Here’s another brief report on the Nottingham nanotechnology debate. It’s from Jack Stilgoe, from the thinktank Demos, who was the non-scientist on the panel. He frames the debate in rather nationalistic terms. Is this really just a clash between the habitual rainsoaked pessimism of the British, and sunny American optimism and its associated can-do attitude?
2 thoughts on “A view from the Greenhouse”
Thanks for the link. Of course my caricature doesn’t represent the view of Americans and Brits about nano. I think it’s fair to say that America does breed some more radical visions of new technology. And the Americans that were invited over were invited to express this vision, which is in no way followed by most US scientists. I certainly wouldn’t say that radical nano was optimistic and pragmatic nano was pessimistic. One of the points of public engagement is to encourage the idea that there are countless futures, with good bits and bad bits. An incremental, focussed, engaged nanotechnology can be much more optimistic than one that ignores the people (scientists, publics, users) and seeks to pursue a dramatic vision in a contextual vacuum.
Of course, neither of us was being entirely serious. But maybe there is a serious point in here nonetheless. Josh and David weren’t invited because they were Americans, they were invited because Philip thought they were the people who were best able to present the molecular manufacturing case (and I think they turned out to be excellent choices). But the question remains – they don’t really have any UK-based counterparts. Why does the molecular manufacturing community seem to have many fewer members in the UK than it does in the USA? I don’t think it’s fair to say that the dramatic vision of molecular manufacturing is pursued in a contextual vacuum – I think there is quite a well-developed world view that underlies the molecular manufacturing vision. Is there something about that world-view that makes it more attractive in one country than another? Is this even an interesting question from your point of view?
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