Transcript: Margaret Somerville and James Hughes on Nanotechnology | Jan 10, 2004

A black slate reads, "Do we need a moratorium on the development of nanotechnology?"
Then, Tim Falconer appears behind a wide grey lectern. He is clean-shaven, balding, with short brown hair. He wears a blue shirt with the sleeves rolled up. In front of the lectern is a table with a white and dark blue banner. It reads, "Better Humans." There are three chairs. One is empty. James Hughes and Margaret Somerville and sit in the other two chairs.

Margaret is in her early forties. She has short blond hair. She wears a black blazer with a silver studs on one side. Underneath, she wears a blue, white, and brown top. In the last chair sits James. He is in his early fifties and wears glasses. He has short, salt and pepper hair with a salt and pepper goatee. He wears a grey blazer and a white shirt.

Tim Falconer says NOW I DON'T
KNOW IF YOU REMEMBER SEEING THE
MOVIE "THE GRADUATE" BUT
THERE'S A FAMOUS SCENE WHERE A
BUSINESSMAN TAKES DUSTIN
HOFFMAN ASIDE AND SAYS "I JUST
WANNA SAY ONE WORD TO YOU, JUST
ONE WORD, PLASTICS."

A green caption appears on the screen with a white light bulb. It reads, "Tim Falconer. Journalist - Moderator."

He continues
WELL, IF SOME HOLLYWOOD SUITS
WANT TO REMAKE "THE GRADUATE."
AND THEY PROBABLY ARE RIGHT NOW
THEY'LL HAVE TO CHANGE PLASTICS
TO NANOTECHNOLOGY.
THIS IS THE AREA THAT HAS SO
MUCH PROMISE TO IT IF
EVERYTHING GOES WELL.
ALREADY WE'VE SEEN SUNSCREENS,
CLOTHING AND SPORTING GOODS
THAT ARE USING NANOTECHNOLOGY
ON A MORE SIMPLISTIC LEVEL.
THAT'S NOT THE LEVEL THAT HAS
ETHICISTS WORRIED.
UH, PETER SINGER, THE DIRECTOR
OF THE U OF T JOINT CENTRE FOR
BIOETHICS TOLD ME THAT WHILE HE
THINKS ETHICISTS ARE GETTING A
HANDLE ON A LOT OF BIOETHICAL
ISSUES, NANOTECHNOLOGY WILL BE
THE NEXT GREAT CHALLENGE FOR
THEM.
UHM, I'M NOT GOING TO TRY AND
EXPLAIN THE SCIENCE AND I THINK
EVERYONE GOT A BOOKLET BUT JUST
IN SHORT NANOSCIENCE IS THE
SYNTHESIS AND MANIPULATION OF
NANOMETRE SIZED PARTICLES.
NOW TECHNOLOGY'S PROPONENTS SAY
IT COULD MEAN CHEAPER CONSUMER
GOODS, FASTER COMPUTERS, MORE
PLENTIFUL FOOD, MICROSCOPIC
ROBOTS... ROBOTIC SURGERY THAT
COULD REMOVE CHOLESTEROL FROM
ARTERIES, DESTROY CANCER CELLS,
REPAIR INJURED TISSUE AND
REBUILD LIMBS AND ORGANS.
NANOTECHNOLOGY'S PROPONENTS ON
THE OTHER HAND FEAR IT COULD
MEAN POWERFUL NEW WEAPONS OR
THEY FEAR EITHER BY ACCIDENT OR
BY DESIGN NANOPROBES WILL RUN
WILD TURNING THE WORLD AND ITS
INHABITANTS INTO LIFELESS
MATTER OR RAYGU AS IT'S CALLED.
ENVIRONMENTALISTS INCLUDING
THOSE AT GREENPEACE WORRY ABOUT
POTENTIAL FOR NANO MATERIALS TO
HAVE A DISASTROUS EFFECT ON
HUMAN HEALTH AND THE
ENVIRONMENT.
IT CERTAINLY WOULDN'T BE THE
FIRST TECHNOLOGY TO DO SO.
IF THE HISTORY OF NEW
TECHNOLOGY HOLDS THE REALITY
WILL TURN OUT TO BE SOMEWHERE
IN BETWEEN THE UTOPIAN VIEW AND
THE NIGHTMARE SCENARIO BUT
LET'S HEAR FROM OUR EXPERTS.
JAMES HUGHES THIS TIME.

