr. Donald Bruce, head of the Church of Scotland’s Society, Religion and Technology Project.

While there is much that we would agree with in Dr. Bruce’s position — for example, a concern about nanotechnology possibly leading to “increased surveillance of citizens under the guise of national security, or even be used by terrorists” — he goes too far.

According to the article, commenting on nanotechnology, Dr. Bruce writes, “New developments must respect certain limits drawn from religious and cultural traditions, philosophy and theology, the arts and humanities, and the social sciences.”

Limits drawn from ethics and morals — yes, whenever agreement on these can be reached. From religion and theology — there are different versions which disagree, and at least in the U.S., government is not supposed to pick just one to determine public policy. Philosophy, humanities, social science — good luck getting clear signals from these on technological issues, but if one can do so, by all means let’s consider them.

But the arts? Nanotechnology is supposed to respect limits drawn from the arts themselves, apart from the fields listed above? Who would select which artworks and art interpretations define these limits?

I’m guessing that the arts got onto this list through a spirit of inclusion taken rather too far. —Christine

5 Responses to “Church of Scotland wants nanotechnology to respect certain limits drawn from…the arts?”

  1. George Elvin Says:

    Why shouldn’t the arts offer criteria for reasonable human enhancement? Defining what it means to be human has always been one of art’s most basic functions, from Oedipus to Prometheus Bound to Cyborg. The ancient Greeks, for example, prohibited citizens from building homes of marble because marble was reserved for sacred buildings. Is it so farfetched to consider the sacred and our relationship to it now that we have the technological power to transcend some of the biological boundaries that have defined our humanity until now?

  2. Eric T. Says:

    I never realized the arts had defined limits…or at least not universally accepted limits. Then again, do any of the abovementioned topics contain universally accepted limits? That aside, the point of the arts often appears to be to stretch or break the limits imposed by many of the other topics. If we accept that as the norm, what does that then mean for nanotechnology research and development?

    (I imagine Dr. Bruce would be quite thoroughly exasperated by such overanalysis)

  3. Adam Says:

    One blogger on The Scotsman’s site says this: “Defining what it means to be human has always been one of art’s most basic functions.”

    I believe that the arts should be taken into account, but more so as a form of guidance, such as science using science fiction as a vision of the future.

    Likewise, since art is basically a human representation of all of the other criteria Dr. Bruce mentions (humanities, social sciences, region and philosophy) I think it should prove a valuable tool for insight into society’s hopes for and fears of nanotechnology.

    I think Christine’s questions are right on target. We should not respect limits drawn by the arts “apart” from the other fields, art should be used as a way we can consider all of the other topics mentioned.

    Maybe that’s not what Dr. Bruce had in mind, but I think it could be useful to see how people would react to Nanotech developments in the future.


  4. Christine Peterson Says:

    Great comments, folks, thanks! –Christine

  5. DRPRABIR Says:

    it is a great endeavour to rediscover the challenging e world of nanorobotics .nanomedicine,nanoconferencing

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