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Nanotechnology and the Global South

Sunday, March 27, 2011

I come across this very interesting paper from Maclurcan about nanotechnology discourse in the global south. Of a particular interest is his elaboration on the conscious debate of both ‘short-term’ and ‘long-term’ nanotechnology:

In the meantime, the debate about Southern engagement with nanotechnology has forged ahead, assuming common understandings about what nanotechnology is and what it is not, as well as the general irrelevance of definitional debates. This is potentially problematic, given the conflicting way that nanotechnology is framed in the literature relating to the technology’s impact on, and in, the South. At different times, Southern nanotechnology debates have consciously drawn on understandings that correlate with both ‘near-term’ and ‘advanced’ nanotechnology. Whilst most writing presents near-term nanotechnology as the mainstream, there are instances where advanced nanotechnology has also been presented as ‘the reality’ for the South. Bruns, for example, sees answers for global poverty through a future of accessible abundance based on the application of advanced nanotechnology [27]. Al'Afghani, on the other hand, focuses on the need for future environmental laws in the South to incorporate “mechanisms for licensing, supervision and control of emissions and disposal methods for both MNT [molecular nanotechnology] products and nanofactories” [28]. Furthermore, a 2003 briefing document for a United Nations Industrial Development Organisation Expert Group Meeting, predominantly attended by representatives from the Global South, refers to the ability for advanced nanotechnology to address medical, energy and environmental challenges via “…factories operating at the nanometer level, including nanoscale conveyor belts and robotic arms bringing molecular parts together precisely…” [29].

The bottomline of his paper is that how nanotechnology is framed will affect its regulation. Most debate has been focused on ‘near-term’ nanotechnology as opposed to ‘speculative’ (borrowing Maclurcan’s own words) nanotechnology.

As I have gathered mode knowledge on regulation, my perspective on license-management in molecular nanotechnology has changed. The more detailed explanation has to wait a bit however, since I am still preoccupied with water. 

Download the paper from SSRN (click here).