I was recently at a conference on Science and Technology Policy. The theme of the conference was “Governing Emerging Technologies.” One of the main topics was how to involve the public in establishing rules to govern nanotechnology research. There are significant public health and ethical challenges surrounding nanotech development and public participation that are important. The language of the meeting, however, was incredibly inflated - $1.50 words for 5¢ thoughts. “I’m sort of looking at the junction of sort of ableism and sort of ability, and sort of the conceptual constructs that constrain the way we frame the distinction between sort of classifying technologies as sort humano-enhancement versus enabling technologies.” Several of the people who said things like this appeared to take themselves and their work very very seriously. Others who were asking questions in response to statements like these made a grand show of dramatic perplexing thought and agonizing theoretical retrieval to formulate their questions. There is no doubt that public participation in the governance of nanotechnology is important. This especially true given the temptation of lucrative profits to lead the private sector to overlook public safety. Having said that, what about clear and concise language?
I understand that every community has its own lingo (or, a sort of heuristically determined sort of canonized lexicon.) In this case, however, one of the main points was that public input into the scientific and policy process is important. I wonder how the “public” can be expected to contribute to a dialog where personal conviction and clear ideas are hidden behind layers and layers of such convoluted language? For example, I asked one conferencee what she thought about a topic she presented. “Well I’ve sort of read Haberman who sort of developed the notion that….” “But what do you think?,” I interrupted.
The meeting was in Big Sky
I took a break from the provisional mid-level situational categorization of neo-neuroethics and went to see about down hill biking and talk to some of the Happy People. A girl named Misty (I swear that was what she said her name was) was sitting at the bottom of the ski lift. She had on a t-shirt that said, “Barack the Vote” and electric blue shorts with knee high electric blue argyle socks. While we were talking, another girl came blazing off the slope on her bike. She took off her helmet and shook her hair out like they do in those shampoo commercials and said, “I just came down