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Societal and Ethical Interactions with Nanotechnology (“SEIN”) – An Introduction
Volume 1, Issue 4

Davis Baird, University of South Carolina
Tom Vogt, Brookhaven National Laboratory

Recent years have witnessed fundamental changes in the interrelationships between social and ethical norms and technological change. Public debate increasingly focuses on a more serious dialogue concerning the impact of technological change on social and ethical values. Nanotechnological development epitomizes this new dynamic in many ways, and its potential to catalyze enormous change make nanoscience and technology truly post-academic. In this article, Davis Baird and Tom Vogt identify six important issues tied to the continued development of nanotechnology: (1) environmental issues; (2) equity issues relating to the possible emergence of a “nanodivide”; (3) legal, regulatory and insurance challenges; (4) privacy issues; (5) the interaction between nanomedicine and medical ethics, more traditionally; and (6) “hypertechnology,” or the pace of nanotechnological change. Engaging all of nano’s stakeholders—from various publics to entrepreneurs, industrialists, venture capitalists, scientists and engineers—demands establishing a context for dialogue that is open, honest and attentive to interests and equity. So far, the nanotechnology community has been successful in responding to the concerns of others about the ethical and social challenges posed by nanotechnological development. Baird and Vogt conclude that continued efforts to build upon this emerging inclusive dialogue are needed to ensure a mutually beneficial relationship between nanotechnology and society.

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