Late Lessons From Early Warnings for Nanotechnology
Hansen, Steffen Foss
Vol. 3, Num. 8
This article examines the European Environment Agencys Late Lessons from Early Warnings: The Precautionary Principle 18962000 and the twelve cautionary tales it tells to see if nanotechnology is learning from the mistakes of sciences past or if it is destined to experience the same gaffes and tragedies. The authors preach against ignorance of the effects (short- and long-term) of nanotechnology; call for interdisciplinary cooperation to guard against field-specific knowledge gaps and prejudices; remind readers that nanotechnology exists in and effects the real world, meaning that scientists need to think outside the theoretical realm when contemplating nanotechnological processes and applications; caution that societal issues beyond the immediate pros and cons of nanotechnology need to be addressed before they become confidence-killing problems; ask that alternative solutions are not ignored in nanotechnologys favor; suggest that regulatory measures remain independent of those pursuing (and especially funding) the research; and finally advocate action over analysis, at least where safety is involved. The authors see that nanotechnology meets certain criteria but falls short of others, and recommend that the lessons of the past that are not yet being applied be taken under consideration sooner rather than later.