One of key barriers to adoption of nanotechnology in general and adoption of nanotechnology in medicine and biomedicine, in particular has been the hype that surrounds it. Mass media makes a massive hype about nanotechnology directed to world audiences.
Nano-hype is basically about massive communication and cognitive barriers in the perception of nanotechnology that it generates. Let’s analyze the causes and consequences of nano-hype.
Regarding the causes on nano-hype, several factors trigger this phenomenon. Follow some examples:
- The massive communication of the benefits promised by nanotechnology to a wonderful and fascinating new world;
- The massive communication of studies (e.g. industry reports, market reports) pointing to unrealistic numbers (e.g. forecasts and estimates of sales and market growth of nanotechnology-based products reaching the range of trillions in a unrealistic short number of years);
- The massive communication of the consequences of nanoparticle exposure (nanotoxicity and nanopollution);
- The massive communication of nanoethics concerns;
- The massive communication of military applications of nanotechnology;
- The massive communication of issues related with resistance to change;
- The massive communication about a too much delayed and still disorganized nanoregulation;
- The massive communication of a poor and disorganized nanoeducation implemented below its potential.
Regarding the consequences of nano-hype, in some cases the massive communication of the factors pointed above is made without professionalism and accuracy. Nano-hype generates three direct consequences:
One example of speculation in nanotechnology is that it is very easy to find in the Internet videos approaching nanotechnology as a menace to the society. Some of them denote that were made with a doubtful trustworthiness and under the auspices of a conspiracy theory.
Besides, a fact that adds more complexity to the nano-hype equation is that reports and studies show that the public in general is polarized in what concerns to perceptions of nanotechnology: those perceptions tend to radically diverge.
Ignorance and uncertainties about a new emerging field of science or technology are a fertile ground to sow fear, suspicion and speculation. Unfounded speculation or inappropriately founded speculation always induces fear and suspicion to the world population.
On the other hand, the public’s fears, suspicions and speculations need and must to be taken seriously. In the case of nanotechnology, the terms “nanophobia” and “nanoparanoia” are already in use: an unreasonable and exaggerated feeling especially present among the scientifically and technologically illiterate public.
Regarding the expectations generated by nano-hype through reports pointing to unrealistic numbers like forecasts and estimates of sales of nanotechnology-based products and market growth reaching the range of trillions in a very short period of time, although this nonsense predictions and forecasts may sell some reports, it no longer attracts financing. In fact, this phenomenon highly contributes to generate a counter-reaction from part of funders and investors, influenced by nano-hype. Funders and investors, instead of being highly excited, they lose the interest because they gain the conviction that something is wrong. Besides, the ones that have money to invest appreciate to invest in something that is still a secret of the gods. Many funders and investors still have not forgotten the disaster of the dot.com’s during the transition from the Old Economy to the New Economy. Being funders and investors on a defensive position, the predictions of the reports described above become even more unrealistic and out of context.