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Abstract

The projected impact of nanotechnology has been touted as a second industrial revolution—not the third, fourth, or fifth, because despite similar predictions for technologies such as computers and robotics, nothing has yet eclipsed the first. In the United States and in many other countries, numerous partnerships among industry, university, and government have been created to facilitate the research, development, and commercialization of nanotechnology advances. Such a collaboration is expected to bring about next generation of nanotechnology based products and new markets with a promise of job creation and economic development. According to the National Science Foundation (NSF), products incorporating nanotechnology will contribute approximately $1 trillion to the global economy by the year 2015. About two million workers will be employed in nanotechnology industries, and three times that many will have supporting jobs. Despite many benefits of nanotechnology there are potential risks and ethical issues involved in its implementation. There's a concern that some nanoparticles could be toxic because elements at the nanoscale behave differently than they do in their bulk form and these particles could easily cross the blood-brain barrier.

Society is at the threshold of a revolution that will transform the ways in which materials and products are created. How will this revolution develop? The opportunities that will develop in the future will depend significantly upon the ways in which a number of challenges are met. As we design systems on a nanoscale, we develop the capability to redesign the structure of all materials—natural and synthetic—along with rethinking the new possibilities of the reconstruction of any and all materials. Such a change in our design power represents tremendous social and ethical questions. In order to enable our future leadership to make decisions for sustainable economic nanotechnological development, it is imperative that we educate all nanotechnology stakeholders about the short-term and long-term benefits, limitations and risks of nanotechnology. The social implications of nanotechnology encompass so many fundamental areas such as ethics, privacy, environment, and security. This paper presents an overview of new and emerging nanotechnologies and their societal and ethical implications to address 21st Century challenges and issues. The discussion includes a range of different types of nanotechnologies and their potential social and ethical implications on society. The paper also highlights the approaches used to teach Science, Technology and Society (STS) courses at DeVry University, Addison, IL, USA.

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/content/papers/10.5339/qproc.2015.elc2014.57
2015-08-29
2019-10-18
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