“There are three, although I have a feeling that under some future unified theory they will turn out to be just one. The first is, of course, information technology …the second is biotechnology …and the third is nanotechnology” Robert Shapiro (then CEO of Monsanto) when asked what he believed were the world’s most promising future technologies.
Nanotechnology, the manipulation of matter at the scale of atoms and molecules, has been described both as the next industrial revolution and as the operating system for a new era of corporate and state control.
Nanotechnology will fundamentally change the world we live in. It provides a powerful universal tool kit with which to shape and manipulate all matter, living and non-living. It has the potential to radically transform many sectors of industry, from pharmaceuticals to computers, from energy to chemicals, from agriculture to defence.
$9 billion per year is being invested in nanotechnology by the world’s most powerful governments (led by the US, the EU and Japan) and richest corporations (including IBM, DuPont, Syngenta, Exxon, Pfizer, L’Oreal and Kraft). Nanotechnology has the potential to transform and extend corporate power, bringing further corporate concentration and creating new atomic-scale monopolies over life and matter. Nanotechnology is already happening. The race to secure patents at the nano-scale and to bring nano- products to the market has already started.
As with other revolutionary technologies nanotechnology brings with it the promise of far reaching social and environmental impacts, from novel forms of nano-toxicity to economic disruption caused by nano-commodities, from ethical issues around nano-enabled human ‘enhancement’ to privacy issues around surveillance from nano-enabled sensors. As yet there is no regulatory framework anywhere in the world to deal adequately with nanotechnology.
This briefing is an introduction to the issues around nanotechnology, what it is now, what it may be in the future, how corporations are using it, what is already on the market and what some of the areas of concern are.
Published in 2007.
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