What is the Societal Impact of Nanotechnology?

Societal impact is how institutions, organization, businesses or individuals actions affect the surrounding society. The social implications of any new technology can be felt by people directly incorporated with organization or individual or people in different societies and countries.

The societal impacts of new technologies are easy to identify but hard to measure or predict. Nanotechnology will have significant social impacts in the areas of military applications, intellectual property issues, as well as having an effect on labor and the balance between citizens and governments.

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Military applications

A high proportion of nanotechnology research is sponsored by the military and thus focused towards military applications. The potential military applications include nanorobotics, magnetorheological fluid (MRF), artificial intelligence and molecular manufacturing.

The advanced developments in the military technology may have implications for societal and political relations within the community. Modern defense armies are protected from today’s civilian threats in a way that never had before. It is likely that nanotechnology will further widen the gap between the means of political violence available to the military and those available to the civilian population.

The advancement of nanotechnology might contribute to terrorism, as it can exacerbate existing trends towards asymmetric warfare. If the military forces of the industrialized world become more difficult to attack and defeat due to nanotechnology, this may force those involved in the war with them to adopt new strategies, including sabotage and attacks on civilian and other targets. The enhancement of military application in nanotechnology may thus indirectly increase the occurrence of terrorist attacks in the future.

Intellectual property issues

The patent attorney must establish uniqueness and obviousness in the process of nanotechnology patent application.  A patent examiner may state that a nanostructured product lacks novelty because the relevant nanostructure material was present in an existing product, even though the nanostructure material was not recognized.

Pundits have warned that the resulting patent creates an adverse effect in progress in technology and have argued that there should be held patents on "basic" nanotechnologies. IBM hold an early and basic patent on single-wall CNT which can identify as one of the most significant patents that could have an impact on the future development of nanotechnology. CNT have great potential to replace major conventional raw materials. However, as their application expands, anyone manufactures or sell CNT, no matter what the uses, must first buy a license from IBM.

Effect on employment

The nanotechnology impact on labor is in its use of particular factors of production. During the improvement of nanotechnology, firms are likely to have high demands for the scientists, engineers, and technicians who have to build and integrate the new ideas into processes and products. In addition, there is a need for supporting labor services, which creates career opportunities.

Nanotechnology is likely to have even less impact on labor market inequalities. This is because most of us not need literate in nanotechnologies any more than we are literate about computer circuit design.

The balance between the citizens and governments

The nanotechnology can be expected to concentrate political power in the hands of governments. Nanotechnology can be expected to be applied to further miniaturize and advance surveillance technologies such as cameras, listening devices, tracking devices, and face and pattern recognition systems.

The improvements in the field of electronics and computer memory that nanotechnology makes possible capacity of government to collect, store, and examine data. Developments in nanotechnology, can therefore, be expected to increase significantly the ability of governments to keep track of their citizens.


  1. ethics.iit.edu/NanoEthicsBank/node/2112
  2. https://www.omicsonline.org/
  3. www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2214785317307691
  4. emergingtech.foe.org.au/152

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  1. Sumayah Abdullah Sumayah Abdullah United Kingdom says:

    could the advancement of nanotechnology lead to bad international relations?
    Say if a nation wants to seize control over this. therefore a repeat of the Suez Canal Crisis?

The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of AZoNano.com.

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