He sits down.

James Hughes gets up from his chair and walks to the lectern.
A green caption appears on the screen with a white light bulb. It reads, "James Hughes. Bioethicist. Debating the Future: Do we need a moratorium on the development of nanotechnology?"

James Hughes says THE IDEA THAT
I'M AN EXPERT ON NANOTECHNOLOGY
AS A SOCIOLOGIST OF COURSE IS
SUSPECT BUT UHM, I DID READ THE
RECENT GREENPEACE REPORT AND I
URGE YOU, TOO, AS WELL.
IT CAME OUT THIS SUMMER 72
PAGES OF VERY CALM, UH, AND
VERY DETAILED AND VERY WELL
READ REVIEW OF ALL OF THE
LITERATURE ABOUT NANOTECHNOLOGY
AND ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE AND
GREENPEACE CONCLUDED, THE
SCIENTISTS IN EUROPEAN
GREENPEACE WHO WROTE THE REPORT
THAT ALTHOUGH THERE WAS
NOT ENOUGH ATTENTION PAID YET
TO THE TOXICITY AND CONTROL OF
NANO MATERIALS UH, THERE WERE
ENORMOUS ENVIRONMENTAL PROMISE,
ENVIRONMENTAL PROMISE IN
NANOTECHNOLOGY, ENVIRONMENTAL
BENEFITS WHICH COULD BE GAINED
FROM NANOTECHNOLOGY AND THAT NO
NEW LAWS OR REGULATIONS WERE
REQUIRED IN ORDER TO REGULATE
NANOTECHNOLOGY BECAUSE OUR
EXISTING INDUSTRIAL LAWS AND
AGENCIES WERE SUFFICIENT TO
REGULATE NANOTECH AND THAT THE
THREAT OF SELF-REPLICATING
NANOBOTS EATING THE PLANET WAS
VERY MUCH OVERBLOWN.
UHM, NOW MORE EXTREME CRITICS
WHICH YOU CAN DEFINITELY FIND
IF YOU GO ON THE WEB ARGUE THAT
WE SHOULD HAVE MORATORIUM ON
NANOTECHNOLOGY ON THE BASIS OF
WHAT THEY CALL THE
PRECAUTIONARY PRINCIPLE.
NOW IT SOUNDS IN ITS MILD
VERSION THAT YOU SHOULD KNOW
WHAT THE RISKS AND BENEFITS OF
SOMETHING ARE QUITE PLAUSIBLE
BUT THE WAY IT'S BEING APPLIED,
THE PRECAUTIONARY PRINCIPLE IS
ACTUALLY A TROJAN HORSE FOR
BANNING TECHNOLOGY ALTOGETHER.
IT'S A LUDDITE TROJAN HORSE.
IT BASICALLY SAYS "DON'T DO
ANYTHING, ANYTHING UNTIL YOU
UNDERSTAND ITS LONG-TERM
CONSEQUENCES" AND SINCE YOU CAN
NEVER UNDERSTAND THE LONG-TERM
CONSEQUENCES OF EVERYTHING THAT
YOU DO THEN YOU CAN'T DO
ANYTHING.
NOW NANOTECHNOLOGY'S IN THAT
CATEGORY OF ONE OF THE THINGS
THAT WE WILL NEVER UNDERSTAND
THE LONG-TERM CONSEQUENCES OF
BUT WE HAVE TO WEIGH THE
BENEFITS AND THE RISKS AND YES,
WE DO NEED TO HAVE SOME SAFETY
REGULATION OF IT BUT THE
CRITICS OVERESTIMATE THE
THREATS FROM NANOTECHNOLOGY
RADICALLY WHICH WE ALSO SEE BY
PARENTHETICALLY THE HYSTERIA
OVER GM FOOD WHICH HAS NEVER
HURT ANYONE YET BUT PEOPLE ARE
HYSTERICAL ABOUT.
THE CRITICS ALSO UNDERESTIMATE
THE ABILITY OF SOCIETY TO
RESPOND TO THOSE TOXIC RISKS.
WE ARE A SOCIETY THAT LEARNS.
WE ARE NOT SIMPLY A STATIC
INSTITUTION.
WE... IF SOMETHING BAD HAPPENS
WE DEVELOP THE REGULATORY
MECHANISMS NECESSARY.
CRITICS UNDERESTIMATE THE NEED
OF SOCIETY TO DEVELOP ROBUST
NANOTECHNOLOGICAL PROPHYLAXIS.
I MEAN, AFTER TWO... 9-11 AND
THE VARIOUS GERM WARFARE
ATTACKS, AGAIN, WE HAVEN'T
FOUND ANY WEAPONS OF MASS
DESTRUCTION THAT MY COUNTRY
WAGED THE NEO-IMPERIALIST WAR
FOR AND SO I'M NOT GOING TO
ARGUE THAT WE NEED TO DO IT IN
IRAQ BUT THERE WILL BE UH,
WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION
CREATED WITH THESE NEW
TECHNOLOGIES AND WE DO NEED TO
HAVE VARIOUS KINDS OF
PROPHYLAXIS AND FORBIDDING
OURSELVES TO PURSUE SCIENTIFIC
RESEARCH IN THESE FIELDS WILL
HARM OUR ABILITY TO PREPARE
OURSELVES FOR THAT.
BEFORE NANOTECH EVEN BECAME
KNOWN TO THE PUBLIC NANOTECH
RESEARCHERS WERE WORKING ON UH,
PREPARING WAYS OF SAFE DESIGN
FOR NANOROBOTICS.
FOR INSTANCE MAKING NANOROBOTS
THAT COULD ONLY REPRODUCE IN
CERTAIN MEDIA OR ONLY WITH THE
BROADCAST INFORMATION FROM AN
EXTERNAL SOURCE.

