Democratic Technologies?

This is the report of the Nanotechnologies Engagement Group (NEG), a body convened by Involve with the support of the Office of Science and Innovation’s Sciencewise scheme, and the Universities of Cambridge and Sheffield. Our role was to observe and support the pioneers of nanotechnology’s public engagement and log their experiences for the benefit of future journeys into the interface between democracy and technology.

In laboratories across the world, new scientific territory is being uncovered everyday; territory that offers groundbreaking opportunities for society, as well as new risks and unexpected challenges. Just as yesterday’s science and technology has contributed to shaping today’s world, these new technologies will help shape the world of tomorrow. The power of technology is clear, but its governance is not. Who or what makes these world-shaping decisions? And in whose interests are they made? These are the questions posed by a growing number of researchers, NGOs, citizens, politicians and scientists who seek to challenge the way that science and technology is governed and invent new ways to democratise the development of new technologies. This report documents the progress of six projects that have sought to do just that – by engaging the public in discussions about the governance and development of nanotechnologies.

In 2005, a group of pioneering projects, from various contexts and with different motivations, set off on separate voyages into this new territory. Their mission: to explore how we might ensure that future developments in nanotechnology are governed in the interests of the many, not the few. In short, to bring democracy to these new, unchartered territories. Democratic Technologies? follows the journeys of these projects, and the scientists, citizens and civil servants who joined them.

You can download this publication here.

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