I’ve been invited to testify at a Congressional hearing on the societal implications of nanotechnology.
The Charter for the hearing can be found at:


Some of the details, excerpted from the hearing Charter, are given below.



The Societal Implications of Nanotechnology

Wednesday, April 9, 2003
10:00 a.m. - 12:00 Noon
2318 Rayburn House Office Building


On Wednesday April 9, 2003, the House Science Committee will hold a hearing to examine the societal implications of nanotechnology and to consider H.R. 766, The Nanotechnology Research and Development Act of 2003, in light of those implications.


Mr. Ray Kurzweil is Founder, Chairman and CEO of Kurzweil Technologies, Inc., a software development firm. A pioneer in artificial intelligence, he is the author of The Age of Intelligent Machines (1990) and The Age of Spiritual Machines (1999). He received the 1999 National Medal of Technology and in 2002 was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame, for his 1976 invention of the Kurzweil Reading Machine, the first device to transform print into computer-spoken words, enabling blind and visually impaired people to read printed materials. Since 1973, he has founded nine companies.

Dr. Vicki Colvin is the Executive Director of the Center for Biological and Environmental Nanotechnology and Associate Professor of Chemistry at Rice University. Research underway at the center focuses on nanomaterials’ behavior in the environment and the body and considers risk assessment and safety factors.

Dr. Langdon Winner is Professor of Political Science in the Department of Science and Technology Studies at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York where he serves as co-director of the newly founded Center for Cultural Design. He is a political theorist who focuses on social and political issues that surround modern technological change.

Ms. Christine Peterson is cofounder and President of Foresight Institute. She focuses on making nanotechnology understandable, and on clarifying the difference between near-term commercial advances and the “Next Industrial Revolution” arriving in the next few decades. Foresight Institute has developed guidelines that include assumptions, principles, and some specific recommendations intended to provide a basis for responsible development of molecular nanotechnology.


The hearing will address the following overarching questions:

1. What are the concerns about existing and potential applications of nanotechnology?

2. How is it possible to anticipate the consequences of technology development?

3. How can research and debate on societal and ethical concerns be integrated into the research and development process, especially into projects funded by the federal government?


a. Nanotechnology is the science of manipulating and characterizing matter at the atomic and molecular level. It is one of the most exciting fields of science today, involving a multitude of science and engineering disciplines, with widespread applications in electronics, advanced materials, medicine, and information technology. The promise of nanotechnology to accelerate technological change has prompted some to advise caution about pursuing rapid innovation without some understanding of where it might lead us.
Questions for Dr. Langdon Winner: What factors influence the successful adoption of new technologies into society? What questions should be asked during the research and development phase to help minimize the potentially disruptive impact of transformational technology developments?

• What are the current concerns about existing and potential applications of nanotechnology science and engineering?

• How can research on the societal and ethical concerns relating to nanotechnology developments be integrated into the research and development process?