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Although they know little to nothing factual about nanotechnology, Americans generally hold a positive view of the emerging science, according to a recent survey conducted by North Carolina State University researchers.
More than 80 percent of those polled indicated they had heard "little" or "nothing" about nanotechnology, yet 40 percent of respondents predicted nanotechnology would produce more benefits than risks. Another 38 percent believed risks and benefits of nanotechnology would be about equal, and only 22 percent said risks outweigh the benefits.
Fifty-seven percent of the respondents selected medical advances as the most important benefit, followed by environmental cleanup (16 percent), security and defense (12 percent), and improved human physical and mental abilities (11 percent). Only 4 percent saw "cheaper, longer-lasting consumer products" as the most important benefit.
In choosing which of five nanotechnology risks it was most important to avoid, respondents' top choice was loss of privacy due to surveillance (32 percent), followed by a nanotechnology arms race (24 percent), nanoparticles accumulating inside humans (19 percent), and economic disruption with job loss (14 percent). Twelve percent were most concerned about the uncontrollable spread of self-replicating nanobots.