Sunday, August 28, 2005

HYPE HYPE HYPE - gone to printers

Sorry for the break in posting but I was finishing the edit on my galleys. They are in. NANOHYPE is scheduled to be released in October. Lots of people gave me a lot of useful comment and promotional blurbs. Thanks.

I will have a handful of articles coming out soon. A response to Sen. Allen will be in ISSUES (Issues in Science and Technology)and I have a book review in PUS (Public Understanding of Science. I have articles under consideration at NLBJ (Nanotechnology Law and Business Journal, ISSUES, and another in development for PUS (in addition to above).

I also have some book projects now HYPE (the book)is over.

I will be at EuroNanoMed in Edinburgh and will be at the Guardian presentation of preliminary findings of the UK NanoJury in September.

Finally, I turned over all the material in previous post regarding ETC's recent communiqué to a legal team in NYC who is studying their publication to determine whether they have committed defamation and libel and determining their culpability and liability.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

PREY will have to wait. Here comes PATH OF DESTRUCTION

A new film will soon be aired that examined the downside of nanobots (I am not sure there is an upside). Check it out. More posted when more is learned.

SCI FI Channel 9/24/2005 9:00 P.M. ET/PT

SCI FI Pictures presents original telefilm PATH OF DESTRUCTION. All life on earth is threatened with extinction when an industrial accident releases an aggressive and destructive strain of self-replicating nanotech 'bots into the atmosphere. A reporter and a scientist must race to stop the "death storm" that is literally devouring everything in its path. Danica McKellar (Winnie on TV's The Wonder Years), David Keith (Sabretooth, Deep Shock, Epoch, and Epoch: Evolution), and Chris Pratt (from the WB's Everwood) star.

While everyone has been wringing their hands over PREY, this crept up. We had sufficient time to produce a documentary that would have anchored nanotechnology objectively, but the wheels of government and industry could not turn fast enough to generate forward momentum to support a video project.

I will continue to fight for a documentary soon and hope to be able to find some partners, government or otherwise, interested in meeting the demands of the public's heuristics rather than merely run a glorified promotional program for commercialization. Wish me luck, I have been on this project for over two years and haven't found any interest from the community and limited interest from the documentary talent.

Monday, August 8, 2005

NANOHYPE AWARD - July 2005 - First Runner Up

Maryann Lawlor, “Small Matters” SIGNAL Magazine, July 2005,

This award was generated by Chris Dickson, a research assistant.

The next article was in line for the July 2005 Hype Award until the publication by ETC came across our desks.

Entitled “Small Matters” (found in July 2005 SIGNAL Magazine), it is deceptive from the get-go. While the technology discussed within is certainly small, the problems mentioned are anything but tiny. Well, I guess I should take a moment to clarify: the runner-up award goes, not to SIGNAL magazine for the article, but instead to Christine Peterson of the Foresight Nanotech Institute for the number of hyperbolized claims about the importance of a nanotech arms race.

First, a substantial portion of the article is dedicated to the discussion of potential military applications of nanotechnology. Not surprising considering the sort of federal R&D money that gets sent to the DoD. This is where Peterson comes into play, advocating that the US needs to sink more money into the development of military applications to maintain global dominance.

She starts by saying: “Unless you’re controlling the technology in an arms control sense, you have a situation where countries that look fairly harmless in terms of their capability can very rapidly become a major threat. This is a new world for the military.” True, it is a new world. So new in fact, that the world she describes is, by her own admission, at the earliest, 15 years away. The regulatory landscape, as well as the players involved, could change dramatically by that time.

But, Peterson is not concerned with just the risk involved. She continues. “The main message that I would have for the focus of the military is that we absolutely have got to win this race. This is like nuclear weapons. This is not one we can afford to lose. This is one we absolutely have got to win, and we’ve got to get organized about it.” For starters, perhaps an analogy to the nuclear arms race is not the smartest idea here. We’re talking about an era of history where countless nuclear warheads were produced in attempt at the same military dominance that Peterson speaks too. Oh, and let’s not forget that several warheads have been conveniently lost over the years. Perhaps if the Cold War era had not produced such immense pressure to proliferate, free-ranging nuclear weapons would not be such a concern today. I find it surprising that Ms. Peterson would expect a nanotech arms race to end differently.

Thursday, August 4, 2005

NANOHYPE AWARD for July 2005

This is the second award won by the ETC Group. Mr. Dickson and I decided the title might be enough to qualify it for the Hype Award for July.

This is only the beginning of our rant. We have been tracking ETC's citations and will report on their strategy of representation at a later date.

“NanoGeoPolitics: ETC Group Surveys the Political Landscape," ETC Group Communiqué, July/August 2005, Issues 89.

