IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - Spring 2014 - 11

an organization whose origins date back to the training of radio technicians in the 1930s. Dr. Khan has
assembled a book intended to be used as a teaching
resource, primarily in undergraduate courses dealing
with the ethical and social aspects of nanotechnology.
Choosing selections for a book of this kind is like
making out an invitation list to a dinner party. You
should pick guests not only for their individual wit and
charm, but for how they will interact with the other
guests. The ideal dinner party has a few stars who lead
the conversations, as well as ordinary Joes and Janes
who can be counted on to be polite and not break any
furniture. Dr. Khan's dinner party has a wide variety
of guests: one or two standouts, several workmanlike
contributions with useful information, and more than a
few oddballs. The theme of nanotechnology is adhered
to intermittently, at best. So first, the standouts.
Perhaps the most useful chapter from an instructor's
perspective is the one by Deb Newberry, who heads
something called the Nanoscience Program at Dakota
County Technical College in Rosemount, Minnesota.
Rosemount is not exactly a hotbed of nanotechnology
research, but Ms. Newberry has assembled a concise,
clear, and well-footnoted introduction to the field of
nanotechnology products and the ecology of their
effects. Unfortunately, it is only twenty pages long,
including references and additional resources.
Dr. Khan's own introductory chapter also belongs
in the category of standout. He gives good definitions
of the field, provides many well-illustrated examples,
and includes about thirty pages of scenarios and case
studies involving nanotechnology and social or ethical
issues. Case studies are one of the book's strengths
overall, because several authors include them and
their topics vary widely. Rather unusual for a book
of this type (the hardcover is priced at about $76 on
Amazon) is a 16-page section of color plates illustrating everything from the deep iridescent blue of a butterfly's wings (color courtesy of nano-scale reflecting
structures) to a scene in the nanotech lab of Bilkent
University in Ankara, Turkey, that looks just like every
other photograph of a clean room you have ever seen.
Those are the standouts. Next I might as well go
straight on to the oddballs. Chief among these is a
chapter penned by a team of three instructors at the
National University of San Diego, California, a fortyyear-old nonprofit institution catering to non-traditional students. Their chapter puts me in mind of what
you might hear from a hyperactive child after taking
him to Six Flags - except Salinas, Smith, and Viswanathan, the authors of this chapter, are raving about
nanotechnology, not roller coasters. It is a kind of
free-association ramble: for example, in one page we
go from what "nano" means, to the Wright Brothers,
to the speed of light, to the speed of sound, to the formula for the speed of sound in terms of the modulus
IEEE TECHNOLOGY AND SOCIETY MAGAZINE

|

SPRING 2014

of elasticity and density of air. A few pages later
we come upon a couple of charts by Ray Kurzweil,
whose famed "Singularity" notion is a transhumanist prophecy that nanotechnology (along with a few
other things) will lead to computers taking over the
universe and the end of humanity as we know it. Then
we read about the San Bruno, California, gas pipeline
explosion, rendered in the form of a paragraph apparently taken verbatim from a news feed without even
such a basic detail as the date of the explosion (Wikipedia tells me it happened on Sept. 9, 2010). What has
that got to do with nanotechnology? In the words of
the authors, "A consideration remains whether potential nanotechnology for leakage detection could have
been used for more recent inspections, which could
have prevented the failure of the pipeline." That's all.
As a sample of academic writing, this mess of a
chapter is something I would hate to expose undergraduates to, because it would set such a bad example. It is
rife with unsupported assertions, non sequiturs, irrelevant details, and other violations of good academic
practice. On the other hand, it is entertaining to read, in
a kind of National Enquirer way, and I must admit that
in the throes of their wilder speculations, the authors hit
at least one prophetic nail right on the head. In describing the future uses of 3-D printing, which involves
small but not necessarily nano-scale structures, they
speculate that an unethical person might use such technology to fabricate a working pistol, complete with bullets. Less than a month before writing this review, but
a couple of years after the book was probably written,
I posted in my engineering-ethics blog an item describing how one Cody Wilson, a law student at the University of Texas at Austin, recently constructed and fired a
plastic pistol made largely with the use of a 3-D printer.
Mr. Wilson gained not only international media attention for his stunt, but a letter from the U.S. government
warning him not to do it again. So whatever the authors
of this chapter lack in terms of standard academic style,
they partly make up for in terms of imagination, prognosticatory foresight, and flash.
The Joe-and-Jane guests to this party include a
philosopher, who looks at the question of nano-ethics from every side and concludes finally that there's
nothing that special about nanotechnology to deserve
all the ethics-professionals' attention except for the
large amount of money thrown at the problem; a
chapter comparing Socrates and Confucius as moral
teachers; a rather defensive screed by an evangelical Christian commenting on the distinctiveness of
Christian ethics while saying virtually nothing about
nanotechnology; some imaginary futurist scenarios
involving nanotechnology and the triumph of different political viewpoints; and a review of studies about
the public perception of nanotechnology. The book is
rounded out with a grab-bag of other chapters, whose
|

