The Societal Implications of Nanotechnology The research for this project is funded by a grant to Elizabeth Keating from Information Technology Services (ITS) at the University of Texas at Austin. Modules created by Elaine Chun with invaluable assistance, support, and comments from Pamela Brochhausen, Wai Fong Chiang, Takao Inoue, Leslie Jarmon, Elizabeth Keating, Brian Lewis, Melissa Moon, Honoria Starbuck, and Chiho Sunakawa.
Defining ‘Nanotechnology’ Return to Table of Contents The research for this project is funded by a grant to Elizabeth Keating from Information Technology Services (ITS) at the University of Texas at Austin. Modules created by Elaine Chun.
The 'nano' in 'nanotechnology' is often thought of as a shortened form of 'nanometer‘, which is one billionth (10 -9 ) of a meter. The diameter of one human hair is about 10,000 to 80,000 nanometers.
A picture of nanofibrils shown with a human hair for reference (Espin Technologies, Inc.) IMAGE SOURCE: http://www.sigmaaldrich.com/Area_of_Interest/Chemistry/Materials_Science/Nanomaterials/Tutorial/Nanotechnology.html
TECHNOLOGY : (from the American Heritage Dictionary, 4th Edition , 2000)
1 a. The application of science, especially to industrial or commercial objectives.
b. The scientific method and material used to achieve a commercial or industrial objective.
2. Electronic or digital products and systems considered as a group: a store specializing in office technology.
3. Anthropology . The body of knowledge available to a society that is of use in fashioning implements, practicing manual arts and skills, and extracting or collecting materials.
How does it differ from 'science'?
While the notion of 'science' has often been contrasted with that of 'technology'--the first referring to the building of theory and the second referring to the application of this theory--such a distinction may be blurred in the case of nanoscience and nanotechnology.
Many people understand nanotechnology to be any kind of technology that deals with particles measured in nanometers. This broad definition would include, among other things, thin films, fine particles, chemical synthesis, and advanced microlithography. Scientists, however, tend to find this definition too broad and prefer to call this technology 'nano-scale technology' in contradistinction to '(molecular) nanotechnology'. On the other hand, those in the marketing sector may refer to technology fitting under this broad definition as 'nanotechnology' given its marketing appeal.
things measured in nanometers technology ‘ nanotechnology’ (nanoscale technology) all things nano
Scientists and engineers who are centrally involved in developing this technology sometimes prefer a narrow definition, which they also refer to as ‘molecular nanotechnology’ (MNT). This technology specifically involves manipulating individual atoms and molecules to build structures with complex atomic specifications . Nanotechnology of this sort is still at its infant stages, but products that have been developed include materials that ‘self-heal’ or are relatively lightweight and strong, nano-devices that deliver drugs to the human body, and nano-materials that fuse with human tissue or bone.
things measured in nanometers technology ‘ (molecular) nanotechnology’ all things nano
Meaning as Connotation: A Cultural Perspective
Beyond its formal definition—its denotation—it is important to also consider the social meanings of the term—its connotations. Connotations, of course, are culture-specific, and here we discuss only a limited set of social meanings. Perhaps one of the most salient connotations relates to the concept of ‘time.’ As a relatively new technology, most people understand that, until recently, nanotechnology did not exist.
technology Things measured in nano units “ONCE UPON A TIME”
Many believe that the technology will continue to develop, yet both the specific prospects and dangers of nanotechnology remain a mystery. While some have great hopes for what this technology can achieve for our society and the world, others remain either skeptical or fearful of what it can do.
technology Things measured in nano units “FUTURE” ??? Safety Clean water, air World peace Longer and healthier lives End of disease, poverty Modernity ??? Fear Immorality Corporate control Loss of spirituality Loss of privacy Dystopia Meaning as Connotation: A Cultural Perspective
What’s Out There? Nano Products Return to Table of Contents The research for this project is funded by a grant to Elizabeth Keating from Information Technology Services (ITS) at the University of Texas at Austin. Modules created by Elaine Chun.
“ This flash memory unit boasts a fat 8 gigabytes of memory, room for loads of songs, photos and PowerPoint presentations.” Business Week
OLED digital camera
“ Organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs) are much brighter than the liquid crystals (LCDs) used in many of today's flat-screen TVs and computer monitors. They boast a wider viewing angle than LCDs, which must be viewed head-on. OLEDs don't require backlighting as LCDs do, reducing power consumption.” Forbes 2003
“ There are also a tremendous amount of . . . electronic applications out there that are effecting our every day lives. Just take a trip to your local electronics mega-store and you will see a multitude of these including: faster and more powerful computers, palm pilots (blackberries), flash drives, digital cameras and displays, cell phones, LCDs, LEDs, MP3’s, electronic ink displays, thin film batteries, and flexible electronics to name a few. All of these applications are possible and affordable due to the ability to work effectively and efficiently at the nano-scale.” National Nanotechnology Infrastructure Network
“ Made with about seven pounds of nanocomposite material, the cargo bed Hummer's H2 SUT is lighter and more scratch proof than older plastics. Besides the weight advantage, GM says the nanocomposite parts don't change shape when exposed to temperature changes.” Business Week
“ An exterior view shows U.S. architect Richard Meier's Jubilee Church, located in the Tor Tre Teste area of Rome, in this 2003 file photo. It is made of self-cleaning concrete that helps keep the surface shiny white.” The Associated Press, July 2005
“ The Nanotube Power and VS Nanotube Drive lightweight, oversized-head models are made out of high modulus graphite with carbon nanotubes. . . One hundred times stronger than steel, yet one-sixth the weight, carbon nanotubes increase the rigidity of the stabilizers on each side of the racket's sweet spot. . . VS Nanotube rackets are five times more rigid than current carbon rackets and pack significantly more power.” Business Week
“ Wilson Double Core tennis balls, with. . . InMat's Air D-Fense nanocomposite product inside, remain playable for four weeks. . . . InMat makes it harder for the air to escape by coating the ball's inner core with 20 microns thick of layered sheets of clay polymer nanocomposites--each 1 nanometer thin.” Business Week
NanoDynamics golf ball
“ This ball is engineered with nanoparticles to spin less, which should mean less slices and hooks. The bad news? Lower spin could mean shorter drives.” Business Week
“ In the clothing world, we have pants that repel water and won’t stain shirts and shoe inserts that keep you cool in the summer and warm in the winter, and nano socks that don’t “stink” due to the inclusion of nanotech materials (nanosized sliver particles).” National Nanotechnology Infrastructure Network
Breathable waterproof ski jacket
“ Nanotechnology makes the two-layer laminate windproof, waterproof, breathable and grime resistant--great for those bums who don't get around to washing their jackets until after the season. The result: a jacket with a long, functional life superior to coated jackets and competitive with Gore-Tex products.” Forbes 2003
Wrinkle-resistant, stain-repellent threads
“ Nano-Tex researchers attached molecular structures to cotton fibers, forming a barrier that causes liquids and stains to bead up on the surface and prevent absorption. Treated fabrics are not only wrinkle-proof but repel stains from perennial offenders like soda, coffee, wine, mayonnaise and syrup.” Forbes 2003
Thread developed for military but may soon be used by clothing companies.
