[Pga_europe_process] reports

m.reinsborough at Queens-Belfast.AC.UK m.reinsborough at Queens-Belfast.AC.UK
Sat Aug 28 16:42:05 CEST 2004

On Aug 28 2004, ni co lu wrote:

> hi, I have a few important questions about the report of te pga 
> conference.
Below is the report from the technology discussion at the PGA conference in 
Belgrade. There are only four magor points (and some references):

Technology, Politics, and Democracy

1. Technology is political. Social forces shape technology. When technology 
has been shaped into something permanent it becomes a social force that in 
return shapes society. Technology is society made durable. Those who make 
technology often claim that it could not have been designed another way. 
There isn’t a predetermined path of technology, it doesn’t grow by itself. 
The desires and interests (or ignorances) of those who control the design 
process are what shape technology.
 [If technology shapes the options and possibilities for society we need to 
have democratic control of how we make or standardize our technologies if 
we want to have a democratic society. What effect for women &workers when 
technological design is controlled by men &capitalists?

2. Some places that the technology activists might be aware of technology: 
2a New Technologies. For new technologies being introduced we can advocate 
the “precautionary principle”. There are very few regulatory processes for 
new technologies unless they threaten the security of the state, for 
example encryption or communications technologies of one to many are 
regulated. New foods or drugs are often regulated. Most countries try to 
subsidize research and development and hope to improve their economic 
position in the world economy by developing new technologies. 2b 
Standardization of Technologies. Technologies are often standardized 
through government or industry organizations. Standardization allows 
devices to work or interoperate with one another in a larger region. For 
example, electricity plugs or computer cables. When standardization occurs, 
such as is happening in seemingly dull meetings about tech standards in the 
European Union, some possibilities & some people, are “standardized in”, 
while other possibilities and people can be “standardized out”. Consider 
what standardization might mean for people with difabilties ( “different 
abilities” shortened to “difability”). When people with abilities that are 
different than the standard they could be disabled by the standard (the 
word disabled is used in this sentence as a verb: to disable someone). 
Through standardization the extension of technological zones are determined 
and also who might benefit or loose out because of these zones. 2c 
Intellectual “Property”. Many new devices are based in an idea more than an 
object. These ideas are being territorialized as property by large 
corporations so that simple things that can easily be spread, such as 
software, or new drugs to help treat AIDS and are then being withheld from 
the public. The huge AIDS epidemic in Africa has forced the issue of 
medical patents on new drugs to be talked about. Some corporations are 
attempting to steal the intellectual “property” of indigenous plants, 
native peoples and developing countries. References Political Machines: 
Governing the Technological Society by Andrew Barry, published in 2001 by 
Athlone Press. Particularly see chapter 8, which is specifically about the 
direct action anti-roads movement in Britain during the 1990s. Information 
Feudalism: Who owns the Knowledge Economy by Peter Drahos with John 
Braitwaite published 2002 This book explains in graphic detail how 
corporate multinationals have stolen the future. See also publication of 
Development Dialogue 1999:1-2 The ETC century: Erosion, Technological 
Transformation and Corporate Concentration in the 21st Century by Pat Roy 
Mooney. Some information locatable on http://www.etcgroup.org (previously 
known as the RAFI organization) For some helpful strategies for dealing 
with biotech PR blitzes see http://www.smartmeme.org

3. Public awareness of technology and what kind of fears that people have 
about new technologies is now being studied by sociology. The public is 
very concerned about some technologies particularly genetic manipulation 
and is unaware of others. Many corporate strategies involve promoting the 
possibilities of these new technologies as a “great hope”, for example 
being able to feed the world, new breakthroughs in medicine or computing. 
Public relations is very important to these companies. References See 
publications page of IEPPP, Lancaster University 
http://domino.lancs.ac.uk/ieppp/home.nsf/ and search for publication Wising 
Up: The Public and New Technologies a report by Brian Wynne, Phil 
McNaughten, and Robin Grove-White. See also Uncertain World: Genetically 
Modified Organisms, Food, and Public Opinion in Britain.

4. Nanotechnology is the manipulation of substances and building of devices 
at the extremely small level, around the size of molecules and just a bit 
larger. These processes are still being developed and the majority of the 
research and development money is coming from government grants. Some 
insurance companies have said that nanotechnology might not be insurable 
because it poses unquantifiable risks. There is no regualtory process for 

There are three stages that the introduction of nanotechnology into society 
is likely to go through unless it is stopped. ONE (already beginning to 
happen) Already happening is the use of nanotechnological processes to make 
production processes for existing technologies more cost efficient. Also 
nano-sized particles of normal substances are being made because at this 
size the particles have different physical properties. Particles at this 
size exhibit different chemical properties and some may be toxic. There 
have been no safety studies and yet these products are being released into 
the market, sunscreens, Loriel skin care products, Gap jeans stainless 
fabrics, self cleaning windows, etc. All of the magor multinationals (all 
the fortune 500 companies) are involved in researching or developing new 
products involving nano-technology. TWO (estimated three to five years in 
the future) The first independent nano-sized devices (not just 
nanoparticles) will be developed and sold. This will either be in the form 
of nanotechnology robots or nano-biotech (which is when biotechnological 
manipulations of genetic code are done with nanotechnology). THREE 
(estimated five to ten years in the future) Nanodevices and products will 
be introduced into every level of society and start to have wide ranging 
and unpredictable effects on the social structure. There will almost 
certainly also be saftey and environmental concerns. Grey Goo is the phrase 
coined to talk about a runaway nanotechnology self assembler device that by 
transforming matter at the molecular level turned everything in its 
expanding path into grey goo.

It is important to remember that use of nanotechnology has already begun 
and that by the time we can easily notice its presence (including its 
environmental and civil society effects) it will be firmly established in 
the economy, difficult to uproot. Besides environmental and health risks 
the magor threat of nanotechnologies are how they might change the balance 
of power in society. Large multinational corporations can use them to gain 
unprecedented amounts of power over civil society. The economies of 
developing world nations might quickly be overrun, decimated. The US 
military and other militaries are very interested in spying, surveillance 
and other nanotechnology uses.

References: See http://www.etcgroup.org In particular see the new ETC 
report released May/June of this year available at their website Communique 
#85: Nanotech news in Living Colour See also the May 2003 special issue of 
the Ecologist Magazine with cover story and explanation on nanotechnology 
threats to global democracy.

This briefing put together by GreenAction for the European PGA 2004 
conference, held in Eastern Europe

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