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• 21•07•2003 •

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Nanotechnology: Tiny Science, Huge Threat

Organisations urged to endorse Cape Town Declaration

21 July 2003

Nanotech: Tiny Science, Huge Threat

Taken from Cascadia Media Collective posting on InfoShop on Friday July 18 2003 @ 09:13PM PDT

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Imagine I was selling a magic machine that would solve all your problems- and make me rich. Imagine I told you that you already bought it, thank you very much, and all your problems will soon be solved. Would you be worried? Would it concern you if I dismissed any questions you had or your neighbors cries that the magic machine was really no good?

That's where we find ourselves with the new science of nanotechnology (See "University of Oregon puts big hopes in tiny technology" RG 7/14/03) We're told that nanotech is already on its way and don't worry - we'll love it. Quick fix solutions for our problems; tax-funded research, megaprofits and unprecedented power for the nanotechnologists. This new science threatens to create a sci-fi future ruled by a global super-elite with nanotechnology forced upon the minds, bodies and surroundings of everyone else. Nanotech insider-literature clamors for just that. If we take what they are pushing -- we will be making a very big mistake.

Nanotech is a field in which industrial, medical and military scientists manipulate single molecules or atoms at the scale of one-billionth of a meter. The two primary results are super-tiny super-computers and a vastly enhanced ability to mesh living and non-living material. The US government predicts that nanotech will be a trillion dollar industry within ten years.Nanopatriarch Richard Smalley calls it "the ultimate level of control." Mihail Roco, chairman of the now $800 million National Initiative on Nanotechnology " (thanks to OR Sen. Ron Wyden) envisions using nanotech to ramp up the integration of humans and machines to create a "global hive-consciousness" as the next step towards "conquest of nature." (National Science Foundation/US Dept. of Commerce Report, "Converging Technologies to Improve Human Performance" June 2002 pg.93)

Such aims have raised concerns for people around the world who love freedom from control and unconquered nature. Those voices calling for changes to the agenda would never be heard if the nanotechnologists had their way. We cannot, however, safely put our uncritical trust in the hands of people set to make unimaginable sums of money and change the human experience forever; especially when they deliberately try to silence their critics.

Hands off my genes

A small-scale farmer in traditional dress protests against planting GM crops. (from Farmer’s Weekly, 20 September 2002)

Vital perspective on nanotech is offered, for example, from post-colonial Africa. Last December members of civil society from 8 nations there released their Cape Town Declaration, calling for full disclosure and global public participation in decisions about nanotech. They said they would not accept vague promises from nanotechnologists to use nanotech to clean up destruction caused by past and current use of First World power and technology in Africa.

Just like genetic engineers, the nanotech industry promises to feed the world and eradicate poverty. Just like with GE foods, when Africans say the "help" isn't worth the price it comes at, their concerns are ignored. Though the five major nanotech internet newswires post nearly 100 stories total each day, the words "Cape Town Declaration" have never appeared on any of them.

ETC group logo

ETC group

Nanotech's critics also include the ETC Group (for Erosion, Technology and Concentration,, an international agriculture think-tank. They blew the whistle on Monsanto's Terminator Technology, intended to render seeds sterile so famers had to buy new seeds from the company every year. They also worked with the World Congress of Indigenous People to fight the racist bio-piracy included in the Human Genome Diversity Project. They are now focusing much of their energy on nanotech. ETC does not oppose nanotech itself, but warns that the way it is being developed threatens widespread ecological damage and a deepening of the gap between the power of those who have access to key technology and those who don't. More than a simple lack of access, at issue is that super-small nanotech is being developed to create super wealth for the already rich, super armies for the already strong, and super surveillance to keep the rest of us in line.

The nanotech industry tries to write off ETC by focusing exclusively on the group's belief that the "gray goo" theory is a possible consequence of nanotech. Gray goo would be nanorobots able to recreate themselves but incapable of stopping, growing exponentially until their numbers drown us all in a global cloud of gray goo. ETC are not fringe thinkers to fear gray goo- members of Bush's EPA, the industry darlings at the Center for Responsible Nanotechnolgyand many other people quietly admit that gray goo is a real threat. The industry is grasping at straws to slander ETC and silence their alarm regarding plans to use nanotech to deepen elitist domination of a devastated planet.

Dr. Gregor Wolbring

Dr. Gregor Wolbring

A third key thinker being pushed out of the nanotech discussion is Dr. Gregor Wolbring, director of the International Center for Bioethics, Culture and Disability ( Wolbring participated in some of the first major US government strategizing around nanotech (see "reports"). He supported nanotech development, but only as part of a broader cultural change towards human rights in disability (see great site on disability rights movement). He insisted that people with disabilities be allowed to choose not to be altered by nanotech and to accept themselves as they are if that is what they prefer to do. Anyone saying no to nanotech, however, in not on the agenda of those in pursuit of super-nano-power. Wolbring says he was dropped from the government nanotech conference circuit in favor of people with disabilities who see themselves as "broken" and want to be "fixed" at any cost. Some pro-nano writers have gone so far as to predict that once nearly everyone's bodies or minds have been altered by nanotech, failure to nano-ize your child could be seen as child abuse. (see, for example the World Transhumanist Association)



Industry is aiming nanotech cartoons at school children

Building public consensus is a key part of the nanotech strategy. These scientists know that in many parts of the world they have lost the debateover genetically engineered food and they say they will not lose the debate over nanotech. That's why the industry is aiming nanotech cartoons at school children ages K-12. That's why the last National Initiative on Nanotechnology "hive-consciousness" conference announced a new national TV station called XLR8TV, "The world's first, globally available, 24/7 TV channel dedicated to the enhancement of human performance. You can bet that voices critical of quick fix solutions and "the ultimate level of control" will not be given government-paid access to grade schoolers or national TV. We may get stuck with what we paid for, weather or not we chose freely to pay. We should tell the nanotechnologists, and everyone pushing for more control for those in power, that we're not buying what they're selling.

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