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Old 02-22-2008, 11:59 AM  
jAZ jAZ is offline
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Nanotechnology Is Morally Unacceptable -- aka Fear That Which You Don't Understand

http://blogs.wsj.com/biztech/2008/02...googlenews_wsj
Nanotechnology Is Morally Unacceptable
Posted by Ben Worthen

If you don’t have a super-fast, super-small computer in a few years, blame the moral majority. It turns out that most Americans find nanotechnology, the scientific field most likely to produce such a breakthrough, morally unacceptable.

Tinkering with atoms and molecules could lead to a computing breakthrough
That’s according to researchers at the University of Wisconsin who are studying people’s attitudes towards nanotechnology, an emerging scientific field that involves manipulating molecules and atoms. They found that just 29.5% of the 1,000-plus Americans surveyed said they thought nanotechnology research was morally acceptable.

Our first reaction was that 70% of people must not know what nanotechnology is – President Bush, who has openly relied on moral views to shape his scientific agenda, has made nanotechnology one of his scientific priorities, after all. And Dietram Scheufele, the U of W professor who led the survey, agrees to a point. People’s understanding of what nanotechnology is hasn’t advanced much over the last few years, he tells the Business Technology Blog. “So people rely on mental shortcuts,” lumping nanotechnology in with other new technologies like stem cell research and genetically modified foods, he tells us. The same people who object to those fields – often on religious reasons – object to nanotechnology. (Incidentally, the heathen Europeans are just fine with nanotechnology.)

What’s noteworthy, Schuefele tells us, is that the objections are contained to the field itself, not the breakthroughs it could lead to. Overwhelming majorities across religious backgrounds supported the benefits of nanotechnology, anything from computers the size of a pin to stain-resistant pants. “Most people have very little objection to building a better computer,” Schuefele says. They’d just prefer a different way to get there.
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Old 02-22-2008, 12:06 PM   #2
Direckshun Direckshun is offline
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It makes me incredibly uneasy, I won't lie.

Morally? I don't think it's that much of a moral issue, which may lead to the small fraction of people who answered that it was.

Keep in mind, this study doesn't have a finding that "75% of the population answered that nanotechnology was morally unacceptable," it just has the finding that only "29% answered that it was morally acceptable" and ran with that.

So what if we had this question phrased this specific way in the survey:

"Do you find nanotechnology to be:
(a.) Morally acceptable.
(b.) Morally unacceptable.
(c.) Not a moral issue."

I read the article, and for all we know the question could have been phrased that way.

29% could answer (a.). 13% could answer (b.). 60% could answer (c.).

So I think the headline is not supported by the facts.
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Old 02-22-2008, 12:10 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Direckshun View Post
So I think the headline is not supported by the facts.
It doesn't need to be, they could have just titled it "The Religious Are Stupid And Will Cause Us All To Suffer If We Listen To Them".
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Old 02-22-2008, 12:11 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by jAZ View Post
If you don’t have a super-fast, super-small computer in a few years, blame the moral majority.
Well, I guess 'republicans made grandma eat dogfood' needed updating for the new millenium.
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Old 02-22-2008, 12:17 PM   #5
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FUD

Last edited by Cochise; 02-22-2008 at 12:30 PM..
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Old 02-22-2008, 12:29 PM   #6
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Sounds like a great use of Wisconsin's tax dollars.
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Old 02-22-2008, 12:41 PM   #7
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Many people have always feared the unknown. It's a primate response that goes back to "what was that bump in the dark outside the cave and will it eat my face?", IMO.

You ought to read some of the screeds that were written at the turn of the 20th century about the evils of Radio, and how it would destroy the moral fiber of this country,

The same claims were made about Cinema, TV, Home Appliances, Etc.


I have a number of reservations about nanotech, but think it's certainly a field worth investigating.

Last edited by Adept Havelock; 02-22-2008 at 12:48 PM..
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Old 02-22-2008, 12:48 PM   #8
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I agree with Adept. Nanotech is definitely worth looking into. But I feel that way about stem cell, as well.
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Old 02-22-2008, 12:52 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bowser View Post
I agree with Adept. Nanotech is definitely worth looking into. But I feel that way about stem cell, as well.
I think nanotech has a massive potential payoff, but I can also understand some of the apprehensions. That, or I've read a few too many novels where it gets out of hand and usually ends up digesting us.

Along those lines, may I suggest Alister Reynolds Century Rain.
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Old 02-22-2008, 12:53 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Adept Havelock View Post
I think nanotech has a massive potential payoff, but I can also understand some of the apprehensions. That, or I've read a few too many novels where it gets out of hand and usually ends up digesting us.
I am surprised that the more conspiracy-minded aren't worried about the government using them to track us all or whatever.
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Old 02-22-2008, 12:54 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Adept Havelock View Post
Many people have always feared the unknown. It's a primate response that goes back to "what was that bump in the dark outside the cave and will it eat my face?", IMO.

