Commentary: Is nanotechnology the new asbestos? - My Statesman - 12/16
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.
Diamonds, the hardest known natural mineral, and the flaky graphite used in pencils are both made of carbon. How is it that they are so different?
Pure carbon occurs as many different allotropes (structures which differ only in the way the atoms are arranged.) Allotropes generally differ in physical properties such as color and hardness.
Diamond and graphite are two allotropes of the element carbon. Buckyballs and nanotubes are two more. This diagram shows how the atoms are arranged for each allotrope.
The discovery in 1985 of buckminsterfullerene (buckyball), opened a new era for the chemistry of carbon and for novel materials. The Japanese Sumi Ijima discovered nanotubes in 1991. The nanotubes synthesized in the laboratory showed remarkable mechanic properties as well as thermal conductivity and resistance to flame.
Nanotoxicology is the study of the toxicity of nanomaterials. Because of quantum size effects and large surface area to volume ratio, nanomaterials have unique properties compared with their larger counterparts. Nanotoxicology is a branch of bionanoscience which deals with the study and application of toxicity of nanomaterials. Nanomaterials, even when made of inert elements like gold, become highly active at nanometer dimensions. Nanotoxicological studies are intended to determine whether and to what extent these properties may pose a threat to the environment and to human beings. For instance, Diesel nanoparticles have been found to damage the cardiovascular system in a mouse model. Source: Wikipedia
The Future Code
I found a hidden message inside an 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 nanotube 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.