“ L’Oreal's Plenitude line of cosmetics contains nanocapsules, which help active ingredients get to the skin's deeper layers. The nanocapsules are also in L'Oreal's higher-end brands such as Lancome.” Small Times, March 2004
“ Novasome” capsules can deeply penetrate skin and don't degrade while on the shelf
“ Its main ingredient is Z-COTE, a substance made with nanotechnology . . . Nano-dispersed zinc oxide. . . . Zinc oxide provides broad-spectrum protection against UVA and UVB rays, but its characteristic white pasty goop often leaves sunbathers and lifeguards feeling like they're wearing clown makeup. The nanotechnology in Z-Cote produces a high-purity nanocrystalline zinc oxide, which allows the sunscreen to go on clear.” Forbes 2003
Glare-reducing and fog-resistant coatings for eyeglasses and windshields
“ To give the glasses antireflection and scratch-resistance functionality, Nanofilm deposits coating layers of 150 nanometers and 20 microns thick, respectively. Then it uses chemical self-assembly to form a polymer coating, three to ten nanometers thin, on the outer layer of the antireflective lenses. This not only seals and repels grime and skin oils but also makes the lenses more responsive.“ Forbes 2003
High-Performance Ski Wax
“ Nanowax produces a hard, fast-gliding surface. The ultrathin coating lasts much longer than conventional waxing systems, while leaving the base free of buildup. And here's the "intelligent" part: Cerax Nanowax hardens as temperatures drop, adapting to the ski bases and snow crystals, so you can reach top speed from the first few feet on.” Forbes 2003
Expanding ability to characterize genetic makeup will revolutionize the specificity of diagnostics and therapeutics
Nanodevices can make gene/DNA sequencing more efficient
‘ Gene gun’ that uses nanoparticles to deliver genetic material to target cells
DNA microchip arrays using advances for IC industry
Semiconductor nanocrystals as fluorescent biological labels
Effective and less expensive health care using remote and in-vivo devices
New formulations and routes for drug delivery, optimal drug usage
“ Liposomes. . . were developed to deliver anticancer therapeutics directly at tumors. Specifically, liposomal doxorubicin is being used to treat certain forms of cancer, while liposomal amphotericin B treats fungal infections often associated with aggressive anticancer treatments.”
“ Recently, a nanoparticulate formulation of the well-known anticancer compound taxol was submitted to the FDA as a new treatment for advanced-stage breast cancer.”
ADAPTED FROM: “Nanotechnology,” M. Meyyappan, Director, Center for Nanotechnology, NASA Ames Research Center
More durable, rejection-resistant artificial tissues, muscles, bone
E.g. bionic eye, ear...: “synthetic orthopedic implants, like screws and plates, fabricated from nano-size particles of calcium and phosphate -- the materials that make up human bone. The material bonds with the natural bone and gradually becomes a part of it.”
Sensors for early detection and prevention (“quantum dots”: “bits of semiconductor material a few thousand atoms wide, that will detect a variety of cancers and, perhaps, someday serve as “smart bombs” to destroy tumor cells”)
STD prevention: “VivaGel is a topical microbicide gel product that has been developed for women as a preventative against the sexual transmission of HIV. It is also active in animal studies for the prevention of other sexually transmitted diseases including genital herpes and chlamydia.” (PR Newswire US, January 25, 2005)
IN THE WORKS : thin films to measure blood-sugar levels
diabetic insulin biocapsules
pharmaceuticals utilizing “bucky ball” technology to selectively deliver drugs
cancer therapies using targeted radioactive biocapsules. National Nanotechnology Infrastructure Network
(“smart bombs” that destroy tumor cells), infections, clogged arteries, old age.
ADAPTED FROM: “Nanotechnology,” M. Meyyappan, Director, Center for Nanotechnology, NASA Ames Research Center
“ Tiny channels in a card filter white from red blood cells. When the card is popped into the analysing machine, it can come up with a white-cell count in 10 to 15 minutes. This could be important for HIV/Aids treatment.” Business Week
Bandages embedded with silver nanoparticles
Drug delivery via a patch
Thin films on implantations into the human body (for example screws, joints, and stents) allowing devices to last longer
Respiration monitors that are many times more sensitive
Man-made skin for skin graft applications. National Nanotechnology Infrastructure Network
“ NanoBreeze Air Purifier destroys all types of airborne contaminants. It attacks them on a molecular level using patented nanotechnology. ”
GE Power Turbine
“ Turbines are the workhorses of the digital age, providing both the juice to run our PCs, as well as the push to propel our jet planes. GE is exploring how nanotechnology can help to ruggedize the turbine blades used to spin these power plants. Using ceramics enriched with nanoscale particles, GE hopes to build more powerful turbines that operate at higher temperatures.” Business Week
Self-replicating molecular assemblers: Devices that could, on their own, arrange atoms and molecules in precise ways for a specific purpose,” thus allowing us to “build almost anything that the laws of nature allow to exist.”
“ Mechanical surgeons” that could travel to trouble spots inside the body
“ Fresh food – ‘genuine meat, grain, vegetables, and so forth’ -- could be produced in the home.”
“ Suits made with nanotechnology could be used for virtual reality, simulating ‘most of the sights and sensations of an entire environment.’”
“ And nanotechnology could make some form of telepathy as possible as telephony.”
“ Nanomachines could precisely adjust your hair and skin color to your liking”
“ Wrinkles could be smoothed and excess fat removed”
“ Mold the face and body to whatever shape might be desired”
“ Respirocyte,” an artificial red blood cell capable of delivering oxygen hundreds of times more efficiently than real red blood cells, would be invaluable in the treatment of various respiratory and cardiovascular disorders, or as a substitute for real blood during transfusions. But they would also have “a variety of sports, veterinary, battlefield and other applications”; they could be used to boost a mountain climber's endurance, to help a diver hold his breath for hours, or to enable a soldier to fight harder.
Nanomachines that repair cells and fix damaged DNA; to remove toxins, clean out cholesterol, and eliminate scar tissue; to destroy cancer cells and fight countless diseases
“ A person might intentionally put himself into stasis, perhaps to “time travel” dreamlessly into the future, or to wait out a centuries-long interstellar voyage.”
