Thursday, May 19, 2005

Read this if you're a real American

pcastI'll go over this point by point a little later, but for now, here's the U.S. government's assessment of its own nanotech program, in a nanosecond:

  • Them foreigners is catchin' up.
  • The way we're spending money, them foreigners probably won't catch up.
  • Potential risks do exist, but existing regulations have it covered, but we don't yet understand all the risks, so new regulations might be necessary, but let's first wait until we know more and base regulations on rational science and not fear. Is that clear?
  • Oh, and we should probably share information with them foreigners, but not too much because we need to focus on owning all the intellectual property.


Mr. Smith said...

Thanks for the heads up. I have downloaded and printed a copy for reading.

Comments to follow.

Howard Lovy said...

Thanks, "Mr. Smith." Since I have the advantage of knowing who you are and what you do, review this for our readers from your particular perspective as a scientist who works in ... well, I don't want to get you into any hot water, so you reveal as much as you want, but look at the document from the point of view of your nano niche -- how it might have an impact on what you do and whether it's accurate from your point of view. Didn't think you'd be getting an assignment from me, did you?

Mikkel Kjær Jensen said...

Nice to see that the rest of the world is almost keeping up with the US, otherwise disruptions (economic or otherwise) might become to big. Also it most likely means that more types of nano applications are being developed (even though there of course will be an overlap in some areas).

Good to see that EU is not as far behind as I feared.

Mr. Smith said...

Here are my observations from the report:

Chapter 1.

Table 3
pg 18

Only the EU, India, and the US governments are funding nanotech education.

Other leadership factors pg22-23

Science and technology graduate numbers are declining in the US while rising in Asia.

pg 23

“…NNI must continue to ensure that every dollar is well spent.”

With the government involved? Yeah, right.

Chapter 2.

Pg 26

Department of Homeland Security is only investing $1 million in FY 2005 and 2006.

Out of what total budget?

Pg 29

“The NNI program is appropriately aggressive in its approach to understanding and addressing the societal implications and the environmental and health effects of nanotechnology.” ~8% of the budget is targeted for this.

This needs to be increased. Case in point: See posts from T.H.O.N.G. Education is not taking place at the appropriate levels.

Pg 30

Nanotechnology Public Engagement Group

Informing the public about what nanotechnology is and what it is not is all well and good. How about educating them on what nanotechnology can and can’t do? Maybe a few safety tips might also be in order.

Chapter 3

Pg 35
$82 million requested for Societal Dimensions. That’s $0.28/person in the US. You can’t even mail a letter for that amount of money.

Environmental, Health, and Safety
Pg 35.

“NNAP notes the many technologies and products have associated risks that are successfully managed in order to gain their benefits- for example, gasoline, electricity, and medical X-rays.”

These are really bad choices for examples. People still smoke at the gas pump, still manage to electrocute themselves while changing light switches and only trained personnel get to play with the X-ray equipment. This is the scariest part of nanotechnology. Trying to figure out how the general public will misuse it.

Education and workforce preparation
Pg 36.

“More than 12,000 students and teachers are expected to be involved in NSF’s nanotechnology education programs in FY 2006.”

Wow, that many? We’ll be sure to catch up with Asia really quick with those numbers.
That was sarcasm in case anyone missed it.

Ethical, Legal, and other societal implications
Pg 38.

“Moreover, these efforts should be integrated….so that the people who develop nanotechnology are more fully aware of the societal implications of their work.”

Trust me when I say that I am fully aware of how the programs I work on will affect society.

Chapter 4: How can we do better?

Practice, practice, practice.

Anonymous said...

The EU is a joke in nanotech no matter what the report says. They are so far behing they will likely look to regulation like they did on GMOs to cover their asses and explain away why they are utter scientific and economic failures.

Hudson The Dog

Mikkel Kjær Jensen said...

The major reason for why the EU has such a strict regulation on GMO's is because its people are dead set against it. You have to remember that the EU has strong Green presence who are convinced that Organic is the way to go, and that GMO will have disastrous side effects if left unregulated.

Besides that, they see the arguments that GMO can help poor countries as an excuse for sloppy policy making and bowing to big business, not as a humanitarian alternative. In other words, this is a Down-Top problem PR problem for GMO (which removes some of the usefulness of European GMO research), not a Top-Down one.

Mr. Smith said...

The whole GMO debacle is exactly why nanotech needs to present a better "face" to the general population. The education part of the report is a start but it needs more.

T.H.O.N.G. said...

Yes, we're still not convinced that GMOs are the greatest invention since sliced bread, as some would have us believe. We got our start on that issue, and have now branched into nanotechnology. Whether you perceive us as ignorant Luddites, or sincere people with legitimate concerns, what happened with GMOs should serve as a warning to anyone who thinks nanotechnology can develop without serious public input.

Thanks for the review, Mr. Smith. Overall, the report seems long on hype, and very short indeed on facts. This report is more PR than science, or business analysis.


Topless Humans Organized For Natural Genetics

Putting Our Bodies Between Your Lips And Biotech

Howard Lovy said...

Hey, THONGians. Far be it from me to censor anything you do, so please just interpret this request as purely aesthetic. Could you please just sign your name THONG, or include Topless Humans, etc..., but leave the slogan off, especially when you appear a number of times on the homepage? I know this isn't the prettiest site in the world, nor is it the least redundant, but let's control this part, at least. That said, you're more than welcome to chime in on any and all issues. Thanks!

T.H.O.N.G. said...

Gotcha, Mr. Lovey.

Anonymous said...


I'm glad to see that you used the phrase "serious public input" in your comments.

As for long on hype and short on facts you seem to be confused by the lack of any scientific data as to what is being done and by whom. This report was simply meant to be a "State of the Union" address for nanotechnology.

For a more indepth look at what is actually going on in the lab I suggest that you start tracking down research papers and letters. This blog is also the most excelent site I know for "keeping up with the Jones'".

For more info on what is being done in the area of regulation, stay tuned. The EPA should just about be ready to say "Nanotech? What's that?"

Mr. Smith