11



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - Spring 2014

IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - Spring 2014 - Cover1
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - Spring 2014 - Cover2
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - Spring 2014 - 1
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - Spring 2014 - 2
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - Spring 2014 - 3
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - Spring 2014 - 4
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - Spring 2014 - 5
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - Spring 2014 - 6
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - Spring 2014 - 7
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - Spring 2014 - 8
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - Spring 2014 - 9
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - Spring 2014 - 10
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - Spring 2014 - 11
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - Spring 2014 - 12
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - Spring 2014 - 13
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - Spring 2014 - 14
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - Spring 2014 - 15
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - Spring 2014 - 16
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - Spring 2014 - 17
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - Spring 2014 - 18
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - Spring 2014 - 19
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - Spring 2014 - 20
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - Spring 2014 - 21
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - Spring 2014 - 22
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - Spring 2014 - 23
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - Spring 2014 - 24
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - Spring 2014 - 25
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - Spring 2014 - 26
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - Spring 2014 - 27
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - Spring 2014 - 28
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - Spring 2014 - 29
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - Spring 2014 - 30
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - Spring 2014 - 31
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - Spring 2014 - 32
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - Spring 2014 - 33
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - Spring 2014 - 34
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - Spring 2014 - 35
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - Spring 2014 - 36
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - Spring 2014 - 37
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - Spring 2014 - 38
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - Spring 2014 - 39
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - Spring 2014 - 40
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - Spring 2014 - 41
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - Spring 2014 - 42
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - Spring 2014 - 43
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - Spring 2014 - 44
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - Spring 2014 - 45
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - Spring 2014 - 46
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - Spring 2014 - 47
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - Spring 2014 - 48
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - Spring 2014 - 49
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - Spring 2014 - 50
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - Spring 2014 - 51
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - Spring 2014 - 52
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - Spring 2014 - 53
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - Spring 2014 - 54
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - Spring 2014 - 55
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - Spring 2014 - 56
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - Spring 2014 - 57
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - Spring 2014 - 58
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - Spring 2014 - 59
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - Spring 2014 - 60
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - Spring 2014 - 61
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - Spring 2014 - 62
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - Spring 2014 - 63
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - Spring 2014 - 64
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - Spring 2014 - 65
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - Spring 2014 - 66
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - Spring 2014 - 67
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - Spring 2014 - 68
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - Spring 2014 - 69
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - Spring 2014 - 70
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - Spring 2014 - 71
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - Spring 2014 - 72
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - Spring 2014 - 73
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - Spring 2014 - 74
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - Spring 2014 - 75
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - Spring 2014 - 76
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - Spring 2014 - 77
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - Spring 2014 - 78
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - Spring 2014 - 79
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - Spring 2014 - 80
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - Spring 2014 - Cover3
IEEE Technology and Society Magazine - Spring 2014 - Cover4
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_march2023
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_december2022
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_september2022
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_june2022
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_march2022
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_december2021
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_september2021
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_june2021
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_march2021
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_december2020
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_september2020
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_june2020
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_march2020
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_december2019
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_september2019
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_june2019
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_march2019
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_december2018
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_september2018
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_june2018
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_march2018
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_winter2017
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_fall2017
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_summer2017
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_spring2017
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_winter2016
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_fall2016
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_summer2016
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_spring2016
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_winter2015
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_fall2015
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_summer2015
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_spring2015
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_winter2014
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_fall2014
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_summer2014
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_spring2014
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_winter2013
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_fall2013
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_summer2013
https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/ieee/technologysociety_spring2013
https://www.nxtbookmedia.com