Science and engineering, industry and politics, environmentalists and transhumanists are Discovering the Nanoscale. Policy makers are demanding explicit consideration of ethical, legal, and social aspects, and popular books are explaining the achievements and promises of nanoscience. It may therefore seem surprising that this is the first collection of studies that considers nanoscience and nanotechnologies from the critical perspective of Science and Technology Studies (STS). However, when one appreciates that such a critical perspective needs to be historically informed it often involves intimate acquaintance with the research process. Accordingly, this book on the historical, analytical, and ethical study of nanoscience and -technology has come together in a period of several years. Though it presents only first results, these results for the most part stem from sustained investigations of nanoscience and nanotechnologies and of the contexts that are shaping their development. Nanoscience and technologies are developing very quickly, and for this reason both pose a challenge to the more reflective approach commonly taken by science studies, while at the same time requiring the perspective provided by science studies scholars. Many are convinced that nothing meaningful can be said about the social and ethical implications of nanotechnologies at this early stage, but one can already see what programmatic attitudes go into nanoscale research, what metaphors are shaping it, and what conception of nature is implicit in its vision. It is also often assumed that in order to consider all aspects of nanotechnologies it is sufficient to know a bit of the science and to have some ethical intuitions. This collection of papers establishes that one also needs to appreciate nanoscale research and development in the larger context of the changing relations of science, technology, and society.
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