Dexter Johnson, at IEEE
Spectrum, pushes back on overblown nanotech coverage and its harms:
One of the clearest indications of how this bad journalism has misinformed the public was when the terrorist group “Individuals Tending Toward the Savage,” which attacked a nanotech lab in Mexico, made public its raison d’etre. In it they demonstrated a truly distorted idea of what nanotechnology is and what scientists working on the nansoscale are doing. In their letter they demonstrated the misapprehension that the nanotechnology of today threatens us with the prospect of “grey goo” as tiny nanobots eat the world and leave behind a waste product of goo.
I laid at least part of the blame for this terrorist group confusing science with science fiction at the feet of mainstream journalists, who, not being familiar with the field, mistake Michael Crichton’s Prey with Eric Drexler’s Engines of Creation. It’s probably not fair to say they are confused; it’s more likely the case they have never heard of the latter.
We’ve already witnessed the damage, maiming and destruction that one small group of people can wreak when they don’t really understand what nanotechnology is. At present that violence far exceeds any harm that nanotechnology has perpetrated upon anyone. Maybe we should be hyping just how careless and misguided the coverage of the subject is and the harm that may be doing.