Nanotechnology alleged to aid patriarchy

We mentioned earlier the Harvard Business Review list of Breakthrough Ideas for 2007. Nanotechnology shows up again in another idea on the list — this one rather more controversial.

Phillip Longman observes that falling birthrates lead, over time, to an increase in families with more conservative values, because they reproduce more. Seems plausible. He then makes some extrapolations from this:

But patriarchy always makes a comeback, because its adherents put more genes and ideas into the future than do their secular counterparts. This process is already well under way in the United States…Employers will find it harder to lure women out of the home and into the workplace, simply because so many of them, having absorbed the pervasive cultural norm, will embrace motherhood and home life. Already the percentage of American women with small children and jobs outside the home is declining.

The new patriarchal family will value products and services that allow fathers to stay home as well. One example is eBay, which drastically lowers the barriers to running a home business. A combination of nanotechnology and biotechnology may allow millions of households to produce large amounts of the food, energy, and manufactured products they currently acquire from the global economy, thus restoring the traditional home-centered economic basis of the patriarchal family.

Well, maybe. Or maybe inexpensive home-based manufacturing will make it easier for family members to go independent. It will be interesting to see how this plays out. And as usual, these types of speculations have been made previously in fiction. —Christine

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