A green caption appears on the screen with a white light bulb. It reads, "James Hughes. Bioethicist. Debating the Future: Do we need a moratorium on the development of nanotechnology?"

He continues
CRITICS RADICALLY UNDERESTIMATE
THE ECOLOGICAL BENEFITS AND THE
MEDICAL BENEFITS THAT CAN BE
HAD FROM NANOTECHNOLOGY.
UH, EVEN TO THE POINT, YOU
COULD SAY IF NANOTECHNOLOGY
WERE TO EAT THE PLANET THAT
RISK IS SO GREAT THAT WE SHOULD

- THAT IS ONE KIND OF RISK, A
QUALITATIVELY DIFFERENT RISK
THAT WE SHOULD UH, NOT ALLOW IN
NANOTECHNOLOGY BECAUSE OF.
BUT WE ALSO FACE EXTRASTENTIAL
RISKS FROM THINGS LIKE
ASTEROIDS AND EARTHQUAKES AND
SO FORTH AND I URGE YOU TO READ
DOUG MUHALL'S BOOK ON
NANOECOLOGY WHERE HE ARGUES
IT'S PRECISELY TECHNOLOGIES
LIKE NANOECOLOGY WHICH MAY BE

- WHICH MAY ALLOW US TO
BIOREMEDIATE THE DAMAGE WE'VE
ALREADY DONE TO NATURE AND
TO PREPARE FOR THE POSSIBLE
EXTINCTION OF THE HUMAN RACE
FROM THE NATURAL THREATS THAT
WE FACE.
SO I WOULD ARGUE THAT
NANOTECHNOLOGY IS A TECHNOLOGY
LIKE EVERY OTHER EXCEPT THAT WE
NEED TO HAVE THIS TECHNOLOGY
AND MANY OTHERS IN ORDER TO
IMPROVE OUR OWN BODIES, LIVES,
THE QUALITY OF OUR LIVES, TO
PROTECT THE PLANET, TO GET OFF
THE PLANET AND LESSEN THE
ECOLOGICAL LOAD THAT WE IMPOSE
ON IT FOR THAT REASON AND UH, I
LOOK FORWARD TO A NANOTECH
FUTURE, THANKS.

