Wednesday, September 08, 2004

NanoKabbalah Jihad


We’re baffled as to how you equate our comments on Madonna’s astrologist with anti-religious rhetoric. Regurgitating that kind of cosmic garbage is worthy of being flagged as twaddle, whether it comes from Archbishop Harper or Ayatollah Lovy.

All is not lost, blogspace is full of places dedicated to the discussion of the finer aspects of spirituality and science.

This isn't one of them.


Well, you were a target of opportunity for me. I think you're intelligent enough to know that I'm not defending "astrology" and that I really don't care what Madonna is in to (Kabbalah is old news, by the way. I heard about her interest in it about six years ago and attempted to interview her about it for her hometown newspaper, The Detroit News, and was rebuffed by her publicist).

The larger point here is that you cannot divorce science from larger issues of society, culture, religion, custom and, yes, superstition. You can say you're all about pure science -- it either is or it ain't -- and to hell with the unwashed masses and their silly unscientific superstitions, and you're going to find yourself completely baffled as to why the public just can't see the logic in your arguments for nanotechnology.

Nanotech, as you know, is not any one technology at all, but promises to become pervasive in just about all aspects of life. Therefore, it needs to be presented to the public differently. It needs to be presented within a broader context. Otherwise, you'll be met with GMO-style opposition. As you know, GMO is a case where misconception and superstition had a real impact on the science and technology that you care very much about.

It's not about Madonna. It's not about Kabbalah. I just saw some inacuracies in your coverage of this and wanted to set it straight. Then, I grew annoyed at the pompous tone you took -- a tone that I think resonates negatively with the general public. So, I used it to try and make this larger point. Nanotechnology is not only about science and business. It's also very much about society and culture. If you want public acceptance, you have to concern yourself with all of the above.



Anonymous said...

Why does nanotechnology need to be "presented" to or "accepted" by the public at all?

No one went out and "presented" computer technology or worked towards the "public acceptance" of the internet. They just happened.

Generally speaking, the market handles the question of whether or not a technology succeeds or fails, not some pack of idiots who barely understand that the earth is round. Who cares what they think? The question is, will people buy the products, and there is pretty much no doubt they will. They'll want things like immortality and cheap energy, and even if most people don't buy, the ones that do will leave the rest behind in the dust, so who cares about them?

And if your answer is "they could ban nanotechnology", no, they can't. They just think they can. No technology ban has ever worked in human history, and they've been tried over and over again.

This seems like an instance of confusing the actual work here (building MNT) with fake work, like bad journalism.

Howard Lovy said...

I believe the estimate is that the biotech industry was set back five years due to public rejection of genetically modified organisms.

While scare tactics and pseudoscience by the environmental movement was partly to blame, so too was the "top-down" attitude taken by a scientific establishment that was much too self-important to bother with public attitudes and perceptions.

No, public attitudes cannot forever halt technology and delay its benefits, but it sure can delay it for half a decade or hundreds of years. That's why you should care about how nanotech is being perceived.

I can think of no publication in the traditional media that's attempting to address the issue, so here's where blogs like mine and Cientifica's really should step in. I did not launch this NanoBot experiment to inflict traditional journalism on my readers. I can do that. It's what I do for a living. You will rarely see it here.