Nanotechnology, Public Engagement and Human Intent

Nanotechnology, Public Engagement and Human Intent

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Today we held our final workshop on nantechnology. This workshop was dedicated to the issue of nanotechnology and public engagement. We talked about how important it is for the public to discuss and have decision making power in the development of nanotechnology, which is currently not a priority for many governments worldwide. The very few nanotech public engagement activities we’ve witnessed in the past have mostly been focused on marketing nanotechnology products and new applications.  Spaces to discuss the societal and ethical risks of nanotechnology are rare.

GroupWe listened to various speakers who talked about their experiences in creating spaces for nano public engagement in France, Spain and Germany. Our colleagues at Friends of the Earth Australia have also been convening large public gatherings throughout Australia to talk about nanotechnology and its implications for society. At Friends of the Earth US, we are planning similar activities and have been engaging the public through our talks and the nanotechnology reports we’ve created.

During the final session of the workshop I wanted to highlight once more in our group discussion the importance of holding onto our creativity, imagination and faith in the potential for change. Many western societies seem to almost discourage imagination. I’m a strong believer that anything is possible and believe me; I am often confronted by people who say that’s a bunch of bull. I respect that opinion, though when I look at this world and at what man has created I can draw no other conclusion.

A car, for example, was someone’s (or many people’s dream) at some point and it was created. Same with airplanes and other advanced technologies.  These are all human manifestations that come from our internal ability to imagine and create. Even nanotechnology and the quantum physics it is rooted in is a human creation. The images you see of nanoparticles in scientific journals and other publications are art work; they are interpretations by those who study them. Nanotechnology is invisible to the human eye, so you obviously have to have a good imagination to depict them!

Palm TreesI guess that what I’m trying to say is that humans are incredible creators, and that brings me a lot of hope because I know that the potential for change and the potential to create positive constructs in this world are all housed in each one of us. The process by which we unravel that potential is up to us.  It can be through technologies by which we live through vicariously or it can occur closer to home, maybe in a more metaphysical realm, where we can gather tools for interacting and living together in a healthy and peaceful world. Who knows what’s possible! The important thing is getting our intent in order; we need to see a big shift from intending solely economic prosperity. Intention is waiting for us to dream bigger!

Tomorrow we will see the close of the IV World Social Forum. I’m looking forward to posting some final thoughts and pictures of the closing ceremony.