He sits down.
[Audience applause]
Now, Margaret walks up to the lectern.

A green caption appears on the screen with a white light bulb. It reads, "Margaret Somerville. Bioethicist. Debating the Future: Do we need a moratorium on the development of nanotechnology?"
Margaret Somerville places light brown glasses on her face and says WELL,
JAMES AND I WON'T DISAGREE ON
THIS ONE AS NEARLY AS MUCH AS
WE DID ON THE LAST ONE ALTHOUGH
I MUST ADMIT HE'S UH, A VERY
CONVINCING TECHNO-UTOPIAN.
I MEAN, THAT WAS A GREAT SORT
OF PLUG FOR THE NANOTECH.
THE QUESTION THAT I ASK ALWAYS
FIRST IS IT INHERENTLY WRONG TO
DO THIS?
AND NO, UNLIKE HUMAN CLONING
DEVELOPING AND USING
NANOTECHNOLOGY IS NOT
INHERENTLY WRONG WHICH MEANS
THAT ITS ETHICAL ACCEPTABILITY
DEPENDS ON WEIGHING THE RISKS,
HARMS AND BENEFITS.
NOW SOME OF THE PROBLEMS IN THE
DECISION MAKING ABOUT THOSE
RISKS, HARMS AND BENEFITS, FOR
INSTANCE WHO DECIDES ON RISKS
AND HARMS AND CERTAINLY IT
SHOULD NOT JUST BE SCIENTISTS
AND IT SHOULD NOT JUST BE
INDUSTRY WHAT IS LARGELY WHAT
HAS HAPPENED UP UNTIL NOW.
THE SECOND THING IS ON WHAT
BASIS SHOULD YOU MAKE THOSE
ASSESSMENTS, THE THIRD THING
USING WHICH PROCESS...
PROCESSING MAKING THOSE KIND OF
RISK ASSESSMENTS AND DECISIONS
IS NOT NEUTRAL.
THERE'S AN OLD SAYING IN LAW
THAT FORM IS NO MERE FORMALITY.
THE KIND OF FORM YOU USE CAN
VERY OFTEN DETERMINE THE
OUTCOME OF YOUR DECISION MAKING
AND IN THESE KINDS OF VERY
DIFFICULT ISSUES THAT ARE GOING
TO AFFECT EVERYBODY AND WHERE
YOU COULD REALLY ARGUE THAT
THIS IS A GLOBAL SCALE RESEARCH
PROJECT THAT PUTS EVERYBODY AT
SOME POTENTIAL RISK EVEN IF
WE'RE JUSTIFIED IN RUNNING THAT
RISK NORMALLY WITH MEDICAL
EXPERIMENTATION YOU HAVE TO GET
THE CONSENT OF THE PEOPLE WHO
ARE PLACED AT RISK SO HOW DO WE
CONSULT THE PUBLIC AND WHAT
DOES GETTING THE CONSENT OF THE
PUBLIC TO THESE SORTS OF RISKS
MEAN?
THE OTHER PROBLEM AND IT'S
REALLY ONE THAT JAMES HAS
ELUDED TO IS THE BENEFITS AND
RISKS ARE VERY CLOSELY LINKED
WITH THIS TECHNOLOGY.
THAT IT'S TRUE THAT IT COULD
HELP THE POOR AND RAISE THE
STANDARD OF LIVING AROUND THE
WORLD BUT AT THE SAME TIME IT
COULD UNDERMINE ECONOMIES WITH
PRODUCING VERY CHEAP PRODUCTS
ON THE SPOT.
NOW WHAT SORT OF PRINCIPLE
SHOULD WE USE THEN TO DECIDE
WHICH OF THOSE BENEFITS AND
RISKS WE'LL TAKE?
WHAT I WOULD SUGGEST TO YOU IS
THAT WE MUST ACT ACCORDING TO
AN ETHICAL PRINCIPLE THAT'S
CALLED A PREFERENCE IN FAVOUR
OF THE MOST VULNERABLE PEOPLE
SO IF, IN FACT WE'RE GOING TO
PUT AT RISK PEOPLE IN
DEVELOPING COUNTRIES WE HAVE TO
GIVE THAT RISK MUCH MORE WEIGHT