First of all, thanks for the shout out on p. 32. I've heard worse and better. But I do have a few things to say. The authors might have taken some time to ask me (in person or email) what was all about, but ETC prefers opacity and name-calling. I do have a web site but we don't do business. I decided to grab the domain before someone else did. I haven't decided what to do with it, and they might have noticed, since they were in the audience at the conference we hosted here in March, that I spoke on how "societal and ethical research" funded by the NSF might be a scam. Hardly the rhetoric of a PR agent for industry or an "ethicist" who can't be trusted. If they had read the entire posting at the EPA site they might have noticed the comments were introduced as conditionals and hardly as a recommendation for policy making. The ETC team also doesn't report the dozens of studies we included which suggest high levels of caution. Remarks like these are out of contact and close to slanderous and as published might even constitute libel.

I conclude in my EPA comment with the following and it is not edited.

“Therefore, when we hear that "We must involve the public" and "We need to include stakeholders in the process," these normative claims demand more than a public hearing or an experiment in deliberation polling.

Efforts to date to reach public or citizen stakeholders involve consensus conference and citizen juries which while useful on many levels are hardly appropriate in terms of reaching large populations and have intrinsic methodological problems as well. How participants are selected for these experiments in deliberative polling is specious as well. At 13 people a shot and 4 days each, it would take about 5.6 million of these to cover the current U.S. population.

Let’s assume only about 10 percent of the American population concerns itself with science policy. They are the ones who need to be targeted and there is no evidence the selection process for these deliberative polling experiments has been methodologically scientific for the sample population. Even if we assume only 10 percent of the entire population function as interested stakeholders in science and technology decision making that is still over a half million consensus conferences.

Professionally, I find the term (stakeholders) used as a symbolic gesture to appease people and groups who might find a “nanotechnological revolution” problematic. By claiming we want to include “all relevant stakeholders,” it seems the motivation rests with managing perception rather than empowering voices.” [Emphasis added for this blog].

This is hardly business PR.

Next, their attack on Colvin is incredibly unjustified. CBEN's work, in which she shares a major role, has been instrumental in supporting studies that are testing carbon nanotubes and fullerenes for their toxicology. While ICON remains an experiment is progress, it is unfortunate that NGOs opt out of organizations trying to chart a pathway through the morass of regulations and issues like nomenclature and characterization. Why would a bona fide NGO remove themselves from discussions of this sort?

Next, about the report. Nice cover art by Raymond Page. Bush telling some balding G8 participant why he shouldn't have invested in Saddam's Iraqi economy and then complain about the US led intervention.

On p. 5, they begin with agreeing with the president of Sudan, not on Darfur, but on his worries over commodity trade. In terms of negative impacts, we get a great line - "If you're dead on the short-term, a rosy long-term outcome loses its lustre." Nice rhetoric, but what does it mean? The next line: "The bottom line is that Africa--and the South--need not surrender to a new form of scientific imperialism but can make its own evaluation and set its own course" is worse. What is this suppose to mean? Is ETC serious that Africa should or would develop indigenous nanotechnology industries given the state of their economies, starvation, and disease, esp. AIDS??? Or are they actually suggesting that Africa be left behind when the developed world moves ahead with commercialization and industrialization?

We especially enjoy the autoeroticism on p. 12 where they link their call for a moratorium to current efforts by government agencies to consider various regulatory options. There is a major misclaim here that there is any relationship between ETC's moratorium and action when the moratorium was never considered viable by anyone other than ETC. The motive for regulation is liability and a touch of altruism.

We have efforts by industrial organizations and government agencies moving ahead. In the US, the FDA, EPA, OSHA, etc. have all begun to evaluate studies and consider different approaches. Their review of regulatory options falters when they do not offer a real "practical" alternative. The NRDC recommendation against the voluntary pilot programs assumes all nanoparticles involve exposure. Not true. It also assumes all nanoparticles are functionalized. Also, not true. Finally, the time scales involved with TSCA approval would actually stymie regulation and revert to a de facto moratorium. Oh, I get it!!!

Now to their EARLY WARNING SYSTEM which is neither "early" nor a "system", and the only warning we can deduce must be "Why didn’t we adopt a moratorium like ETC wanted us to?"

ICENT oversees technology development, yet their earlier criticism of EPA and so forth was the lack of enforcement authority. Cross apply those comments here. Their timeline has negotiations "unlikely to get underway until 2015 or later." This is from the same group that complains nanotechnology is already upon us. Next they want ICENT to "run 10-20 years ahead of the likely introduction/commercialization of significant new technologies." First, we are talking about the UN. Second, there is not explanation about how this is done? Box 4 is a joke. AND why is the ICJ in charge of all this? This is a treaty and an organization set up to fail. Of course, this would lead to something like, oh yeah, ETC's moratorium. This is one of the textbook examples of a straw person argument and it's circular as well.

Good news -- there is a catalogue of regulatory agencies and organizations in this report that is useful for the beginner researching the ins and outs of tech-regulation.

However, we once again have selecting reporting, broad overclaims, and the inevitable straw person to validate their moratorium. This is expected from undergraduates and bad intercollegiate debaters. More examples of hyperbole and wrongful citation will be in my upcoming book. We are currently vetting DOWN ON THE FARM.