Nanotechnologies and Society in the USA
The social, legal and ethical implications of nanotechnology are not unique to any one country – but perhaps the way in which they are handled is unique. In the highly entrepreneurial environment of America, the precautionary approach ﬁgures less than it does in Europe – conceivably given the relative absence in America of episodes such as BSE (mad cow disease). A recent study (Gaskell et al, 2005) shows almost a mirror image in reactions to nanotechnology in Europe and in America, with 50 per cent of Americans versus 29 per cent of Europeans saying nanotechnology will improve our way of life, and 35 per cent of Americans versus 53 per cent of Europeans saying they do not know what it will bring. It would seem that the American culture is more likely to take a positive view of technological innovation. A National Science Foundation survey similarly showed that in America there is a high degree of public conﬁdence in science. This conﬁdence does not, however, correlate with scientiﬁc understanding – indeed it coexists with a high degree of belief in astrology, extra-sensory perception and alien abductions. What appears to shape a positive attitude to emerging technology is a belief in the beneﬁts of progress, and that this progress is not necessarily seen as a threat to nature – a value orientation more commonly met with in America.