Human World

Rosalyn Berne on whose bodies benefit in a nano-enabled future?

Rosalyn Berne: We are not asking along the way, “where are we going and what are we doing?” It’s as if we’re caught up in a wave, and we’re just riding it. And I think when the wave settles down again and we stand up and look around, we will not be recognizable in terms of who we are now.

Rosalyn Berne of the University of Virginia spoke with EarthSky about nanotechnology and our future.

Rosalyn Berne: For those who have the resources – intellectual, financial – there will be a group of people who will choose, because we have the technology, to enhance their physical bodies, to enhance their senses and various properties. I don’t think that will be without a trade-off.

Berne was one of a panel of experts who explored nanotech’s medical applications in a new Fred Friendly seminars series called “Nanotechnology: the Power of Small.”

Rosalyn Berne: The rapid development of some of these technologies takes us back from that connection to the organic whole, which is the human experience in the animal kingdom that we’re a part of and the Earth – it disconnects us from that. And I don’t think we know what that means. We’ve already taken steps out of that connection, and we will take leaps that will redefine what it means to be human.

Rosalyn Berne: One of the scientists I spoke with in my research said in fact, he doesn’t worry about things because it takes an awfully long time for changes such as this to come. But what he is concerned about is anything that will take us into no longer communicating with one another directly. Body to body, eye to eye, species to species, because technology would have replaced some of those modes of communication. I also worry about that.

She said our human society needs to ask more questions about the direction of nanotechnology.

Rosalyn Berne: Now whether or not it’s a good thing to move in that direction, that’s for society to decide. But from where I stand now, and what I value in being human, I think we have a great deal to lose in the exchange.

For more, visit

Thanks to the National Science Foundation – explore, discover, understand.

Our thanks to:
Rosalyn Berne
Dept of Science and Technology in Society
University of Virginia
Charlottesville, VA

September 20, 2008
Human World

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