Who's In Control?
Jeremy Smith and Tom Wakeford
1st May, 2003
The public must play a significant role in any decisions made about the development of the new technology. By Tom Wakeford
When asked whether the UN’s sanctions regime was worth the deaths of 500,000 Iraqi children, Madeleine Albright, then the US ambassador to the UN, replied: ‘Yes, I think it is worth it.’ When questioned about the paltry compensation paid to victims of the Bhopal chemical disaster, Dow Chemical’s former CEO Michael Parker replied: ‘$500 is plenty good for an Indian’. For those at the top (the few who benefit) the price probably is worth paying. But what of the millions of Iraqis whose families have been torn apart, or the 200,000 now chronically ill survivors of Bhopal, or the thousands of Ukrainian farmers still unable to plough their radiation-scarred land 18 years after Chernobyl. Do they think the price of oil, or pesticides or nuclear power is worth paying? Were they even asked?
Of course not. No one ever is. We only ever get to decide whether technologies are worth it once we have realised they are not. Think DDT or thalidomide or CFCs. All only removed once the damage was done. The same is happening with the development of nanotechnology; except the consequences of it’s going wrong will make a few thousand mutilated babies or a gap in the ozone layer look like a...
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