THAN THE BENEFITS TO US.
THE RISKS ARE NOT JUST
PHYSICAL, THEY'RE ECONOMIC,
SOCIAL, MORAL AND ETHICAL AND
AS JAMES HAS SAID TO YOU
THEY'RE INCALCULABLE.
SO THAT MEANS WE HAVE TO DECIDE
WHEN WE HAVE GREAT UNCERTAINTY
WHAT KIND OF APPROACH DO WE
TAKE?
NOW WHAT MATTERS THERE IN
CONDITIONS OF GREAT UNCERTAINTY
ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT
THINGS IS THE BASIC PRESUMPTION
FROM WHICH YOU WORK.
AND THERE ARE FOUR BASIC
PRESUMPTIONS FOR ANY DECISION
MAKING YES, LET'S DO IT, NO
RESTRICTIONS SO WE'RE NOT GOING
TO HAVE THAT NANOTECHNOLOGY.
I DON'T THINK ANYBODY THINKS WE
SHOULD HAVE THAT.
YES, BUT WHICH MEANS YOU CAN DO
IT UNTIL YOU FIND THERE IS SOME
RISKS.
THAT'S ACTUALLY THE
PRECAUTIONARY... WHAT'S CALLED
THE PRECAUTIONARY APPROACH.
YES, YOU CAN DO IT BUT KEEP
WATCHING OUT AND IF YOU SEE
RISKS YOU'VE GOT TO STOP.
THE THIRD ONE IS NO UNLESS.
NOW THAT MIGHT SOUND SIMILAR
BUT IT'S NOT BECAUSE THAT MEANS
NO, YOU CAN'T DO IT UNTIL YOU
SHOW IT'S REASONABLY SAFE TO DO
IT.
FOR INSTANCE, SOME EUROPEAN
COUNTRIES IN THIS KIND OF AREA
HAVE ALSO ADDED TO THAT
REASONABLY SAFE AND IN THE
PUBLIC INTEREST TO DO IT.
UH, NOW THAT PRINCIPLE IS MORE
RESTRICTIVE THAN A YES AND THEN
THE FINAL PRINCIPLE IS NO, YOU
CAN'T DO IT AT ALL.
THE PRECAUTIONARY PRINCIPLE IS
ACTUALLY A NO UNLESS AND THE
PRECAUTIONARY APPROACH IS A
YES, BUT.
SO I THINK WHAT WE'VE GOT HERE
IS THAT Dr. HUGHES WOULD BE
TAKING THE PRECAUTIONARY
APPROACH YES, BUT NOT IF IT
PROVES TOO DANGEROUS.
I WOULD RECOMMEND THE NO UNLESS
BECAUSE IN CASES OF GREAT
UNCERTAINTY I THINK THE PERSON
WITH THE... WHO WANTS TO DO
SOMETHING HAS THE BURDEN OF
PROOF AND THEY DON'T HAVE TO
SHOW IT'S ABSOLUTELY SAFE AND
THEY DON'T AS I READ IN ONE OF
THE TRANSHUMANIST ARTICLES HAVE
TO SHOW IT'S SAFE BEYOND A
REASONABLE DOUBT WHICH IS A
CRIMINAL BURDEN OF PROOF.
ALL THEY HAVE TO SHOW IS THAT
IT SEEMS REASONABLY SAFE TO DO
THIS AND SURELY WE CAN EXPECT
THAT.
WE ALREADY USE THAT SYSTEM
BEFORE WE ALLOWED DRUGS TO GO
ON THE MARKET.
WE'VE GOT A LONG EXPERIENCE
WITH THAT.
IT'S WHAT CALLED A CLOSED LEGAL
SYSTEM.
YOU CAN'T PUT A DRUG ON THE
MARKET UNTIL YOU SHOW IT'S
REASONABLY SAFE AND EFFECTIVE
AND I THINK WE SHOULD AT LEAST
USE THAT.
I ALSO STRONGLY DISAGREE WITH
SOME OF MY AMERICAN COLLEAGUES
WITH WHOM I HAVE ARGUED ON THIS
THAT IT'S ACCEPTABLE TO USE
MARKETPLACE ETHICS.
AND WHAT MARKETPLACE ETHICS
MEANS IS PUT IT OUT ON THE
MARKET AND THE GOOD ETHICAL
PEOPLE WON'T BUY UNETHICAL
PRODUCTS THEREFORE IF
NANOTECHNOLOGY'S UNETHICAL IT
WON'T SELL.

