It probably hasn't escaped anyone's attention that discussion of the potential downside of nanotechnologies, and we are more concerned about sunscreens here than grey goo wielding nanobots, has not abated, with insurers and environmental groups pumping out reports on a regular basis. While some represent genuine attempts to frighten people for various political ends, the more rational of these reports early always conclude that "more research needs to be done."
In fact this research is being done, and in some cases has been done, especially by companies launching consumer products, but a large number of unknowns still remain. Manu companies are confused, with the threat of unknown legislation hanging over them, and insurers taking their usual course of action when risks cannot be fully quantified - hiking premiums.
Three years ago, a professor of nanotechnology of our acquaintance mused that his worst nightmare would be to spend the next few years discussing social, ethical and environmental dangers of nanotechnologies rather than getting some research done, and that nightmare has become reality for a number of nanoscientists. Of course the case hasn't been helped by the number of organizations boosting nanotechnologies, instantly claiming that there are few dangers and if there were to be any they could be easily managed.
We've spent long enough in London, Brussels, Washington DC and Tokyo discussing these issues over the last few months to have a good idea of the direction im which all this is heading. While reports into the downside of nanotechnologies all follow a similar pattern (what is nanotechnology, what are the issues, what are the risks, we recommend m ore research), we are definitely seeing the emergence of a number of areas which may give cause for concern, and we are talking about real, not perceived risks here.
The bottom line for us is that we have seen enough confusion and realized that industry needs some real clarity in this area. As a result we have put together a free white paper covering the issues of risks and legislation, but more significantly we are advise an increasing number of companies on what this may mean to them. With markets for products utilizing nanotechnologies being global, and companies facing the threat of US litigation or EU regulation, there is a real sense of urgency among the business community to resolve and clarify these issues, before they become roadblocks.Posted by Cientifica at June 22, 2005 09:35 AM