REVIEW OF THE POWER OF SMALL (http://powerofsmall.org/)
I watched every minute of these.
Overall, these three pieces do not qualify as documentaries in the popular understanding of the term. It has generally a mediocre production value. One of its primary drawbacks is the implicit assumption that the audience understands what nanotechnology is. The moderator, John Hockenberry, is correct these are hypothetical and that is not what we need at this point in time.
First, the Fred Friendly seminar model is a good one for talking heads in a panel format. I am challenging whether it was appropriate for what needed to be done.
Second, it is not a documentary in the tradition of Flaherty or Grierson’s “creative treatment of actuality”; it is an orchestrated interview (a seminar) in the mode of Sunday morning news shows. Put simply, it is not aesthetically sufficient given to low level of perception and understanding associated with all things nano. The excitement of what is “nano” is missing from this set of interviews.Hypothetical applications have dominated the debate on applied nanoscience for far too long. What we need to do is introduce the technology and not focus on applications. This is a “horse before the cart” problem. A case can be made to do both simultaneously but these three pieces do not fit the bill. I speak in public a lot and the questions remain rudimentary and about the technology per se. Focusing on applications this early in the game reminds me of the claims about virtual reality a few decades ago.
WATCHING ME, WATCHING YOU.
The opening scenario about an Alzheimer patient and a tracking device and its impact on privacy is reasonably interesting but to the audience without an understanding of nanoscience and nanotechnology it hardly scratches the surface of current applications. In addition, there is little distinction about how nanoscience will sufficiently increase the privacy concerns given microchips are already available. Nano is a piece of technology with a lot of functionality. As George Whitesides comments, nanoscience only makes it smaller. The impact on personal safety from predators was a clear example of irrelevancies introduced into the discussion. The discussion of data leakage was interesting but irrelevant. The terrorism attack on a rail line scenario bespeaks the CCTV trend in
Living to 150? Museum exhibits about medicine, communication, energy, health & safety…? There is a discussion of insurance, privacy, and the interface with biotechnology.
What follows is a discussion on sensor technology and quantities of information. This module seems more relevant than the one reviewed above since the digital doctor is not unlikely.
There is some indication developments in nanoscience supported sensing technology might expose us to a lot more false positive diagnoses due to the excessive data but the interview degenerates into a discussion on medical ethics far from nanoscience. Iatrogenic issues presumably aggravated by nanoscience are mentioned but totally undeveloped without a single illustration. Then the discussion reverts to pilots with sensors that might detect alcohol and whether this level of monitoring is justified.Next we get Oscar and Parkinson’s treatment. We learn that technology may already exist. Oops! Where’s the nano?
Then we move to genetic switches that affect aging. We don’t need nano to engage in genetic engineering. Most of the panel seems fine with death. That’s good. Peter Singer does raise the important issues of the rich-poor gap when it comes to technological applications. Singer sees an ethical dilemma that might be helped by nanoscience. “Shouldn’t we just do it and face those problems?” asked Michael Roukes. This is an interesting question that deserved to be much better vetted. I was glad to hear him move back to this remark.
Eventually, the team got to intergenerational conflict and that does not get vetted as well.
Life prolongation may be advanced substantially by nanotechnology, but there was very little here linking the two beyond pure speculation.
CLEAN, GREEN AND UNSEEN
Finally, we get a discussion about the real technology. We begin with solar panel technology. Jeff Grossman, Dan Kammen, and Clayton Teague actually offered a clear description of the technology and its relationship to nanoscience. Then we return to counterfactuals.
Richard Denison & Andrew Maynard bring us back to Earth when they begin to discuss shortcomings in regulations. What follows is a scenario involving Admiral Chicken and sensing technology to protect consumers from exposure to salmonella. Andrew Maynard keeps the discussion real by drawing the discussion back to nano-engineering. The discussion moves toward health-safety. Teague returns to present regulatory responses but is challenged again and again by
The final scenario deals with a company dumping toxic wastes. Dan Kammen indicated some life cycle concerns when nanoparticles are released into an environment which is a lot more troubling than when nanoparticles are embedded in a polymer matrix. Kulinowski take zero valent ion to rust admitting we need to know a lot more. She admits nanorust might be problematic with Maynard and
Next the discussion moves to sunscreens and cosmetics. I have written enough on sunscreens in the next issues of the Journal of Nanoparticle Research. Kulinowski and Maynard offer guarded remarks. Kulinowski adds the industry is guarding research.
The debate on cosmetics is still ongoing and rightly so.
There is an animated discussion on labeling making this video of the three worth watching.
We still need a documentary that exposes the technology written and produced in a registry that is appropriate for public consumption.