A green caption appears on the screen with a white light bulb. It reads, "Margaret Somerville. Bioethicist. Debating the Future: Do we need a moratorium on the development of nanotechnology?"

She continues
THAT'S A YES WITH A DELAYED
BUT.
I ALSO THINK WE HAVE TO... I
THINK WE ALSO HAVE TO WORRY
ABOUT... THAT'S ACTUALLY IN
FACT IF IT WORKS AT ALL SEEING
WE'VE GOT ADVERTISING
CONTRAVENING WHAT WE MIGHT
NORMALLY DECIDE.
I ALSO THINK WE HAVE TO WORRY
ABOUT JUSTICE ESPECIALLY TO
FUTURE GENERATIONS.
WE'RE NOT GOING TO BEAR THE
BRUNT OF THIS, FUTURE
GENERATIONS WILL IF IT GOES
WRONG.
WE'VE GOT TO TALK ABOUT WHAT WE
CALL INTERGENERATIONAL JUSTICE
AND NOT INTERGENERATIONAL JUST
OF PRESENT LIVING GENERATIONS
BUT FUTURE GENERATIONS AND
FINALLY ALL MATTER LIVING AND
NON-LIVING ORIGINATES AT THE
NANOSCALE.
SO IN ACTUAL FACT
NANOTECHNOLOGY IS THE VERY
CLOSEST TECHNOLOGY TO CREATION
AND IT CAN ACTUALLY BE CALLED
ATOMTECH.
IT'S REALLY BUILDING FROM NON-
LIVING INTO LIVING EVEN IS A
POSSIBILITY WITH IT.
SO IT RAISES AGAIN VERY COMPLEX
ETHICAL ISSUES NOT ONES THAT
ARE INSURMOUNTABLE BUT ONES
THAT NEED A LOT OF THOUGHT.
WE NEED ETHICS.
WE HAVE TO IMBED ETHICS IN
SCIENCE FROM ITS INCEPTION.
IT'S NOT AN ADD-ON ACTIVITY
AFTER WE'VE DONE THE SCIENCE
AND SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH ITSELF
IS A NOT A VALUE NEUTRAL
ACTIVITY.
WE'VE GOT TO THINK ABOUT
SCIENCE TIME WHICH IS VERY FAST
COMPARED WITH ETHICS TIME WHICH
TAKES A LONG TIME AND WE NEED A
BROAD SOCIETAL UNDERSTANDING
AND ASSESSMENT AND VERY HEAVY
PUBLIC INVOLVEMENT IN THESE
DECISIONS, THANK YOU.

She sits down.
[Audience applause]

Tim approaches the lectern and says THANK YOU
WHILE... WHILE THERE WAS MORE
AGREEMENT ON THIS ONE I THINK
JAMES MAY WANT TO REBUT A
COUPLE OF POINTS.

A green caption appears on the screen with a white light bulb. It reads, "James Hughes. Bioethicist."

