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Nano vs. Despair?

ChristinepetersonOne of the presentations I missed this morning was from Christine Peterson, one of the co-founders of the Foresight Institute. I actually heard her give the same talk a few days earlier, at a pre-conference luncheon. Her presentation was called "Maximizing Benefits and Minimizing Downsides of Nanotechnology" (abstract here). Ms. Peterson ran through several of the nanotech-related bills wending their way through Congress, and mentioned other legislation (like the R&D tax credit) that affects nanotech research.

When I heard her give the talk, she made one comment that I consider extremely revealing. After listing a litany of the problems facing the world -- according to my notes, she spoke of ethnic conflict, terrorism, infectious diseases, and global climate change, among others -- Ms. Peterson said "I'd be in despair if it weren't for the hope that nanotechnology offers." I don't share that sentiment at all -- I am both more optimistic and more pessimistic than Ms. Peterson. (I am more optimistic about our ability to overcome those problems without advanced nanotechnology, and more pessimistic about the likelihood that the development of nanotechnology will resolve those problems.) But I can see the power of that hope.

I should mention, by the way, that Ms. Peterson is going to be back in Washington in a few days for another conference, the second "Techno Sapiens" conference hosted by the Center for Bioethics and Culture, a group headed by Nigel Cameron. It's going to be a pretty diverse group of speakers. I'll be there, but won't be blogging it.

October 24, 2004 in Policy / Politics | Permalink


Why *not* blog it? You're doing great here.

Posted by: Glenn Reynolds | Oct 24, 2004 10:13:49 PM

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