It Cuts Both Ways: American Majority Deems Nanotechnology Immoral
February 23, 2008 1:57 AM
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A one thousand-year-old history lesson awaits those who would deem the cutting edge wicked
Damascus steel was forged using a process of carbon doping iron in a smelting and quenching process. This steel became famous almost a thousand years ago; it was said a Damascus sword would cut through falling silk, a rock, and then another piece of silk while still keeping its razor sharp edge.
The ability to make the Damascus steel was lost with the ages. Blademasters would often take the secret of the forging process to the grave rather than reveal its mysteries. Many were persecuted as heretics, others heralded as deities.
A study by a University of Wisconsin-Madison revealed that
more than 70% of 1,015 surveyed Americans deem nanotechnology morally repulsive
. Professor Dietram Scheufele attributes this repugnance for technology to American reliance on religion.
It's easy to say that perhaps the 1,000 Americans surveyed are just not that bright. Scheufele disagrees, stating, "They are rejecting it based on religious beliefs. The issue isn't about informing these people. They are informed."
Scheufele believes that Americans who disprove of nanotechnology do not want humans "playing God." That is, man manipulating structures of one nanometer, one billionth of a meter, is akin to God manipulating the forces of the universe.
In 2006 German researcher Peter Paufler discovered (with the aid of a sub-nanotechnology, the electron microscope) that a four hundred-year-old Damascus steel sword
gained its incredible properties from carbon nanotube structures within the blade's edge
. Fifteen years earlier NEC created the world's first synthetic nanotube. One year later it was awarded the patent for one of the sharpest materials on earth,
a plasma polished carbon nanotube blade
Science has always bordered on the fence of terrifying and mysterious. Civilization lost the secrets of Damascus steel making when then modern thinkers deemed it a practice of
deus ex hominis.
Attempting to describe the morality of natural phenomena leads to an exercise in natural fallacy. Not once, in the history of mankind, has science ever been proven immoral -- and conversely -- nor has it ever been proven moral either.
Will society deitize nano-researchers as modern day Damascus blademasters, or will it learn to look beyond the meta-ethics of natural phenomena for a change?
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2/24/2008 9:10:51 PM
> "Basic math is not doing arithmetics in one's head."
Sorry, but memorization of the basic multiplication tables is a critical math skill....which explains why every elementary school I know still teaches it. A teacher cannot easily teach what they do not know.
> "There's this thing called the bar-code reader. There is also this other thing called the relational database"
I guess you don't travel much. Passengers quite often change tickets, flight destinations, or even get entirely new tickets at the counter (via purchase, or for deadheading airline personnel who receive free ones). Also, there are also literally thousands of non-passenger related functions which require airline personnel to direct resources to particular airports.
Finally, even if true, your argument itself is invalid. Passengers quite often have questions for airline personnel which can be answered simply by knowing the destination. If an employee can answer that question just by seeing the code LAX or IUD, that's far faster than having to find a terminal, type in a lengthy ticket number, then wait for a result.
> "Disparate impact is in general enough to prove discrimination."
Oops -- this isn't correct. According to the 1991 Civil Rights Act, adverse impact is only illegal if the employer cannot show the criteria is "job related for the position in question and consistent with business necessity".
Furthermore, you're a little confused on proving disparate impact. You can't simply argue "blacks do poorer in school, therefore this is harder for them". You have to show statistical proof that blacks (or some other protected group) has actually been adversely impacted. In this case, that this criteria has caused them to actually be fired at a substantially higher rate than the general workforce.
"What would I do? I'd shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders." -- Michael Dell, after being asked what to do with Apple Computer in 1997
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