James Hughes says SURE.
UHM, JUST TO LAY MY CARDS ON THE
TABLE I THINK THAT THE
REGULATORY APPARATUS FOR
INDUSTRIAL... FOR THE
REGULATION OF INDUSTRIAL
CHEMICALS AROUND THE WORLD,
INDUSTRIAL PRODUCTS, IS
WOEFULLY INADEQUATE.
OUR TWO COUNTRIES HAVE SOME OF
THE STRONGEST AND EUROPEAN
COUNTRIES HAVE SOME OF THE
STRONGEST IN THE WORLD UHM, I
KNOW THAT THE AMERICAN CASE IS
VERY MUCH UNDERCUT BY THE
REPUBLICAN PARTY BY THE
CORPORATE LOBBIES, PRECISELY
THOSE INTERESTS WHO THEY'RE
MEANT TO REGULATE.
I DON'T MEAN TO DENY THAT AT
ALL AND I DO THINK THAT WE NEED
TO STRENGTHEN OUR REGULATION.
THERE ARE MANY, MANY CHEMICALS
RELEASED INTO THE ENVIRONMENT
EVERY YEAR THAT ARE NOT
ADEQUATELY TESTED FOR THEIR
SAFETY AND FOR INSTANCE I'M
VERY CONCERNED ABOUT THE
EFFECTS ON HUMAN FERTILITY, OF
ESTROGEN MIMICKING CHEMICALS
WHICH WERE RELEASED INTO THE
ENVIRONMENT.
AND I DON'T THINK THERE'S
ANYTHING NECESSARY ABOUT BEING
A TECHNO-UTOPIAN THAT MAKES US
WANT TO SEE THE ECOLOGY
DESTROYED OR OUR BODIES
POISONED.
UHM, HOWEVER I DO THINK THAT THE
EXISTING REGULATORY APPARATUS
THAT WE HAVE IS ADEQUATE TO THE
TASK IF WE STEP UP TO THE PLATE
AS A DEMOCRATIC SOCIETIES AND I
DON'T THINK AS MANY, MANY
ECOLOGISTS ARGUE THAT WE NEED
TO STOP INDUSTRIAL PROGRESS
UNTIL WE HAVE UHM, COMPLETELY
IMPROVED AND REVOLUTIONALIZED
OUR ECOLOGICAL REGULATORY
APPARATUS AND THAT'S IN FACT
WHAT GREENPEACE CONCLUDED AS
WELL THAT WE NEED TO PROCEED
WITH THIS IN A PRECAUTIONARY
WAY BUT UHM, NOT TO BAN IT
ALTOGETHER.
THE APPLICATION OF THE
PRECAUTIONARY PRINCIPLE AS YOU
SAY HAS MANY DIFFERENT
INTERPRETATIONS FOR MANY
DIFFERENT PEOPLE BUT IF YOU
INCLUDE IN IT THE LONG-TERM
SOCIAL CONSEQUENCES AS MANY
ECOLOGISTS WRITE ABOUT IT DO
THEN HOW COULD YOU POSSIBLY
HAVE A... HOW COULD I POSSIBLY
CONVINCE YOU THAT THE LONG-TERM
CONSEQUENCES OF NANOTECHNOLOGY
FOR THE POOR WERE GOING TO BE
POSITIVE OR NEGATIVE?
AND IN FACT, IT DOESN'T HAVE
ANYTHING TO DO WITH
NANOTECHNOLOGY.
THE LONG-TERM CONSEQUENCES OF
THE LIVELIHOOD OF THE POOR HAS
TO DO WITH WHETHER WE HAVE
ROBUST DEMOCRATIC MOVEMENTS
THAT ESTABLISH TRADE UNIONS AND
SOCIAL DEMOCRATIC PARTIES AND
REDISTRIBUTIVE SYSTEMS AND
PUBLIC EDUCATION AND PUBLIC
HEALTH AND ALL THE THINGS THAT
ARE GOOD FOR THE POOR.
IF WE DO THAT THEN THE POOR
WITH HAVE ACCESS TO THE KINDS
OF TECHNOLOGY THAT WILL ALLOW
THEM TO PROVIDE FOR THEMSELVES.
IF WE DON'T DO THAT, IF THEY
DON'T HAVE DEMOCRATIC STATES AS
THEY DON'T HAVE DEMOCRATIC
STATES THROUGHOUT AFRICA NO
MATTER WHAT TECHNOLOGY WE GIVE
THEM, WHETHER IT'S A STONE AXE
OR NANOTECHNOLOGY IT'S NOT
GOING TO HELP THEM VERY MUCH.

Tim Falconer says THANK YOU,
MARGARET?

