Nanotechnology Regulation?

from the let's-think-twice dept.

Ralph Merkle, Principal Fellow at Zyvex, and Glenn Reynolds, who sits on the Foresight Board of Directors, were quoted extensively in a United Press International article ("Nanotech laws unlikely, say experts," by K. Hearn, 24 February 2001) on the potential for governmental regulation of nanotechnology. Both discounted the possibility, at least in the near future.

An online link to this article is not currently available. But Read more for a few excerpts . . .

The article quotes Merkle: "There are significant issues of public policy to consider, but there is still so little public understanding of these technolgies that itís unlikely lawmakers will regulate in the immediate future . . . the good news is both that the major consequences are at least one to three decades away and that people are learning. The bad news is that policy makers and even those in the science and technology community donít really understand the technologies like they should."

The article also quotes Bill Joy, who expresses concern that regulation may be very difficult if large financial interests become involved in the development of nanotechnology. "If they wait for the industry to be dominated by people who have stars and dollars signs in their eyes . . . then you canít legislate," he said. Also: "The political process is designed toward inaction. I just hope we don't have to have a large-scale incident to demonstrate the danger of this type of technology."

But the article also points out that many experts and observers, including Joy, support the Foresight Guidelines for the safe research and development of nanotechnology.

Glenn Reynolds notes that pressure from environmental groups is unlikely, because many support "nanotechnologyís promise of cleaner manufacturing processes and potential for environmental cleanup." And he adds: "Any government would have problems regulating pure research because of the First Amendment. You canít ban research because you are afraid of what kind of knowledge it will turn up."

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