Nanotech Database

Article Title:
Nanotechnology's worldview: new space for old cosmologies

Nordmann, A.

Journal Information:
Technology and Society Magazine, IEEE
Vol. 23, Num. 4


"A breakthrough technology is one that breaks through the dam of conventional wisdom and slow progress, opening up prospects for transformative change," writes Nordman. But what images to use? The radical novelty of a "breakthrough technology" is often conveyed by the old, familiar, and rather conventional image of a "breakthrough". Nanotechnology's claim to novelty has to draw on traditional imagery that acquires new meaning in a when used in a new context.

Nordman discusses the cover of a brochure "Nanotechnology: Shaping the World Atom by Atom," which conflates space flight, knowledge of the universe beyond Earth, and nanotechnology. We desire to conquer nature as we remember our trip to the moon as the pinnacle of scientific endeavor.

There is a triple scale employed in the picture -- human and much larger than human as well as smaller than the eye can see. No instrument can create such a view, and in fact, the instruments for "seeing" at the nanoscale are in the process of development. What, asks Nordmann, will nanotechnology be applied to next, and if it is health and the body, how long will we be "humans?" "By opening a space of questions about the future of nanotechnology, the image is not therefore neutral or innocent."