The Sociological Impact Of Nanotechnology And Biotechnology

2028 words - 8 pages

I elected to do my term paper on the sociological impact of nanotechnology and biotechnology (commonly called “bionics”) because of the vast potential for advances in medicine, space exploration and technology. These are but a few of the areas which will surely be affected by the development of new and never before imagined processes and engineered materials which have the power to change the way every aspect of one’s life is lived. I will generally focus on the Structural-Functional and Social-Conflict approaches for the majority of the paper, but will touch on some of the aspects as seen by the Symbolic-Interaction approach when considering the implications of the subject on society, as well.

First things first, what exactly are nanotechnology and biotechnology? There has been some less than mild discussion of late about what constitutes legitimate nanotechnology, and suffice it to say that it doesn’t include things like laundry detergents, chemical additives, makeup micro-beads or anything of the like that may be claimed by some companies that are looking for an advantage over their competitors. Also, neither of these growing scientific disciplines includes any of the many terrifying, often alien technologies that swarm and smother, seek and destroy, or otherwise attempt to eradicate the human race from the face of the earth, ad nauseam. Here is a concise definition from The American Heritage Science Dictionary: “Nanotechnology is the science and technology of precisely manipulating the structure of matter at the molecular level. The term nanotechnology embraces many different fields and specialties, including engineering, chemistry, electronics, and medicine, among others, but all are concerned with bringing existing technologies down to a very small scale, measured in nanometers. A nanometer—a billionth of a meter—is about the size of six carbon atoms in a row.” “Bionics (is) the study of how humans and animals perform certain tasks and solve certain problems, and of the application of the findings to the design of electronic devices and mechanical parts.” (both definitions are excerpted from Dictionary.com)

Change is inevitable, but rapid progress can happen at alarming rates that com-pletely transform not only nations but the entire world. Rodney A. Brooks, the Director of the MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory knows a little about how much difference a few decades can make. In his book, “Flesh And Machines”, he discusses how technological advancements have had this effect on his own personal life. He describes receiving his “scientific news” as a teenager by 3-month steamship voyage. Then in the 1980’s he “telecommuted” between Massachusetts and California on a daily basis, first using 20 MB tape cartridges and then on low-speed leased data lines. By the 1990’s he was using free internet to conduct his daily business. All of these communication innovations had extraordinary effects both in the private and public sectors,...

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