You ought to read some of the screeds that were written at the turn of the 20th century about the evils of Radio, and how it would destroy the moral fiber of this country,

The same claims were made about Cinema, TV, Home Appliances, Etc.


I have a number of reservations about nanotech, but think it's certainly a field worth investigating.
Well it'll make your life better, but the squares are gonna eff it up. Obama08!!!
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Old 02-22-2008, 12:55 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by Cochise View Post
I am surprised that the more conspiracy-minded aren't worried about the government using them to track us all or whatever.
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Old 02-22-2008, 01:00 PM   #13
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http://www.reason.com/news/show/120455.html
Quote:

More Information Confirms What You Already Know

Study says values win over facts when it comes to tech risks

Ronald Bailey | June 12, 2007

A truism among scientists and technologists is that the more the public understands what they do, the more the public will support their activities. The basic idea is that the more people know about science, the more they will love it. However, with regard to nanotechnology, new research published by the Cultural Cognition Project at the Yale Law School casts some doubt on the sunny premise that more information leads to more acceptance.

In the study, "Affect, Values, and Nanotechnology Risk Perceptions: An Experimental Investigation," researchers polled 1,850 Americans about their attitudes toward nanotechnology. Eighty-one percent of those polled had heard nothing at all (53 percent) or "just a little" (28 percent) about nanotechnology. Nevertheless, after being offered a bare bones two-sentence definition of nanotech, 89 percent of respondents had an opinion on whether the benefits (53 percent) of nanotech would outweigh the risks (36 percent). So how could people who know nothing or almost nothing about a new technology have an opinion about its safety? Pre-existing world views, of course. "The driving force behind these snap judgments, we found, was affect: the visceral, emotional responses of our subjects, pro or con, determined how beneficial or dangerous they thought nanotechnology was likely to be," write the authors.

The researchers relying on work by social scientist Aaron Wildavsky divided Americans into four cultural groups with regard to risk perception: hierarchists, individualists, egalitarians and communitarians. Hierarchists trust experts, but believe social deviancy is very risky. Egalitarians and communitarians worry about technology, but think that social deviancy is no big deal. Individualists see risk as opportunity and so are optimistic about technology.

"Egalitarians and communitarians, for example, tend to be sensitive to claims of environmental and technological risks because ameliorating such risks justifies regulating commercial activities that generate inequality and legitimize unconstrained pursuit of self-interest," claim the researchers. "Individualists, in contrast, tend to be skeptical about such risks, in line with their concern to ward off contraction of the sphere of individual initiative. So do hierarchists, who tend to see assertions of environmental technological risks as challenging the competence of governmental and social elites."

Not surprisingly, the researchers found that people who were concerned about environmental risks such as global warming and nuclear power, were also concerned about nanotechnology. However, the Yale Cultural Cognition researchers made another more disheartening discovery. In their poll they gave a subset of 350 respondents additional facts - about two paragraphs -- about nanotechnology to see if more information would shift public risk perceptions. They found that it did. In this case, the more information people had, the more they retreated to their initial positions. Hierarchists and individualists thought nano was less risky, while egalitarians and communitarians thought it was more risky.

"One might suppose that as members of the public learn more about nanotechnology their assessments of its risk and benefits should converge. Our results suggest that exactly the opposite is likely to happen," note the researchers. What seems to be happening is that individuals use information to affirm their pre-existing cultural identities rather than evaluate risks in purely instrumental terms.
Think now of the scientists, technologists and yes, regulators who have to try to bridge these diverse cultural values. More specifically they have to figure out how to persuade communitarians and egalitarians that technology somehow affirms their values. And this is no easy task.

History clearly shows technological progress that has been absolutely essential to the creation of wealth and health in the West over the past two centuries has generally provoked resistance from egalitarians and communitarians. Scientists may themselves have cultural barriers to overcome when it comes to talking with egalitarians and communitarians. Scientists often think of themselves culturally as good egalitarians, but as pioneers on the frontiers of knowledge they are operationally individualist. In addition, scientists are supposed to change their minds in the light of new data, not seek out biased information to confirm their pre-existing theories.

Unfortunately, the Cultural Cognition researchers left the problem of how to handle these polarizing cultural values for future research. The "major conclusion" of the study is that "mere dissemination of scientifically sound information is not by itself sufficient to overcome the divisive tendencies of cultural cognition." With regard to nanotechnology, it "could go the route of nuclear power and other controversial technologies, becoming a focal point of culturally infused political conflict."
Basically, tell me your politics and I can tell you what you think about nanotechnology.
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Old 02-22-2008, 01:02 PM   #14
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Old 02-22-2008, 01:07 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by Forward Dante View Post


Basically, tell me your politics and I can tell you what you think about nanotechnology.
Interesting article. Thanks.
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