Ready or not, here it comes. In the next 20 years, nanotechnology will touch the life of nearly every person on the planet. The potential benefits are mind boggling and brain enhancing. But like many of the great advancements in earth's history, it is not without risk Here are some of the risks posed to society by nanotechnology.
Real Risk: Nanopollutants
Nanopollutants are nanoparticles small enough to enter your lungs or be absorbed by your skin. Nanopollutants can be natural or man-made. Nanoparticles are used in some of the products found on shelves today, like anti-aging cosmetics and sunscreen. The highest risk is to the workers in nano-technology research and manufacturing processes.
Potential Risk: Privacy Invasion
When: 5 to 15 years
Virtually undetectable surveillance devices could dramatically increase spying on governments, corporations and private citizens.
Potential Risk: Economic Upheaval
When: 10 to 20 years
Molecular manufacturing is the assembly of products one molecule at a time. It could make the same products you see today, but far more precisely and at a very low cost. It is unclear whether this would bring boom or bust to the global economy.
Potential Risk: Nanotech weapons
When: 10 to 20 years
Untraceable weapons made with nanotechnology could be smaller than an insect with the intelligence of a supercomputer. Possible nano and bio technology arms race.
Far-Fetched Risk: Gray Goo
When: 30+ years
Free range, self-replicating robots that consume all living matter.
However unlikely, experts say this scenario is theoretically possible,
but not for some time.
We have just scratched the surface.
There are many areas of nanotechnology science that hold potential dangers to society. Bio-engineering and artificial intelligence for example, have their own set of risks.
As we enter an era of unprecedented understanding, it is important that society takes a proactive role in the responsible development of nanotechnology.
The Future Code
I found a hidden message inside a recent article reporting on a new method of preventing nanoparticle induced lung damage in mice.
Here are some actual quotes from the article:
"Nanomaterials are now used in a variety of products, including sporting goods, cosmetics and electronics."
"Nanotechnology... is an important emerging industry
with a projected annual market of around one trillion US dollars by
"The US Food and Drug Administration has approved some first generation nanodrugs."
"Although nanoparticles have been linked to lung damage, it has not been clear how they cause it."
"...the findings could also provide important insight into how nanoparticles cause other toxic effects."
The message I decoded from this article is--"Industry" is using materials in consumer products, that are believed to be unsafe.
My biggest concern is not the nanotubes on your face. It is the long-standing business practice of putting profit before people--and what will happen in the future, when technology really gets scary.
The greatest dangers that technology can pose to humanity, will come from its rush to market.