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Very interesting article by Ron Bailey.

researchers polled 1,850 Americans about their attitudes toward nanotechnology. Eighty-one percent of those polled had heard nothing at all (53 percent) or "just a little" (28 percent) about nanotechnology. Nevertheless, after being offered a bare bones two-sentence definition of nanotech, 89 percent of respondents had an opinion on whether the benefits (53 percent) of nanotech would outweigh the risks (36 percent). So how could people who know nothing or almost nothing about a new technology have an opinion about its safety? Pre-existing world views, of course.

...The researchers relying on work by social scientist Aaron Wildavsky divided Americans into four cultural groups with regard to risk perception: hierarchists, individualists, egalitarians and communitarians. Hierarchists trust experts, but believe social deviancy is very risky. Egalitarians and communitarians worry about technology, but think that social deviancy is no big deal. Individualists see risk as opportunity and so are optimistic about technology.

...Hierarchists and individualists thought nano was less risky, while egalitarians and communitarians thought it was more risky.

Bailey refers to a study that I cannot find on line (except for $). The authors do have an interesting blog, called Cultural Cognition, that should appeal to those of us who like overcoming bias. Recall my essay on Two Strategies for Avoiding Truth.

UPDATE: The paper is available for free download.

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CATEGORIES: Political Economy

COMMENTS (3 to date)
Ravenor writes:

That poll result is rather remarkable as far as the lack of awareness about nanotechnology among the US public. What the result means to me is that any existing devices constructed using "nanotechnology" have had very little impact on the world at large.

Horatio writes:

There is a very good chance that you have some nanotechnology in your toothpaste or midnight snack. The PC you sent that post through uses nanotechnology in some of its components. Nano has already made it into our homes, but a big fuss hasn't been made because it's just nanostructured particles and surfaces rather than the self-replicating nano-bots of sci-fi.

Fundamentalist writes:

This confirms what I've read in public relations research for decades: people don't care about the truth, they care about comfirming their worldviews.

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