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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 92

Nanotechnology

ALFRED NORDMANN

There are at least two ways of defining nanotechnology. On the one hand, it is the seemingly unlimited technical potential that will arise from at present still rudimentary capabilities of visualizing and manipulating molecular structure. On the other hand, it is an umbrella term for a variety of nanotechnological research programs that aim for functional materials, for targeted drug delivery, for molecular wires and faster computers, for lab-on-a-chip sensors, for extremely fine filters, for smart textiles, for tagging and monitoring, and much more.1

There are also at least two ways of posing the question regarding prosperity and risk. One can ask what our nanotechnological future has in store for us, what benefits and risks will come with the development of nanotechnology. One can also ask how our current societal or environmental problems might be addressed with the help of this or some other nanotechnological research program.

In both cases, we either refer to an unspecified future in which a vast but vague potential may or may not be realized, or we remain in the present by referring to ongoing funded research programs, including the visions of a better society that may or may not inform them. In the former case, nanotechnology is promise and threat all wrapped into one; in the latter case, specific nanotechnological research is justified to the extent that it builds on presently demonstrable capabilities and contributes to the solution ...

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