Naturalism and Ontology

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Indeed, the ethical, social, and political dimensions of nanotechnology are only beginning to receive the attention they require — outside of science fiction contexts.

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Surveillance devices may become so small that they are practically invisible to the naked eye, raising concerns about privacy. Nanomedicine may lead to the development of new diagnostic and therapeutic devices, yet anxieties have been raised about the impact of "nanobots" circulating in our bodies. Military applications, or misuses, of nanotechnology raise other concerns.

This book explores in an accessible and informative way how nanotechnology is likely to impact the lives of ordinary people in the coming years and why ethical reflection on nanotechnology is needed now.

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Developing Nanotechnology In the Beginning. Ethics and Nanotechnology Whats the Story?

Dealing with Risk Preying on Fear. Intrusive, because students can tend to think that ethical inquiry involves scientifically illiterate outsiders trying to set limits on research when scientists should be free to explore where research takes them. McCray then discusses the rhetoric used to marshal public and congressional support for this phase transition.

The nanocosm was promoted with utopian visions that promised industrial competitiveness, medical breakthroughs and even immortality. First, he makes clear that nanotechnology — like much science — intertwines scientific and visionary aspects, both for scientists who do it and for governments that fund it.

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The potential applications of nanotechnology are usually quite obvious, which is why discussing nano-ethics is in no way an ineffectual exercise. The third I — the assumption that ethical inquiry is intrusive to research — is harder to dispel.

It springs from the misconception that ethics consists of rules that ethicists dream up. But ethics actually springs from values internal to the everyday practice of science and engineering, such as a desire for openness and avoiding harm. Ethical conflicts arise from clashes between those internal values and the desire of individuals or groups to advance their self-interest.

Big Ethical Issues with Small Technology

Ethicists do not invent those values, but clarify why they may be compromised and how to head off temptations to do so. I found that using nanotechnology to teach ethics has limits. For one thing, it creates the illusion that nanotechnology involves a special kind of ethics rather than being a new context for familiar ethical issues, an illusion that has been promoted by numerous books and websites on nanoethics.

Nanoethics - Prof. Dr. John Weckert, Ph.D., AUSN.

One student told me that he found the entire exercise frustrating. Still, he admitted to being excited enough about nanotechnology to read about its ethical issues. That illustrated the upside of using nanotechnology to teach ethics.


Teaching ethics to students in the middle of a science and engineering class requires delivering a jolt of excitement and the sense of something novel — and discussing nanotechnology delivered. It may pose the same old issues, but served to consolidate their interest long enough to get students to make the phase transition needed to follow through on the readings.

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UD profs bring discussion of nanoethics to Pakistan and Dubai

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