Margaret Somerville says I HAVE
ONLY A VERY BRIEF COMMENT TO
MAKE AND IT'S ACTUALLY ON
JAMES' ORIGINAL PRESENTATION.
HE TRIED TO JUSTIFY THE RISKS
OF NANOTECHNOLOGY BY SAYING
LOOK, WE CAN GET HIT BY
ASTEROIDS AND SOMETHING ELSE,
I'VE FORGOTTEN WHAT THE OTHER
THING WAS THAT YOU SAID...

James Hughes says EARTHQUAKES.

Margaret Somerville says EARTHQUAKES...

James Hughes says AND GAMMA RAY
BLASTS, TOO.

Margaret Somerville says OKAY,
RIGHT.

They both talk at once.

Margaret Somerville says OKAY,
SO WE'VE GOT ALL OF THAT.

James Hughes says WE'RE GOING TO
BE AROUND.

A green caption appears on the screen with a white light bulb. It reads, "Margaret Somerville. Bioethicist."

Margaret Somerville chuckles and says BUT THE POINT IS THAT'S NOT A
VALID COMPARISON AND YOU'VE GOT
TO BE VERY CAREFUL OF THESE
KIND OF RISK COMPARISONS.
ETHICALLY I DON'T THINK IT'S
VALID AND THE REASON IS THIS.
THAT THERE'S AN ETHICAL
DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A RISK THAT
WE FACE BY CHANCE THAT JUST
SIMPLY COMES FROM A SOURCE THAT
WE'VE GOT NO CONTROL OVER AND A
RISK THAT OTHER HUMANS HAVE
CREATED AND WE ARE SUBJECT TO
OR WE HAVE IMPOSED ON US.
WE DON'T HAVE THE SAME ETHICAL
RESPONSIBILITY FOR THOSE
NATURALLY OCCURRING RISKS THAT
WE HAVE FOR THOSE THAT WE KNOW
WE ARE CREATING OR AT RISK OF
CREATING AND THEREFORE OUR
MORAL AGENCY AND OUR MORAL
RESPONSIBILITY IS IN THE SECOND
INSTANCE AND THAT'S WHY YOU CAN
COMPARE THOSE RISKS EVEN THOUGH
THE RISKS THEMSELVES MAY BE
SIMILAR IN THEIR MAGNITUDE OR
KIND THEY DON'T COME FROM THE
SAME MORAL SOURCE AND I THINK...

James Hughes says GOVERNMENTS
HAVE NO RESPONSIBILITY TO
PREPARE FOR NATURAL DISASTERS?

Margaret Somerville says SURE
BUT THAT'S AN INTERESTING THING
BECAUSE WE ALSO HAVE A VERY
DIFFERENT RESPONSE TO AVOIDANCE
OF RISK THAN CREATION OF RISK.
THERE'S A BOOK YOU'LL PROBABLY
KNOW IT.
IT'S UHM, BY GUIDO CALABRESSI
CALLED "TRAGIC CHOICES."
AND ONE OF THE HYPOTHESES HE
PUTS IS WHY DO WE SPEND
MILLIONS LOOKING FOR SOME RICH
GUY WHO DELIBERATELY TOOK HIS
YACHT, YOU KNOW, HIS GAZILLION
DOLLAR YACHT OUT TO SEA KNOWING
THERE WAS GOING TO BE A STORM
AND YET WE DON'T PUT RAILWAY
LINES OVER ROADS AND THE COST
PER LIFE SAVED WITH THE RAILWAY
LINES ARE MINIMAL TO WHAT WE
SPEND ON THE GUY WHO'S OUT AT
SEA AND THE REASON IS THAT WHEN
WE CAN FORESEE SOMEBODY COULD
BE KILLED AND WE KNOW WHO THAT
PERSON IS WHEN WE'VE GOT AN
OVERT THREAT TO THE VALUE OF
LIFE THEN WE RESPOND TO IT IN A
WAY THAT WE DON'T WHEN THAT
THREAT IS HIDDEN AS IT IS IN A
LOT OF THESE CASES WITH NATURAL
DISASTERS SO AVOIDANCE DOESN'T
GET MY... IN A LOT OF CASES IT
SHOULD GET THE SAME RESPECT BUT
IT DOESN'T.

Tim Falconer says THANK YOU.

Watch: Margaret Somerville and James Hughes on Nanotechnology