“ Mind-control systems, invisible and mobile eavesdropping devices, or unimaginably horrific tools of torture”
The Perfect Fridge? Some products combine different kinds of nanotechnology, such as the Samsung Nano SilverSeal refrigerator “ Samsung has rolled out a line of fridges and washing machines that use nanocoatings to prevent nasty bugs from growing. Specks of silver, as small as one nanometer across, are used to coat surfaces. These nanoparticles are so electrically active that they inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria and fungs. In its fridge, Samsung used the nanosilver in the deodorizer unit and water dispenser to sanitize the air and water that passes over them.” Business Week
Timeline of Nano Events Return to Table of Contents The research for this project is funded by a grant to Elizabeth Keating from Information Technology Services (ITS) at the University of Texas at Austin. Modules created by Elaine Chun.
1959 : Richard Feynman gives his famous paper on nanotechnology “There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom” on December 29th at the annual meeting of the American Physical Society at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech).
1981 : Eric Drexler publishes the first journal article on molecular nanotechnology: "Molecular engineering: An approach to the development of general capabilities for molecular manipulation.“
1986 : Eric Drexler writes Engines of Creation , which describes his his goal of molecular manufacturing, the manufacture of nanoscale devices and artefacts capable of sophisticated operations.
1996 : Robert F. Curl Jr. and Richard E. Smalley, both of Rice University in Houston, Texas and Harold W. Kroto of the University of Sussex in England, win the 1996 Nobel Prize for Chemistry for their discovery of buckminsterfullerene , the scientific name for buckyballs .
2002 : The US Army awards a five-year contract to MIT to develop the US Army Institute of Soldier Nanotechnologies, a research unit devoted to developing military applications for nanotechnology.
Routine use of new composites in Aerospace, automotive (risk-averse industries)
Many other things we haven’t even thought of yet
SOURCE: “Nanotechnology: Opportunities and Challenges”, M. Meyyappan, Director, Center for Nanotechnology, NASA Ames Research Center
Popular Culture Return to Table of Contents The research for this project is funded by a grant to Elizabeth Keating from Information Technology Services (ITS) at the University of Texas at Austin. Modules created by Elaine Chun.
Talking about Nano While many of the specific consequences of nanotechnology are still unknown, talk about nanotechnology is quickly circulating, not only among scientists and engineers but also within cultural realms, such as the media and popular arts.
Recent works of popular culture have made reference to nanotechnology, including films ( The Hulk, The Tuxedo, Spider Man ), books ( Prey by Michael Crichton and Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson), television shows ( Star Trek) and video games ( Metal Gear Solid ).
While some of these works have been critiqued for inaccurately portraying the risks and potential of nanotechnology, they can be credited for piquing popular interest in the topic.
Some current books have examined nanotechnology’s potential to transform everyday life from a science-based perspective. Among others:
Engines of Creation by K. Eric Drexler
Nanotechnology: Molecular Speculations on Global Abundance edited by BC Crandall
Our Molecular Future: How Nanotechnology, Robotics, Genetics, and Artificial Intelligence Will Transform Our World by Douglas Mulhall
For more works: http:// www.foresight.org/nano/Bookstore.html
Some of the ideas in these works have been critiqued as physically impossible, namely the notion of molecular manufacturing , which involves self-assembling molecular structures. According to Professor Richard Smalley of Rice University, self-replicating structures are ‘simply not possible in our world’ and speculation about them does more to hurt rather than help the public’s acceptance of nanotechnology.
It has been argued that DVDs have changed the way in which viewers appreciate film as art by allowing viewers to understand the film production process. For instance, we now have access to director’s commentaries on her stylistic choices as well as mini-documentaries that demystify the “making of” a film.
With the potential to store even more information on digital media, how else might our understanding of film, and other art forms, change? For example, consider DVDs that store footage of auditions and documentaries about actors’ role preparation as well as their scene-by-scene commentary.
What will happen when artists’ interpretations compete with those of ‘experts’ who interpret art for a living?
Nanotechnology has been used to develop new threads that reflect all light that hits it, allowing fabric to change colors. While initially developed at Massachusetts Institute Technology for soldiers’ uniforms, these threads may soon be used in the fashion world.
SOURCE: ( “Clothes That Change Color” )
How will the fashion industry be impacted with such ‘smart fabrics’ that both change colors and self-clean?
Consider how old fads gain ‘vintage’ prestige. What fashion status will given to fabrics that can become dirty or cannot change colors?
Which other accessories will become ‘retro’ and which will simply disappear?
GLASSES : Will they be replaced by corrective surgery performed by nano-robots or will they become vintage adornments on the face?
The development of internet and computer technology has increased the potential to bring the ‘private’ lives of public figures into the public eye. Nanotechnology may facilitate this process as undetectable recording devices and efficient computers contribute to the immediate dissemination of images and sounds.
To what degree should the private lives of public figures be respected?
What are some ways to regulate the use of nanotechnology to ‘smear’ reputations?
IMAGE SOURCE: Microsoft clipart
Classroom Return to Table of Contents The research for this project is funded by a grant to Elizabeth Keating from Information Technology Services (ITS) at the University of Texas at Austin. Modules created by Elaine Chun.
Classroom Structure With the increasing use of computers that efficiently and inexpensively store large amounts of information, the classic model of the public school classroom may change.
What will the role of the teacher be as students depend increasingly on information technology for knowledge transmission?
Classroom Structure: Alternative Education Paradigms
Will home-schooling and alternative education paradigms be more acceptable given the inexpensive resources accessible via computers?
What innovations might be possible to tailor learning to each individual?
IMAGE SOURCE: Microsoft clipart
Classroom Structure: New Experiences Students may be able to attend virtual classrooms with students from all over the world, using programs that not only simulate other environments but allow students to be virtually present in classrooms.
How will the classroom experience change through such advancements?
How will discipline be maintained without the direct presence of teachers to enforce rules?
What types of new language and learning practices will result from such opportunities for cross-cultural exposure?
What types of obstacles will result from the lack of shared languages and learning practices?
Curriculum: How will traditional subjects be affected? Algebra Anthropology Biology Calculus Chemistry Chinese Computer Science Dance Economics English French Geometry Japanese Journalism Latin Literature Music National History Physical Education Physics Psychology Sociology Spanish Swahili Theater Visual Arts World History
The nanotechnological “revolution” will lead to many changes in the demands of the workforce.
Social scientists believe it will provide an increasing number of career opportunities in the sciences as well as a decrease in the need for manual labor complemented by the need for intellectual labor.
In preparation for these changes, should schools place greater emphasis on the sciences? What might be some consequences for our culture?
Should science and liberal arts programs be rejoined?
To what degree should such devices be used and limited?
