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Nano(bio)technology: ethical aspects

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1 Nano(bio)technology: ethical aspects
Dr. Johann S. Ach Bioethics Centre (CfB), University of Münster

2 Background What is Nano(bio)technology? The futuristic discussion The realistic discussion In need of Nano-Ethics?

3 1 Background Results of a literature survey on ethical issues of NBT prepared at the CfB comissioned by the ethics board of Nano2Life Nano2Life is a European Network of Excellence, 23 partners from 12 European Countries no in-depth analysis but a study of the current status of the discussion

4 2 What is Nano(bio)technology?
„Nanotechnologies are the design, characterisation, production and application of structures, devices and systems by controlling shape and size at the nanometre scale“ (Royal Society & Royal Academy of Engineering 2004) No commonly accepted definition of NT/NBT NT as a toolbox NBT as a toolbox of techniques for analysis, design, synthesis and engineering of organic and anorganic systems at the nanoscale

5 Current and possible applications of NT/NBT
current: Sunscreens and cosmetics; composites; clays; coatings and surfaces; tougher and harder cutting tools short-term: paints; remediation; fuel cells; displays; batteries; fuel additives; catalysts longer-term: carbon nanotube composites; lubricants; magnetic materials; medical implants; machinable cheramics; water purification; military battle suits Source: Royal Society & Royal Academy of Engineering 2004

6 3 The futuristic discussion
lego-argument: Can we build everything from single atoms? (→ nanobots, nanoassembler) apocalypse-argument: Devastation of men and earth (→ grey, green and black goo-scenarios)? cyborg-argument: men and mashines (→ transhumanism)  powerful visions, which will shape the future development of NT, even if there realizabilty is highly questionable

7 4 The realistic discussion
Biomedical Ethics Enviromental concerns Impacts on Society Anthropological concerns

8 Biomedical Ethics gap between diagnostic and therapeutic options (→ DNA-chips) discrimination (→ individualization of diagnosis and therapy; → “cultural groups”, e.g deaf community) confidentiality, data protection, privacy (→ nano-sensoric in vivo-diagnostic devices; → technologies that enable rapid identification, location tracking, and condition monitoring through implantable microchips)

9 Impacts on Society equity nano devide intellectual Property
dual use (→ military or terrorist ab/use of NT)

10 2001 one third of the budget of the national Nanotechnology Initiative was spent by the Department of Defence.

11 Enviromental concerns
impacts on the enviroment release of nanoparticles (→ risk assessment; what practical consequences should follow? moratorium? precautionary principle?)

12 Anthropological aspects
reductionism (→ the human body as a complex nanomaschine?) enhancement (→ intelligence or sensory ‘amplifyers’) nature of the human being (→ human-mashine-interface)

13 5 In need of Nano-Ethics? Debate on ELSA of NT/NBT is just beginning
Many of the ethical and social challanges of NT/NBT are well known from other discussions – but old questions need not necessarily are bad questions – and many of them appear in a quite new light.  Maybe no Nano-Ethics – but ethical reflection on NT/NBT – and the so called converging or NBIC-technologies

14 6 References Ach, Johann S. / Jömann, Norbert: Size Matters. Ethische und soziale Herausforderungen der Nanobiotechnologie. Eine Übersicht. In: Jahrbuch für Wissenschaft und Ethik 10, 2005 (forthcoming). Ach, Johann S. / Siep, Ludwig (Hgg.): Nano-Bio-Ethics. Ethical Dimensions of Nanobiotechnolgy. Münster: Lit 2006 (forthcoming). Paschen, H. et al.: Nanotechnologie. Forschung, Entwicklung, Anwendung. Berlin/New York: Springer 2004. Royal Society & Royal Academy of Engineering: Nanoscience and nanotechnologies: opportunities and uncertainties. London 2004. TA Swiss: Nanotechnologie in der Medizin. Bern 2003.

15 Thank you for your attention.

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