Humans have always tried to improve themselves through 'natural methods' such as physical exercise, diet, meditation, education and training. However, as a new report on human enhancement points out, with ongoing work to unravel the mysteries of our minds and bodies, coupled with the art and science of emerging technologies, we are near the start of the Human Enhancement Revolution. Technology will be a big game changer. While previously technological progress has improved the tools we work with, from the printing press to the steam engine to computers, in the future, technology will change ourselves, our bodies and, possibly, even our minds. A new addresses questions and issues surrounding human enhancement, an area that will become more prominent as advances in nanotechnology, nanomedicine, bionics, synthetic biology and related fields move from the lab to real-world applications.
Nanotechnology plays, or rather: will play, a major role in technical and biological human enhancement. A recently released study commissioned by the European Parliament attempts to bridge the gap between visions on human enhancement and the relevant technoscientific developments. It outlines possible strategies of how to deal with human enhancement in a European context, identifying a reasoned pro-enhancement approach, a reasoned restrictive approach and a case-by-case approach as viable options for the EU. The authors propose setting up a European body for the development of a normative framework that guides the formulation of EU policies on human enhancement.
As nanotechnologies are increasingly becoming the focus of public interests and concerns, there is a risk that public opinion is shaped by either fearmongering or unrealistic expectations. Public engagement in policy making, i.e. having a say in decisions about technological developments that will affect people's lives significantly, should be based on objective information and facts. Public engagement is one of the processes that allows for increased social inclusion. Engagement seeks to achieve increased two-way information flow and knowledge exchange as well as increase overall technological literacy. Previously, we have reported about a German approach to embedding nanotechnology developments in society and covered the social aspects of nanotechnology in Europe. Today, we are showcasing an example from Down Under.
A recent report gives an overview of how five jurisdictions (US, UK, EU, Australia and Canada) reacted to the recent emergence of nanotechnology-based products in the marketplace and it describes how this triggered activities in three domains: (a) public and stakeholder debate, (b) development of initial policy options, and (c) the management of regulatory development in a situation of scarce data. The bulk of the report describes the current situation (up to March 2009) in the five jurisdictions and this part doesn't contain information that hasn't already been covered elsewhere. In analyzing this data, however, the authors make some interesting observations and attempt to develop a set of six key regulatory governance principles that they propose for consideration by regulators.
In case you want to get up to date on what's happening around the world with regard to the development of risk governance for nanotechnology applications in food and cosmetics, a new report just out from the International Risk Governance Council (IRGC) provides a good overview. An early version of this report was originally written as a briefing paper for an expert workshop organized by the IRGC in 2008. It is also a companion to the IRGC Policy Brief due for publication in early 2009. While this report does not include any primary research, is is a useful primer for anyone who wants to get an overview of what is happening in this area. IRGC is an independent organisation whose purpose is to help the understanding and management of global risks that impact on human health and safety, the environment, the economy and society at large. The organization's focus on risk governance strategies for nanotechnology applications in food and cosmetics is based on rising public concerns.
Nanotechnology is the engineering of functional systems at the molecular scale. In its advanced form, which should be achieved within the next decade or two, the technology will allow a revolution in manufacturing - building powerful products with atomic precision from the bottom up - and could fundamentally alter our ability to confront challenging issues such as climate change. In the United States, a new President is about to take office, and is expected to bring with him a totally new outlook on science. We think it?s important now to let Mr. Obama and his advisors know the most important factors about the near future of nanotechnology and its potential impacts, especially as it relates to climate change.
Climate change is high on the global agenda. While the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Poznan, Poland, in December 2008, is an important step towards achieving an international agreement on climate change scheduled for the upcoming Conference of the Parties in Copenhagen at the end of 2009, policy makers and practitioners alike are increasingly looking for practical solutions. A new report by the United Nations University Institute of Advanced Studies (UNU-IAS) offers three innovative solutions in responding to climate change, namely nanotechnology, ocean energy and forestry. The 46-page report goes beyond the technological, biological and procedural aspects of these solutions by critically assessing the opportunities and challenges that each type of innovation presents. This report addresses the question why these innovations - despite their large potential to reduce emissions, ocean energy alone could cover the world's electricity needs - have not yet reached the stage of mass commercialization
A new report prepared for the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research outlines an institutional model that meets the safety and security demands of human health, the environment and society. The report draws on an analysis of national and international approaches to nanotechnology regulation.
One of the key findings is that in the case of developing nanotechnologies, the place of classical regulation has been taken by precautionary measures such as observatories, voluntary codes of conduct and stakeholder dialogues. The development of an institutional model is proposed, the Scanning Probe Agency (SPA), as both a necessary and appropriate collective learning process and a means of generating public trust. Its guiding question would be: 'Is nanotechnology in good hands?'