Innovation vs. the Precautionary Principle

Discussions of nanotechnology held in Europe usually invoke the Precautionary Principle, which comes in various forms from the reasonable to the extreme. Ron Bailey of Reason discusses the extreme form of this principle in Culture of Fear: Dealing with cultural panic attacks, based on a recent conference. Excerpts:

“At the AEI conference, University of Kent sociologist, Frank Furedi, summed up the danger of this loss of cultural nerve in a talk based on his new book Politics Of Fear: Beyond Left And Right. He identified five trends fueling the rise of risk aversion in Western cultures…”

“Despite these trends, Western countries still manage to innovate and take risks. Furedi acknowledges that in the physical world we still create all kinds of new technologies and are going ahead in a dramatic and positive fashion. He was advised to go to Silicon Valley to find real risk takers and he did find driven creative people working hard to create new technologies.” (Source:

Of course, Silicon Valley has no monopoly on innovation in nanotechnology, either in the U.S. or elsewhere, but we do have a critical mass of driven creative technologists. —Christine

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