Nanotechnology has a huge number and variety of applications across many different sectors. Potentially it could lead to more efficient and sustainable use of resources and have a beneficial impact for the vast majority of people throughout the world. However, as with all technologies there are also potential negative impacts on society. The main issues include privacy, social divide, communication, and risk.
Others, however, are as cautious as Smalley is enthusiastic. Eric Drexler, the scientist who coined the term nanotechnology, has warned of developing "extremely powerful, extremely dangerous technologies". (Harcombe, 2009) In his book Engines of Creation, Drexler envisioned that self-replicating molecules created by humans might escape our control. Although this theory has been widely discredited by researchers in the field, many concerns remain regarding the effects of nanotechnology on human and environmental health as well as the effect the new industry could have on the North-South divide. Activists worry that the science and development of nanotechnology will progress faster than policy-makers can devise appropriate regulatory measures. They say an informed debate must take place to determine the balance between risks and benefits. (Hardman, 2006)
Electricity is one of the most recent examples, heralding the development of both television and computers which have changed the entire neurological function of modern generations. The first and most natural instinct of society is to turn new technology into marketable products. In this sense, nanotechnology's sociological effects may be primarily economic. Most new technology finds its outlet in the marketplace under an array of brand names; the invention of computers was quickly followed by the branding and marketing of Microsoft. Sociological history has taught us that mankind's number one incentive is monetary, and nanotechnology is already following this pattern.
Nanoscientists in America find that, per usual, the main marketplace for cutting-edge technology lies with the government and will either be used for research leading to military concerns, or for direct military applications. Anytime a new technology becomes a tool of war, society has a big question to ask itself. What are the possible effects of the new technology on the quality, or lack thereof, of human lives? (Drexler, 2010)
The adaptation of military technology may rightly be viewed as a barometer for society in general, since the way we behave on the battlefield is often a primal indication of our basic beliefs and attitudes. Society will usually be an echo of or a response to these military behaviors. Also known as “nanotubes,” these microscopically-developed fibers are being considered for their extreme strength and lightness. They could potentially be used to develop military uniforms and equipment that weigh far less than contemporary standard issue, yet are many times stronger than the same.
Sociological concerns include the current tendency of such materials to shed small amounts of nanofibers. These nanofibers are still being studied, but preliminary research indicates that they are highly capable of entering the body (when used in uniforms) or the environment (when used in equipment) and may tamper ...