May 03, 2005

Wittgenstein on Nanotechnologies

We have covered almost every aspect of nanotechnologies in the five years since TNT Weekly / TNTlog has been active, and introduced our own fair share of philosophy. If someone had told us a few years ago how much time we would be spending in the company of philosophers and ethicists, and how that time could give us insight into both the future directions of nanotechnologies and the legal, social and ethical repercussions of all things nano we would have been understandably sceptical.

As things turned out, the societal implications of nanotechnologies, whether linking nanotech with GMOs or understanding what we are doing and why, keeps bubbling to the top of the agenda, and as a result cannot be avoided by anyone funding, developing or exploiting nanotechnologies (one senior government official we know recently went above and beyond the call of duty by spending the bank holiday weekend curled up with a copy of "Discovering the Nanoscale" by Baird, Nordman and Schummer and can thoroughly recommend it, while another ministerial advisor recommends Jean Pierre Dupuy's views on the subject).

While the idea of philosophers getting involved in nanotechnologies may seem odd, the reverse is also true as one of Cientifica’s senior staff members also holds a first class degree in philosophy (answers about who, and of course why, on a postcard please). Neither is the idea a new one, as Richard Feynman was often described as a philosopher physicist, both disciplines, it could be argued, are more about teaching one how to think rather than simply cramming in facts (although many may raise both eyebrows at articles with titles such as The Thing-y-ness of Things.

For anyone wishing to pursue this thread further, and we particularly recommend this to anyone who is heartily sick of the Drexler/Smalley it is/it isn’t possible schism, both Techné: Journal of the Society for Philosophy and Technology and Hyle, the International Journal for the Philosophy of Chemistry have a special bumper issue on nanotechnologies.

While some of the philosophers involved could be somewhat better informed about nanotechnologies, many nanotechnologists could benefit from a little philosophy.

Posted by Cientifica at May 3, 2005 11:00 PM

God is in the details!

That's all a philosopher needs to know about nanotech.

alan shalleck

Posted by: Alan B. Shalleck at May 9, 2005 07:49 PM
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