Last February a project entitled DEEPEN brought together some nanotechnology thought leaders in the UK, like Tim Harper (who commented on the proceedings here and here), Richard Jones, and Steffi Friedrichs who heads the Nanotechnology Industries Association to talk about nanotechnology to laymen.
The result, as one might expect, is cringe inducing. We get someone rattling on about the dangers of human enhancement “Where does it end?” one of the participants laments. And then we get the entire room completely misunderstanding Mr. Harper’s use of a metaphorical argument that you can’t expect nanoscientists to solve the problem of the "rich getting richer" to explain that nanotechnology is not a cure-all for what ails the world nor is it the source of all its ills.
All in all a rather sad display, made all the more so by the earnestness of the participants. I am reminded of the saying: “the path to hell is paved with good intentions.” Indeed.
Dexter Johnson is a contributing editor at IEEE Spectrum, with a focus on nanotechnology.