The "Public Awareness of Nanotechnology Study" examined public opinion on the use of nanotechnology for human enhancement. The survey found significant support for enhancements that promise to improve human health. For example, 88 percent of participants were in favour of research for a video-to-brain link that would amount to artificial eyesight for the blind. However, there was little support for non-health research endeavors. For example, only 30 percent of participants approved of research into implants that could improve performance of soldiers on the battlefield.
However, the survey also shows broad disapproval for nanotech human enhancement research in areas without health benefits. While the survey shows strong public support for research into nanotechnology applications in the health field, those findings are tempered by a similar concern from the public about the scope of that research.
The study found that 55 percent of participants felt that researchers should "avoid playing God with new technologies." Similarly, the public expressed little confidence in the government and mass media to inform people about potential risks from new technologies. Rather, participants said they had the greatest confidence in university scientists and environmental groups to protect the public.
Nanotechnology is generally defined as technology that uses substances having a size of 100 nanometers or less (tens of thousands of times smaller than the width of a human hair). Human enhancement is a sweeping term that applies to the use of such technologies to alter human capabilities.
Michael Cobb, one of the leaders of the study, says the survey's findings are important because "what the public wants could drive the direction of future research." Cobb explains, "The public should have input into where the government invests its research funding."
MEDICA.de; Source: North Carolina State University