Michael Stravato for The New York Times Sandra Martinez, 10, uses her ID card to indicate that she is getting off her school bus in Spring, Tex. Sensors that track movements and closely monitor students’ activities will be available.
Classroom Values: Monitoring Students Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) Systems are not nanotechnological devices, but the current controversy over using electronic tracking systems provides an indication of how local communities may respond to nano-devices that similarly, though invisibly, track human bodies. “In Texas, 28,000 Students Test an Electronic Eye” By Matt Richtel [click title for full text] November 17, 2004, The New York Times SPRING, Tex. - In front of her gated apartment complex, Courtney Payne, a 9-year-old fourth grader with dark hair pulled tightly into a ponytail, exits a yellow school bus. Moments later, her movement is observed by Alan Bragg, the local police chief, standing in a windowless control room more than a mile away. Chief Bragg is not using video surveillance. Rather, he watches an icon on a computer screen. The icon marks the spot on a map where Courtney got off the bus, and, on a larger level, it represents the latest in the convergence of technology and student security. Hoping to prevent the loss of a child through kidnapping or more innocent circumstances, a few schools have begun monitoring student arrivals and departures using technology similar to that used to track livestock and pallets of retail shipments. . . . But there are critics, including some older students and privacy groups like the American Civil Liberties Union, who argue that the system is security paranoia. . . “Elementary school nixes electronic IDs” By Alorie Gilbertm Staff Writer [click title for full text ] February 17, 2005, CNET News.com An elementary school in the rural town of Sutter, Calif., has pulled the plug on a new student surveillance system after the technology came under fire by parents and privacy groups. Brittan Elementary School, located about 40 miles north of state capital Sacramento, is shutting off the high-tech student-tracking system because the company supplying it backed out of the deal, the school said Tuesday. The company, called InCom, put a kibosh on the project after some parents and a representative of the American Civil Liberties Union aired complaints at a school board meeting last week. Their protests became the subject of numerous media reports. Parents and privacy advocates were concerned that student badges containing tiny radio devices would infringe on kids' privacy--and that the radio waves could pose a health risk. . . More information on Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) Systems
What might be some obstacles to providing equal education?
What are some of the ways we can safeguard the concept of equal education for all?
At present, there is a traditional gendered division between the arts and the sciences. How might this division be embedded in cultural ideas? Will these cultural ideas change over time?
IMAGE SOURCE: Microsoft clipart Students in various environments will have greater access to educational opportunities given that tools, such as computers, are more widely affordable. Communication across various kinds of social lines, such as social class and ethnicity, will also be possible.
Community Return to Table of Contents The research for this project is funded by a grant to Elizabeth Keating from Information Technology Services (ITS) at the University of Texas at Austin. Modules created by Elaine Chun.
Will it be the case that certain public spaces will benefit more from nanotechnology because residents can afford it, resulting in a snowball effect leading to a larger class gap? Or will the benefits of nanotechnology “trickle down” to all classes?
What are some ways to increase the positive benefits of this technology to all—for example, in terms of health, security, and the military?
Upper Middle Working ? ? Some predicted that there would be a gap between the rich and poor—a “digital divide”—with the development of the Internet. Working Middle Upper Working Upper
To what degree will citizens feel protected—or vulnerable?
How will the possession of weapons by private citizens help resolve or increase conflict?
individual vs. society Sophisticated nano weapons, such as self-replicating toxins, may become both easily accessible and affordable. freedom vs. regulation conflict vs. peace
Crime: Civil Rights CIVIL RIGHTS / PRIVACY With new scientific discoveries it is not always possible to foresee problems. What are some problems you see in this picture? IMAGE SOURCE: Microsoft clipart
“ [R]esearchers from Banaras Hindu University, in Varanasi, India, and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute described a process for building large filters out of carbon nanotubes, hollow cylinders only a few nanometers across, made of carbon atoms. The team demonstrated how such fine sieves could filter bacteria and poliovirus particles out of drinking water.” (Richard Monastersky, September 10, 2004, Friday, The Dark Side of Small, The Chronicle of Higher Education )
“ Activists caution that nanoparticles are small enough to enter the lungs or be absorbed through the skin. As a result, they could accumulate in the food chain and kill ecologically important organisms and adversely affect human health, too” (Jennifer Bails. January 21, 2005 Friday. Nanotechnology is next big thing in electronics and manufacturing. Pittsburgh Tribune Review .)
“ In a study run by Anna A. Shvedova, an adjunct associate professor at West Virginia and a senior staff scientist at the institute, the researchers put carbon nanotubes into the lungs of mice and found scar tissue forming within a week, faster than the scarring from any other material they have tested.” (Richard Monastersky. September 10, 2004, Friday, The Dark Side of Small, The Chronicle of Higher Education )
BUT remember that many technological developments we depend on every day may have harmful side-effects.
antibiotics Teflon plastics x-rays asbestos pesticides fire retardants
What are some ways we can manage the risk of nano-related products?
testing individuals for allergies
keeping records of products’ effects
instituting rigorous testing standards before products enter the market
Environment: Worth the Risk? GRAY GOO Researcher and author Eric Drexler predicts that nanotechnology will allow us to clean the environment with nano-sized, self-replicating cleaning machines that rid the air of carbon dioxide and poisons. On the other hand, he also notes that “auto-assemblers” that would assemble molecules into desired products could have the potential of turning the earth into a mass of “gray goo” in less than 10 hours.
Although this position is discounted by many scientists who believe that self-replicating molecular structures are “not of this world,” what should your role be in setting policy decisions about the development and use of nanotechnology to clean the environment?
Should we seek to use nanotechnology to clean the environment even if it puts it at great risk?
For more information see Environmental Regulation of Nanotechnology:Some Preliminary Observations
“ Konarka's solar panels are manufactured with a coating made from microscopically small nanoparticles of titanium dioxide to which a light-absorbing dye is applied. By using the tiny, ice-cube-shaped particles, Konarka is able to increase the effectiveness of the panels by giving them more surface area upon which to apply the dye. . . Mr. Tripathy invented a technique for “painting” nanoparticles at temperatures below 500 degrees Celsius, making it feasible to apply the dye to rolls and strips of flexible plastic instead of heavier sheets of glass. The technique, which also reduces manufacturing costs, could be used on clothing fibers as well. A soldier outfitted in such clothing could in effect be wearing his own lightweight source of electricity.”
Goldie Blumenstyk. September 10, 2004, Big Bucks for Tiny Technology, The Chronicle of Higher Education .
How will our lives change if we can wear electricity in the future in the form of solar clothing?
What are the societal benefits of maintaining small communities such as these?
What kind of compensation can be provided, if any, given the hardship that this technological turn will bring to their immediate lives?
