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  •                                  NETFUTURE
                        Technology and Human Responsibility
    Issue #145                                                    May 20, 2003
                     A Publication of The Nature Institute
               Editor:  Stephen L. Talbott (stevet@netfuture.org)
                      On the Web: http://www.netfuture.org/
         You may redistribute this newsletter for noncommercial purposes.
    Can we take responsibility for technology, or must we sleepwalk
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    Editor's Note
    Quotes and Provocations
       Of Factory Farms and the Master Race
       Monkeys and Computer Hygiene
       Is There a Gene for Famine Relief?
    Tech Knowledge Revue (Langdon Winner)
       Science policy and the push for nanotechnology
    Announcements and Resources
       Technosapiens Conference
    About this newsletter
                                  EDITOR'S NOTE
    On April 9, NetFuture columnist Langdon Winner testified before the
    congressional Committee on Science in Washington, D.C.  He had been asked
    to speak about nanotechnology and science policy.  We present the abridged
    text of his testimony below.
    A crucial part of Langdon's testimony was a recommendation for the
    formation of citizen advisory panels of the sort the Loka Institute
    (http://www.loka.org) has so effectively advocated in recent years.  On
    May 9 Langdon sent me this update:
       Well, much to everybody's surprise, my modest proposal to Congress --
       to institute citizens panels as one way to assess the societal and
       ethical dimensions of nanotechnology -- actually made it into the
       nanotech bill that passed the House of Representatives last Wednesday.
       If the present language about citizens panels in H.R. 766 survives the
       rest of the legislative process, it would be a small but nonetheless
       important step toward democratizing science and technology policy-
       making in the U.S.
    The House bill authorizes $2.36 billion over three years for
    nanotechnology research and development -- this at a time of extreme
    budget stress.  Nanotechnology, like microelectronics, biotechnology, and
    networked computing in previous decades, is seen as the next big thing
    and, in the childish language of American politicians, "It is imperative
    that in the race, the U.S. must be first across the finish line" (Rep.
    Mike Honda, D-CA).  According to another congressman, Nick Smith (R-MI),
    nanotechnology will provide us with "new and exciting products that will
    improve our lives in many ways".  (Didn't he steal that line from
    somewhere?  An old asbestos commercial, maybe?)
    The House committee's news release offers no cautionary word whatever.
    For that, you will have to read Langdon's testimony.
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