The Foresight Institute looks forward to the future with confidence. They do not expect nanotechnology to pose insurmountable dangers. In fact, they are convinced that nanotechnology will be a great asset to the world.

In his book Unbounding the Future , Eric Drexler mentions a few examples of the technique. Dangerous insect killers can leave the house, because smart ecosystem protectors zien het verschil tussen een kind en een spin en vallen alleen ongedierte aan. In schoonmaakmiddelen vervangen selectieve nanodeeltjes de giftige stoffen. Bovendien worden zulke rampen zeldzamer door de met nanotechnologie ontwikkelde ultrasterke scheepsrompen. Aan de andere kant is het instituut bang voor het misbruik van nanotechnologie door bijvoorbeeld terroristen. Maar met de juiste regelgeving is dit risico tot een minimum te beperken, denken ze. Afgezien van een paar kanttekeningen heeft het Foresight Institute dus veel vertrouwen in de nanotechnologische toekomst.

Technology concept with DNA molecule and cube figure

The big dream of nanoscientists: a nano fabriek or replicator. In such a factory, millions of nanobots work on making a product. First molecules are keyed together, then a larger robot combines the products into a larger complex, and so on until the end product rolls out of the machine. source: www.e-drexler.com / John Burch, Lizard Fire Studios. Click on the image for a larger version.

That not everyone thinks about it is clear from the website of the Center for Responsible Nanotechnology. The CRN does see a number of advantages of nanotechnology: for example, a better living environment, enabling solar energy and faster computers. But they are not convinced of the blessings. According to the CRN, nanotechnology can lead to an unfair arms race, environmental pollution and even economic disasters.

The CRN is realistic, they often look at developments in nanotechnology from two sides. The fantastic application of cheap and simple cleaning from water to drinking water, for example, seems to be a blessing for the Third World countries. Nanotechnology can use this technique to give many people in the third world a chance. On the other hand, the CRN is realistic. Western countries will not simply use nanotechnology to help poor countries. It is they who have invested billions in its development. Nanotechnology can provide solutions, but that is more to the politician than to the scientist.

The environmental organization ETC group is even more skeptical than the CRN and wants a complete stop on developments in nanotechnology. The building blocks of nanotechnology, nanoparticles can pose a threat to public health. It is still unclear what effect these small particles have when they enter the body; especially the long-term effects are unknown. The fear of nanoparticles is fueled by the problems with asbestos several years ago. People became ill because of the small particles that consist of asbestos. Perhaps the smaller nanoparticles are even more dangerous? The group is also afraid of the consequences for nature if the particles end up there.

The ETC group has evidence that nanoparticles are hazardous to health. They are talking about a case where dozens of people have become ill with the product NanoMagic, a cleaning product. But the Foresight Institute throws as an argument in the struggle that NanoMagic is not a real nanotechnology and that no nanoparticles are incorporated. According to the institute a stop on nanotechnology is impossible. You can not force all those hundreds of research groups to stop using nanotechnology.