When Steve Jobs or Bill Gates were busily creating the IT revolution was there some annual report that announced that educated people knew something about computers and those with little education knew quite a bit less? I don’t seem to recall them if they came out. But I could have missed them if they did because what would be the point of them, right?
But nanotechnology manages to get just such a report at least once a year. Previously they came from the Project on Emerging Technologies. These reports always struck me as simply stating the obvious without giving us much in the way of analysis as to why this ‘knowledge gap’ might be important. Something to do with consumer backlash, I suppose.Now we have a new source telling us the same thing, and the far ranging study covering years back to 2004 has been published in none other than the highly regarded journal Science. One of the study’s co-authors, Dietram Scheufele, John E. Ross Professor in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences at UW-Madison, is the same fellow who told us that the faith-based US populace compared to other industrialized countries gave nanotechnology a pretty low rating for its morality . Interesting, so people who might be inclined to have a dim view of science in the first place and those who are so poorly educated that they can’t get themselves to go to a museum think nanotechnology is immoral or don’t even know that it exists, respectively.
I could have told you this, maybe without percentages and numbers but you would have gotten the gist of it. And how would you have been enlightened by this piece of knowledge? What could you do that you couldn’t have done before? I couldn’t tell you.
But apparently we have to make efforts to inform those who are so resistant to learning complicated things that they would rather ignore them or propose some alternate universe where they don’t really exist.
Dexter Johnson is a contributing editor at IEEE Spectrum, with a focus on nanotechnology.