Introduction: The Challenge of Nanotechnologies
Nanotechnologies are making the leap from science ﬁction to science reality. The overwhelming majority of people have not yet noticed this transition, but the technology of the vanishingly small will be expansively inﬂuential in the next couple of decades. For it is not just a new range of technologies but a new social force: a driver of techno-socio-cultural change. Like any other family of radical technologies ‘nanotechnology’ is not just a set of techniques that have appeared independently of society and about which we can now make application-based decisions. It is emerging within an existing nexus of decisions, relationships and values. It is not as though it is now a new subject of completely free choice for the human race: it is emerging within a network of relationships and processes that manifest the choices we have already made over history and are currently living with, for better or worse. The family of nanoscale technologies we call ‘nanotechnology’, like several other critical issues of our time, stands at a juncture between choices for human survival and betterment, and clinging to our global inheritance – not just material inheritance but a largely outdated intellectual and attitudinal inheritance. Which way, nanotechnology?