Nanotech Database

Article Title:
Deliberating the Risks of Nanotechnologies for Energy and Health Applications in the United States and United Kingdom

Pidgeon, Nick

Journal Information:
Nature Nanotechnology
Vol. 4, Num. 2


In surveying American and British citizens about their concept of nanotechnology, these authors found that, to begin with, the benefits of the field outweigh the risks in the mind of the public, even though most people know little or nothing about it. They found more people concerned with privacy issues than with the possible ingestion of harmful nanomaterials. The US participants were more accepting of the commodification of nanotechnology, while the British subjects looked toward the communitarian aspect of nanotechnologys promise. The British were also slightly less positive about unknown applications for nanotechnology, as cautionary tales like mad cow disease and the dispute over genetically modified organisms left them somewhat wary of science overall. Both groups, however, agreed that [a]pplication matters; nanotechnology will only be as useful as the uses for which it is developed, and opinions on the field were determined very much by the applications that framed the question. More so than any technological factors, the two sides also agreed that the risk of societal failure, such as governmental misuse of nanotechnology, was the greatest caveat. In the end, the article can be summed up by saying, as the authors did, that context matters.