What are some of the ways that we as a nation have handled similar situations in the past? What has worked and what hasn’t?
Specific communities that have traditionally survived by supplying raw materials (e.g., timber or coal) may encounter difficulties finding new sources of income. For instance, timber may become less valuable given the development of building materials that are lighter, stronger, and less expensive, and new efficient and inexpensive forms of energy will be developed. The result may be the death of these communities as new generations migrate to urban areas.
Autonomous communities may develop because of innovations in nanotechnology. Some communities may come to have the potential for self-sufficiency through the use of nanotechnology. On the other hand, other communities may reject the pace of technological change.
What can we learn from this about happiness and fulfillment?
How can we prepare ourselves for the changes in what it means to own property?
How will our understanding of property ownership change as ‘intellectual property’ gains relative importance?
What kind of patent system should be developed to prevent the proliferation of inexpensively manufactured ‘copies’?
Should there be regulation of these copies or should intellectual property be regarded as public property?
The notion of having private property, while assumed to be a basic right in many societies, is a culturally specific idea; it has held varying importance in different cultures and across time. With the growth of nanotechnology, we may eventually have the potential to “create” all sorts of objects molecule-by-molecule. There may also be an increased emphasis on the ‘ownership’ of intellectual rather than physical property.
Family Return to Table of Contents The research for this project is funded by a grant to Elizabeth Keating from Information Technology Services (ITS) at the University of Texas at Austin. Modules created by Elaine Chun.
Windows will be made of materials that repel water and dirt at the flick of a switch.
Stain - and wrinkle-free clothing: Ironing will be a chore of the past. “ Smart” paints: Paint will paint itself onto walls. IMAGE SOURCE: Microsoft clipart IMAGE SOURCE: http://www.thehumorwriter.com/Life_With_A_Man/Housework_for_Husbands/man-ironing.jpg
Devices that are made to reduce household labor may not reduce as much labor as we might anticipate. Consider the cases of
In the past, the introduction of these household appliances did not necessarily decrease labor given increased cultural expectations, specifically in middle class families, for clothes and dishes to be cleaner and ideal bread to be home-baked, pasta to be homemade, and coffee beans to be home-ground.
How might our cultural expectations for the kinds of labor performed in the home change as ‘time-saving’ technological tools are introduced?
How will wrinkle-free clothing affect our perception of wrinkled clothing?
How will smart paints change our expectations for decorating and re-decorating the home?
How will ‘dirt’ and ‘stains’ be viewed as products are created to more efficiently prevent them from being visible?
washing machines dishwashers bread machines pasta makers coffee grinders IMAGE SOURCE: Microsoft clipart IMAGE SOURCE: Microsoft clipart
Surveillance devices that track the movement of children may reduce the time and stress of child labor.
Parents may be able to perform childcare without having to be in the direct presence of their children. They will be able to view their activities and communicate easily with them from remote locations.
Nanotechnology promises many advances in medicine, including disease prevention through devices that detect medical problems in their early stages and provide comprehensive information about individuals’ genetic predispositions.
Nano-robots may also help rebuild non-working organs and alter the genetic makeup of offspring. These medical advances may significantly alter families’ values and structures.
As society’s physical health improves and life-spans increase, to what degree will societal expectations for women to conceive early change?
Would you genetically engineer your own children?
What kinds of genetically engineering for their children should parents be allowed to undertake? Why or why not?
Family Values and Structure
Family Values and Structure: Childcare and Care for the Elderly
Many other kinds of advances in medicine can be anticipated:
drug delivery devices
more efficient drugs
Older individuals will not need to be cared for by families and elderly care professionals.
Multiple generations will have the option of living together, and older generations may contribute to childcare.
In addition to childcare, what kinds of new family practices can be anticipated in these multi-generational families?
As labor becomes more intellectual rather than physical, there may be a decreased demand for employees to work outside the home. Many job-related tasks will be performed through home computers.
In some ways, the return of labor to the home setting can be seen as similar to pre-industrial economies when agricultural tasks did not require women and men to separate their work in terms of the ‘private’ and ‘public’ domains, respectively. Both women and men worked performed similar kinds of labor.
At present, many families have already begun to engage in less traditional forms of labor division because of opportunities for both women and men to work from home.
What kinds of gendering of labor can be seen in these households?
What kinds of problems and benefits are evident in such family settings?
New materials developed with nanotechnology will make our walls, windows, and pipes stronger, lighter, and able to withstand the forces of the natural world; they will also reduce the need for maintenance. The ‘handyman’ will be replaced by the ‘tech person’.
Walls themselves may be digital displays that allow us to enjoy natural landscapes—according to our mood—without leaving the home. As lightweight structures, they will be sliding units that allow families to easily transform the spaces of the home from small, private spaces to a large, shared studio.
Computer work stations will sit in every room, allowing families to work and study together or separately. ‘Going to work’ or ‘going to school’ will involve walking across the room to the nearest work station.
For exercise, we will use energy-efficient appliances such as stationary bicycles and treadmills that ‘power up’ dishwashers, washing machines, and compost machines that fertilize our lawns.
And in a more distant future, when ‘nano-ovens’ can ‘grow’ our fruits and vegetables and bake the perfect loaf of ciabatta, grocery shopping will be an old-fashioned ritual.
A FEW IDEAS ADAPTED FROM “ What Will Our Houses Look Like ?” by architects Wes Jones and Bernard Tschumi, Time.
Given that many of these new conveniences will reduce the need to leave the home, how will this affect relations between family members?
How will our self-sufficiency change our relationships with our neighbors and others outside the home? In what ways can computer technology help us maintain good relations with our neighbors? How might computers threaten these relations?
What are some ways that neighborhoods can maintain a sense of ‘community’?
How will our attitudes towards the natural world, such as rain and trees, change as our homes ‘protect’ us from it? Will we become increasingly fearful of its unpredictability? Or will we crave outdoor activities like never before as well as become obsessed with bringing nature, such as plants, indoors?
Nanotechnology will likely increase the number of undetectable surveillance devices as well as centralized and detailed records of our everyday lives—our emails, phone calls, schedules, purchases, and rolodexes.
Our sense of privacy may come under threat, as both the government and individuals gain the potential to peer into our intimate spaces.
What kinds of limitations should be placed on such surveillance devices?
What are the dangers and benefits of having a centralized database that records our everyday lives?
How will our notions of ‘public’ and ‘private’ spaces change?
IMAGE SOURCE: Microsoft clipart
The Economy Return to Table of Contents The research for this project is funded by a grant to Elizabeth Keating from Information Technology Services (ITS) at the University of Texas at Austin. Modules created by Elaine Chun.
