Analysis: Review of Anti-Nanotech Terrorism Case Emphasizes Weaknesses of Science Journalism
Journalists’ need to sensationalize potential risks interferes with public understanding of technology.
Talk of nanobots and the “grey goo” that Drexler conjectured would result if they went unchecked brings us back again to the terrorists responsible for the Mexico bombing.
Grey goo is at best an extrapolation by a gifted scientist who has since utterly dismissed it as a realistic scenario. But the idea lingers on and it seems to have taken hold in the terrorist group responsible for the Mexico bombings, Individuals Tending Toward the Savage (ITS), and another group of eco-activists who call themselves Action Group on Erosion, Technology and Concentration (ETC, pronounced et cetera).
While ETC thinks itself enlightened since it doesn’t blow up innocent people, it harbors the same misperception as ITS about grey goo being an environmental threat.
Ultimately, ITS and ETC are responsible for their own ill-conceived notions and the acts that they carry out because of them. But everyone along the way is responsible too. The Nature article takes scientists to task for their contribution to the confusion that exists.
But to the extent scientists are responsible for this confusion, the responsibility mainly resides at the point where they attempt to explain their work to reporters. I have chronicled these crossed wires between journalists and experts before and it’s never a pretty picture.
(via Searching for Causes of Nanotech Terrorism - IEEE Spectrum)