So much nanotechnology lives among scientists, so little does it do so among the population. And that while nanotechnology is already being processed in 2006 in sunscreen and self-cleaning jeans. In the future, nanotechnology will play an increasingly important role.
Environmental organizations, whether rightly or wrongly, see nanotechnology as the new ‘nuclear energy’ or ‘genetic manipulation’. There is a big chance that people will become acquainted with nanotechnology in commercials in which it is considered dangerous and scary. And that image is not that difficult to sketch. Mix a tablespoon of destructive studies on nanoparticles with a handful of self-replicating nano botjes and you have pasta nano finito. It is understandable that some people question the safety of nanotechnology. But many also agree that nanotechnology can provide wonderful things. It would be a shame to throw nanotechnology overboard because people are biased.
But it is not too late yet. Nanotechnology does not have to undergo the same fate as nuclear energy. In nanoscience there have not yet been major disasters such as Chernobyl in 1986. There is no such thing as wind or solar energy for nanotechnology; there is no alternative. Nanotechnology appeals more to the imagination: windows that you never have to patch through a water-repellent molecular layer! Nanotech seems to be able to win over the general public.
But apart from fear of health, there are also ethical issues that nanotech has to fight against. Do people want to run around with nanomachines in their bodies? And what do they think of tinkering with atoms, or the ‘building blocks of life’.
Information about nanotechnology is and remains important to answer such questions in a well-informed way. Nobody knows if nanoparticles are dangerous and some opponents will use this to blacken nanotechnology. Whether this is justified, whether nanoparticles are really harmful, is the question. But: “once a danger, always a danger”, even if studies do not indicate. Before the public has already formed an opinion, a thorough investigation must be conducted. Otherwise, there is a chance that nanotech has already been written off in advance.