The economic system of the United States, as well as other industrialized nations, is often described as being capitalist . In other words, trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the government, as in a socialist system. Most nations, however, have in fact a combination of the two kinds of systems.
One of the main critiques of capitalism is the exploitation of laborers by the wealthy and the perpetuation of social class inequalities.
With the growth of an industry that depends increasingly on intellectual rather than manual labor, how will the nature of the labor class change?
What kinds of new power relations between social groups and nations will result?
In what ways does nanotechnology solve some of the problems associated with capitalism?
mitigating environmental harm through cleaner methods of production
leveling the playing field among nations through affordable access to education and basic resources
bringing peace because of decreased competition for once scarce resources
In an essay for Time called “Will Socialism Make a Comeback?” , Francis Fukuyama suggests that socialism in its purest form will never return because of the inherent inefficiency of a central government attempting to regulate a complex market, as well as globalization and information technology allowing citizens to compare their standard of living with those in other countries.
Yet “the impulse toward social equality has not disappeared,” he writes. Though governments themselves may not become socialist, societies may depend on nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to constrain corporations and protect the poor and the environment.
Contrary to Fukayama’s argument, to what degree might the increased efficiency of information processing in fact allow central governments to efficiently regulate their market?
Given the potential for nations to depend less on other nations because of more widely available resources, how might globalization be affected?
Women are underrepresented in the technology-oriented sector of the labor force.
1 out of 10
employed engineers is a woman
2 out of 10
employed engineering technologists and technicians are women
3 out of 10
computer systems analysts, engineers, and scientists are women
1 out of 4
computer programmers is a woman
Technology-oriented occupations are projected to increase significantly in the future, but it is unclear whether this is good or bad news for women who wish to earn an income.
Why is it important for women to have a visible presence in the technology sector?
In what ways does today’s technology reflect the interests of male consumers?
In what ways does the pursuit of a career in ‘high technology’, including nanotechnology, clash with the lifestyle expectations of women?
What can we do to prevent greater gender imbalance?
(Facts from the Department of Labor’s website)
Global Politics Return to Table of Contents The research for this project is funded by a grant to Elizabeth Keating from Information Technology Services (ITS) at the University of Texas at Austin. Modules created by Elaine Chun.
Social unrest often results from disenfranchisement which often leads to a sense of desperation.
For instance, events in the US such as the Watts riots of 1965 and the LA riots of 1992 as well as nationwide civil rights riots in 1968 were the result of race-based political and economic inequity primarily between whites and African Americans.
(The copyright holder allows anyone to use this image for any purpose.) Rioters in Barcelona, Spain
Violent conflict, while often rationalized and understood as based on racial, ethnic, religious, ethical, or philosophical differences, often has an economic dimension.
For instance, violence often erupts between groups competing for scarce resources, as some theorists regard as part of the cause of the Hutu and Tutsi genocide of 1994 in the Central African nation of Rwanda.
Even wealthy nations are involved in violent conflict related to economic struggle. For instance, the current war in Iraq is understood by some as related to the maintenance of US dominance in the international oil market.
With the reduction of poverty and the abundance of resources, local and global unrest is less likely.
As a result of nanotechnology, impoverished nations may come to have greater access to resources that wealthier nations may take for granted, such as clean water, abundant food, electricity, and medicine as well as internet access and climate-controlled shelters.
Nanotechnology, which will help provide devices and vehicles and homes that efficiently run on alternative sources of energy, such as solar energy, will reduce the need for oil in industrialized nations.
How will US relations with nations in the Middle East be affected?
What will happen to the political power of nations such as the US which will lead the nanotechnology revolution?
Nanotechnology has implications as well for military units that become directly involved in international conflict situations.
Through the National Nanotechnology Initiative, the US Department of Defense invested $50 million for a new Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies at M.I.T. in May 2003. This institute will develop lighter and strong clothing and equipment for the Army, such as armor that softens and hardens on command and clothing the stores and recycles energy.
SOURCE: Kieper, Adam. 2003. The Nanotechnology Revolution. The New Atlantis , 2: 17-34.
How will the nature of war change with better-equipped foot-soldiers?
How have conflicts become better or worse given current technological tools used by soldiers?
“ Weapons of mass destruction” might also be develop, given the possibilty for molecular structures to self-replicate using nanotechnology, according to some scientists. In addition, nanotechnology could be used to both aid the manufacture of conventional dangerously lethal bioweapons.
SOURCE: Kieper, Adam. 2003. The Nanotechnology Revolution. The New Atlantis , 2: 17-34.
In some ways, nanotechnology might be likened to nuclear technology, which has immense potential as an affordable source of energy while also presenting the threat of large-scale destruction whether via accident or intention.
Some have cited the potential for global domination by countries that have access to nanotechnological weapons.
Weapons development may also become an attractive industry to some poorer countries seeking both economic capital and political leverage.
Though resources may become both more accessible in general, equally distributing them among nations and communities will be a challenge.
Consider how access to both computers and the Internet is not equal across communities and nations, a phenomenon sometimes referred to as the “digital divide.”
Given that technology such as digital tools can further advance the economic status of a community and given that such tools are most accessible to wealthier communities, the wealthiest will have the greatest access to means of further wealth production.
In addition to international treaties and economic cooperation, one of the ways to sustain peaceful relations may be to promote greater cross-cultural understanding.
Nanotechnological tools, such as efficient and inexpensive computers and transportation may provide greater opportunities for communication across national borders. And such communication will continue the trend towards a globalized economy.
In the past, however, cultural contact has not always led to greater understanding.
For instance, economic relations framed as ‘cooperation’, such as the use of labor in non-industrialized nations by corporations in industrialized nations, has sometimes been perceived as exploitation. And the flow of cultural products and ideas, while often influencing youth and class style, has not always been welcomed by all segments of a nation’s population.
What will be the global effects of cross-cultural communication and worldwide access to education and information?
What kinds of cultural understandings and misunderstandings may result?
To what degree can we expect our cultural ideals to be adopted by other cultures? And to what degree are we willing to accept other kinds of cultural ideals?
What kinds of resentment may result among members of poorer nations for whom economic disparities become starkly apparent through increased communication?
How can nanotechnology be used to increase understanding among wealthier nations of the difficulties of relatively poor ones?
Cross-Cultural Issues The research for this project is funded by a grant to Elizabeth Keating from Information Technology Services (ITS) at the University of Texas at Austin. Modules created by Elaine Chun.
Which boundaries will disappear and which will newly arise?
To what degree do you think groups will seek to reinforce boundaries?
culture x culture y New technologies will facilitate greater communication with groups from other geographical locations. We may witness an increasing movement of cultural ideas across boundaries as we are seeing currently with rap music, clothing styles, and technology.
What could “local” and “global” mean in terms of cultural practices?
