"Nanoethics"? What's New?

By The Hastings Center Report

  • Release Date: 2007-01-01
  • Genre: Life Sciences
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Description

We have "genethics." We have "neuroethics." And now there are pleas for a nanoethics." The nanotechnology hype, engendering both fanatical optimism and apocalyptic fears, has produced calls from different commentators for "a radical change in the way we address ethical issues" (1) and a "novel [ethical] approach to the future" that must be divorced from existing moral theories. (2) But what ethical issues will nanotechnology raise that will be novel? How could an ethical approach be novel, and why would that be necessary? Commentators also strongly urge ethical reflection to begin now on all aspects of nanotechnology, including the kind of atom-by-atom manufacturing predicted by optimistic futurists. But what issues call for immediate attention? And given that those responding to these calls would require intellectual and financial resources, does reflection on speculative visions of nanotechnology warrant that expense?

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