ST: Societal Implications of Nanotechnology
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Laura and I went back to college today, sitting in on a talk by a visiting ethicist, Rosalyn W. Berne, speaking to the above graduate level class (taught by Dr. Kirsty Mills).
Berne is currently focused directly on nanoscience and nanotechnology investigators, to understand the formulation of their personal motivations, beliefs, aspirations and goals, as well as the development of individual ethical frameworks, as these are connected to their research in nanotechnology.
What was really fascinating, is that Ros is using Science Fiction, big time, both to examine potential problems for nanotech, but also to get scientists and engineers to examine things they are not willing to talk about openly. She actually gets them to write fiction and uses the issues that emerge in the fiction itself, to engage them about things they wouldn't ever discuss in a straight forward conversation. (This is by no means a new interest in SF--one of her published articles is “Robosapiens, Transhumanism and the Kurzweilian Utopia: Why the Trans in Transhumanism."
Steve Smith, a physicist and virtual reality guru from Los Alamos National Laboratories roped us in on this, and the discussions in the classroom and later, at lunch were riveting.
Dr. Berne would be the first person to say she doesn't have the answers--but she sure has the questions and she's all about getting people to ask them.
Maybe we won't all dissolve into gray goo after all.