How might this exchange of ideas, practices, and forms result in new ways of thinking about cultural ownership, appropriations, or borrowing?
Some argue that nanotechnology promises a far cleaner global environment, as many “clean” energy and manufacturing alternatives (e.g. solar energy) are developed, and harmful materials may even be transformed into environmentally-safe ones.
Imagine the effects on the global ecology of filters that kill bacteria and insects and devices that release nanoparticles into the environment.
Clean rivers and streams safe for drinking, fishing, and swimming
Clean air even in large urban areas
What will happen to an ecosystem that kills ‘good’ bacteria, such as acidophilus?
How will our immune systems cope with the lack of bacteria and viruses that our bodies have built up a resistance to?
Given our temptation to exterminate ‘annoying’ insects, how can we differentiate between those that are central and peripheral to the ecosystem?
Cultural Meanings and Social Values Return to Table of Contents The research for this project is funded by a grant to Elizabeth Keating from Information Technology Services (ITS) at the University of Texas at Austin. Modules created by Elaine Chun.
The Body IMAGE SOURCE: http://www.time.com/time/reports/v21/health/body.html It may become possible for individuals to completely alter their physical appearances either through cosmetic surgery performed by nanorobots or changes in genetic sequences on chromosomes. However, altering one’s physical appearance is not new to our society. For example, body-building, tanning, dieting, tooth-whitening, wearing braces, and wearing color contact lenses can be seen as examples of altering one’s physical appearance. In addition, recently popularized television shows featuring “extreme makeovers” suggest a growing acceptance of cosmetic surgical procedures.
How will this affect attention to physical beauty by both women and men?
If everyone has the potential to be ‘flawless’, what will this mean? Will society stop tolerating physical changes that are part of the natural aging process? Or will ‘natural flaws’ come to be something that is aesthetically valued, much as ‘torn’ and ‘faded’ jeans are currently valued?
“ Nano Hydrene Complex” for men (U.S.) http://www.studio5ive.com/HTML/mens-eye-serum.htm “ Neosino” for women (Italy) Silicon (silica) Dioxide in the shape of Nanoparticles http:// www.neosino.com/eng/neosino.html A “Nano Imagery” advertisement (Japan) explains how nanoparticles penetrate the skin http://www.rakuten.co.jp/adept/460553/507119/569782/ Many new products may increase expectations of ‘flawless’ skin.
Redefining the Normal Nano-devices that allow individuals to 'fix' physical characteristics deemed fixable by society will affect particular communities that may be seen as non-normative. The use of technology to 'fix' characteristics is now new, however, often resulting from and contributing to the valuing of certain types of physical and cultural characteristics over others. In the Deaf community, for instance, the use of cochlear implants that allow Deaf individuals to hear has resulted in a societal view of Deafness as a 'problem' that can be 'fixed.‘ IMAGE SOURCE: Microsoft clipart
Redefining the Normal Nano-devices that allow individuals to 'fix' physical characteristics deemed fixable by society will affect particular communities that may be seen as non-normative. The use of technology to 'fix' characteristics is now new, however, often resulting from and contributing to the valuing of certain types of physical and cultural characteristics over others. It is also not uncommon for East Asian women to surgically create a ‘double eyelid’, which some view as associated with beauty standards defined by those of European descent. IMAGE SOURCE: Microsoft clipart
Redefining the Normal Nano-devices that allow individuals to 'fix' physical characteristics deemed fixable by society will affect particular communities that may be seen as non-normative. The use of technology to 'fix' characteristics is now new, however, often resulting from and contributing to the valuing of certain types of physical and cultural characteristics over others. Women in the US also sometimes receive breast implants to achieve what may be regarded as a more ‘feminine’ figure. IMAGE SOURCE: Microsoft clipart
What kinds of aesthetic norms and desires will evolve?
Will we develop a culture of extreme sensitivity to 'defects' and 'sanitary' living? Or will such concepts become irrelevant as humans become increasingly ‘flawless’ and live in a ‘perfect’ environment?
With significant advances in medicine, individuals may no longer have fears of behaviors previously thought to be ‘risky’. For example, venereal diseases may be more easily cured and physical damage made more manageable. On the other hand, society’s new emphasis on physical ‘perfection’ may result in a culture of paranoia. IMAGE SOURCE: Microsoft clipart
What will become our society’s greatest health problems?
All cultures across time and space have illnesses, both physical or psychological. With nanotechnology’s contribution to medicine, today’s illnesses, such as cancer, AIDS, and depression, may be easily cured. IMAGE SOURCE: Microsoft clipart
What will a diamond ring mean once it can easily be created by reassembling atoms?
How will the virtue of ‘being frugal’ change as resources, such as electricity, water, and air cooling chips, become abundant and easily affordable?
What new kinds of material desires will emerge as today’s relatively ‘expensive’ products, such as air conditioners, refrigerators, computers, and cars become commonplace, and individuals are left with extra money to spend?
How will the economic market’s relative valuing of the functionality of a product change? To what degree will ‘less functional’ characteristics, such as aesthetics become increasingly valued?
Genetic researchers already have the technology to clone DNA, animals, and human embryos. Nanotechnology may allow geneticists to more precisely manipulate encode genetic information, allowing them to create specific kinds of plants and animals, including humans.
What are some of the dangers of such research?
Which segments of society will accept or reject it?
In addition, some people liken the creation of self-replicating molecular structures to the creation of life.
How are such structures like and unlike living creatures?
How will these discoveries have an impact on religious beliefs, such as the 'meaning of life' and who 'God' is?
What will 'consciousness' mean if our thoughts become 'downloadable' onto a computer?
We may develop means of detecting precise human movements (eye movement, pulse, blood pressure) and chemical changes in the brain using nano-devices embedded in the body. Nanotechnology may be used to ‘read’ the psychological state of the body.
How will our understanding of intention change? Should individuals be punished for crimes they intended but never carried out?
Consider how we often hide our emotions to maintain harmony and save face. How will human relationships change as both positive and negative emotions become perceptible to others?
How might the potential for ‘readings’ by others change our brains and the way we control our emotions?
How can we guarantee that we preserve some sense of emotional privacy?
Some, such as technology critic Jacques Ellul, argue that the rise of technology leads to the decline of traditional spirituality, as we begin to view technology itself as sacred. In a recent article on the nanotechnology revolution, Adam Kieper compares the “assembler breakthrough” to a “Second Coming or a Judgment Day” and likens cryonics, in which humans are preserved, to an afterlife.
SOURCE: Kieper, Adam. 2003. The Nanotechnology Revolution. The New Atlantis , 2: 17-34 .
