Nanotechnology: The Social and Ethical Issues

  • January 27, 2009
  • By Ronald Sandler

Nanotechnology has tremendous potential to contribute to human flourishing in socially just and environmentally sustainable ways. However, nanotechnology is unlikely to realize its full potential unless its associated social and ethical issues are adequately attended. The purpose of this report is to raise the salience of social and ethical issues within ongoing responsible development discourses and efforts by:

  • identifying the crucial roles of ethics in the responsible development of technology;
  • dispelling common misconceptions about the social and ethical issues associated with emerging nanotechnologies;
  • providing a typology of the social and ethical issues associated with emerging nanotechnologies and identifying several specific issues within each type; and
  • emphasizing how social and ethical issues intersect with governmental functions and responsibilities.

Pew is no longer active in this line of work, but for more information, visit the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies on