How does the public feel about new technologies like nanotech and biotech? Do they rationally seek to understand how it works and what benefits it will have? Or do they decide in complete ignorance and froth at the mouth in a mindless rage? The latter, of course.

There is a new study that suggests education and knowledge are irrelevant. Political biases and emotional reactions largely determine one’s position. Individualists support nanotechnology, and communitarians are suspicious of nanotech.

Ron Bailey discusses the results.

They classified Americans into four ‘cultural’ communities that view risk in a certain way:

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.

Collectivists begin from a position that is suspicious of technology even without knowing much about the technology in question.

I’m not saying individualists’ emotional positive reaction towards technology is correct. What it does do is allow us to rationally evaluate the technology on its own merits rather than attempt to restrict or block it from developing out of ignorance.

I am personally interested in nanotech. My interest was probably sparked by my general optimism about all tech, but once I looked into what nano-tech really was, I had more realistic expectation. I don’t believe it will have short-term revolutionary effects, but that it will have certain benefits. Nanotech will be banal. It will be as boring as cell-phones. Transformative, yes, but boringly so.

The point is, one has to have a certain level of optimistic interest just to investigate the unknown. If you quiver in the closer afraid to step out into the light, you go no where. Technology has done more for egalitarianism and social progress than any political force.

Biopolitics” and the technology divide is reshaping traditional politics, so the old labels of “left” and “right” are no longer as meaningful.

Didn’t think it was possible for the left to be anymore splintered? Welcome to the world of biopolitics, a fledgling political movement that promises to make mortal enemies out of one-time allies — such as back-to-nature environmentalists and technophile lefties — and close friends of traditional foes, such as anti-GMO activists and evangelicals.

Biopolitics, a term coined by Trinity College professor James Hughes, places pro-technology transhumanists on one pole and people who are suspicious of technology on the other. According to Hughes, transhumanists are members of “an emergent philosophical movement which says that humans can and should become more than human through technological enhancements.” The term transhuman is shorthand for transitional human — people who are in the process of becoming “posthuman” or “cyborgs.”

Who would oppose that? Just a bunch of anti-scientific left-wing luddites and technophobes who want to go back to living in caves and worshipping the thunder gods. Remember, the secret of fire is to bang the rocks together. Or is that too techy?

The transhumanists, in turn, call these anti-technology liberals “left luddites,” “bioconservatives,” and “technophobes” — a not-so-subtle linguistic clue that the new biopolitical axis has the potential to completely reconfigure traditional politics.

Oh.

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