Nanotech Database

Article Title:
Nanotechnology: From 'Wow' to 'Yuck'

Author:
Kulinowski, Kristen

Journal Information:
Bulletin of Science, Technology and Society
Vol. 24, Num. 1
2004

Link:
http://bst.sagepub.com/archive/

Abstract:
As with other technologies, the discourse on nanotechnology could travel a trajectory starting with "wow" -- in view of its possibilities -- and ending with "yuck" in view of its potential problems. Some of the more exciting goals include the following:

  • Containing the entire contents of the Library of Congress in a device the size of a sugar cube.
  • Making materials and products from the bottom-up, that is, by building them up from atoms and molecules. Bottom-up manufacturing should require less material and create less pollution.
  • Developing materials that are 10 times stronger than steel but a fraction of the weight for mak-ing all kinds of land, sea, air, and space vehicles lighter and more fuel efficient. Kulinowski explains that nanoparticles have unusual properties unlike their "larger" selves and that they have wide-ranging applications in the consumer, medical and military spherex. But nanotechnology may allow us to change the fundamental nature of humanity and other living entities. And in trying to take advantage of some particular property, we make a mistake of outsize proportion, damaging our environment past our ability repair it. Beyond that, there is the danger of malign misuse. As public concerns rise, Kulinowsku hopes funding for studies of the social implications of technologies continues, so that nanotechnology doesn't end up on the wow to yuk trajectory.