Consider, however, that technology can aid the growth of religious belief such as use of the internet to spread religious messages (e.g., podcasts of sermons)
In addition, technology can help us connect with other human beings, through emails and webcam meetings, and help give individuals a sense of belonging and purpose.
Finally, while some forms of technology have destroyed much of the natural world, nanotechnology may have the potential to help restore it.
Technology and Spirituality
Philosophy Humans will depend increasingly on machines, such as computers, prosthetic body parts, climate-sensitive clothing, for their daily survival. Some ‘natural’ products, such as ‘fresh’ vegetables and water will be manufactured by human-made devices.
To what degree will certain distinctions we may assume become blurred?
the human-machine distinction
the nature-artifact distinction
To what degree have these distinctions already become blurred?
IMAGE SOURCE: Microsoft clipart Given increased life-spans, we will encounter many people who were direct witnesses to historical events. We may also be able to learn from virtual experiences via computers or even through the alteration of our neural structures.
Cultural Practice Return to Table of Contents The research for this project is funded by a grant to Elizabeth Keating from Information Technology Services (ITS) at the University of Texas at Austin. Modules created by Elaine Chun.
Nanotechnological developments will eventually affect most segments of society as well as make various kinds of cultural practices accessible to all. For example, opportunities for travel will increase as aircrafts become faster and cheaper.
food language clothing music table manners hobbies cars
What kinds of new cultural practices will arise in the following areas? Which will be used to create distinctions between social classes?
Some of the value of today’s foods is placed on the inaccessibility of particular food types and flavors—e.g., wines from a specific province, vegetables grown in specific climates, fish caught in certain types of water.
Nanotechnology may allow us to not only preserve the freshness of food items but also ‘manufacture’ food that has the ‘perfect’ flavor through the manipulation of its molecular structure.
As ‘perfect’ food items become available, will ‘imperfect’ food grown in soil become rare and desirable items? Or will we not tolerate any blemishes?
Could consumers yearn for a nostalgic past when food was once imperfect? Would food assembled by nanotechnological means be purposefully given ‘imperfections’ to simulate ‘old-fashioned’ techniques of agriculture?
An international culinary board of expert food critics.
Vote by internet
As all kinds of foods become quickly available, what kinds of foods will be sold in fast food restaurants?
Which segments of society will control which flavors are 'authentic,' 'pure,' or 'delicious'?
McSushi and fries? Could Saturday Night Live ’s parody in the mid 1980s of a McDonald’s advertisement become reality? IMAGE SOURCE: http:// www.replica.co.uk/images/catpages/sushi.htm
Language Change You say tomayto, I say tomahto. What will we say tomorrow? Linguists have shown that language change is natural. The figure below illustrates the ways in which vowel sounds changed during the transition from Middle to Modern English.
What will be the consequence of increased cross-cultural contact made possible by efficient and inexpensive computers and modes of transportation? How will our language change?
As the average lifespan increases, what will be the linguistic consequence of the coexistence of different generations of speakers?
What kinds of community factors will prevent language from changing?
Technological means of rigorously enforcing linguistic norms
The formation of official language academies, such as the presently existing L’Académie française, that attempt to enforce ‘correct’ ways of speaking.
Language Change Dialectologists have shown that dialects often develop when barriers between communities exist, whether such barriers are geographical (mountains or rivers) or social (ethnicity-based communities). As communities are allowed to become self-sufficient through technological advances, new dialects may emerge. On the other hand, many kinds of social boundaries may be ‘erased’ via technologies that allow communication across borders. As history has shown, cross-cultural exchanges have resulted in various kinds of new language practices. For example. . .
Dialect Leveling Dialects can merge with one another, a process known as ‘dialect leveling’. Such a process occurred as American English speakers moved westward after the American Revolution, resulting in fewer dialectal differences in the midwestern and western areas as compared to the eastern parts of the US.
Languages can be mixed and alternated by individuals as a form of ‘code-switching.’
An example of English-Korean code-switching:
I brought my umbrella biga olgguh gatesuh
Gloss: ‘I brought my umbrella because it seemed it would rain .’
A community can develop local norms of mixing languages, such as in the case of what is sometimes called ‘Spanglish ’ , which may be viewed as ‘code-switching’ between Spanish and English while also a ‘code’ with its own rules.
Sometimes a completely new language may emerge through the combination of the words of one language and the grammatical structure of the other. When such ‘pidgins’ are learned by children, they become ‘creoles’, which have the systematicity and complexity of any language.
In other to communicate, speakers may depend on a common language, or a ‘lingua franca’, chosen by speakers or an officially governing body. Its choice may depend on any number of factors, although the political and economic prestige of the language often plays a major role.
What will be the new lingua franca as worldwide communication becomes possible with technological advances?
Some lingua francas of the past and present a worldwide lingua franca arising originally from British colonial influence and continuing as a result of US economic power English a written lingua franca used for centuries among speakers of mutually unintelligible Chinese dialects Written Chinese the language of the European educated elite during the 17 th to 19 th centuries French the language of colonial administration and trade in 14 th to 16 th century Asia and Africa Portuguese
Language Loss As global communication and economic exchange becomes enabled by technological advances, communities may place greater emphasis on the learning of lingua francas that have relative economic value, such as English and Spanish. Linguists have noted that one of the results of such ‘language shift’ is the potential endangerment of less economically valuable languages, eventually leading to their extinction. “ Of the 6,809 languages currently listed in the database of the Ethnologue: Languages of the World, 330 languages each have one million speakers or more. This large size population contrasts sharply with the approximately 450 languages that are so small that they are in the last stages of becoming extinct, with only a few elderly speakers left in each one.” --Barbara F. Grimes, Ethnologue Editor 1971-2000 SOURCE: http://www.sil.org/sociolx/ndg-lg-grimes.html A sampling of endangered languages: Zapotec (Mexico) Menominee (USA) Ainu (Japan) Ratagnon (Philippines) Abaga (Papua New Guinea) Bete (Nigeria) Squamish (Canada) Berbice Creole Dutch (Guyana) Hawai'i Pidgin Sign Language (USA)
Despite the profitability for some societies to learn languages that have economic value, such as English, why is it important to preserve endangered languages?
Language is not only a medium for transmitting culture; it is a tightly bound to culture—for instance, in poems, jokes, stories, and ways of expressing culturally-specific ideas. The loss of a language will necessarily result in a significant loss of a people’s culture.
How can technology be used to help in the preservation process?
Databases for storing and transmitting language samples and verbal art forms
Distribution of images and sounds that increase worldwide awareness and valuing of the diverse languages of the world
Can you think of other ways?
How can we maintain the world’s linguistic diversity while allowing linguistic minorities participate in the global economy?
What would be some of the advantages and disadvantages to using translation machines, instead of forcing communities to speak a common language?