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A Companion to the Philosophy of Technology by Vincent F. Hendricks, Stig Andur Pedersen, Jan Kyrre Berg Olsen Friis

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Chapter 82

Nanoethics

JOHN WECKERT

Nanoethics is the ethics of nanotechnology or, better, of nanotechnologies. What is called nanotechnology is a set of enabling technologies that are used, for example, in materials, medical technology and electronics.

Is nanoethics a branch of applied ethics similar to, for example, bioethics or computer ethics? It can be argued, quite plausibly, that it is not, but it is not clear that this matters. Swierstra and Rip, for example, argue that, while there might not be a nanoethics, there is an ethics of new and emerging technology (NEST ethics), and Schmid et al. argue that the ethical issues that arise in connection with nanotechnology are, by and large, not new ethical problems but nevertheless must be examined because they can arise in new or more urgent ways (Schmid et al. 2006: 433).

One difficulty is that many of the ethical issues in nanotechnology are in areas where there has as yet been little development, so discussion of them must be based on prediction, which of course is notoriously unreliable, and this is particularly true of predictions about the directions of scientific and technological developments. However, while it must be done with care, some prediction about the development and likely impacts of nanotechnology is both necessary and possible, and this in itself has become a topic in nanoethics.

While it is true that most, perhaps all, of the ethical issues raised by nanotechnology are not new, and many involve prediction of ...

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