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Keywords:

  • cognitive psychology;
  • nanotechnology;
  • public opinion;
  • responsive regulation;
  • risk regulation

Abstract

It is often argued that immediate government action regarding nanotechnology is needed to ensure that public opinion does not mistakenly view nanotechnology as dangerous, to restore public trust in government, and to increase the legitimacy of government action through increased public participation. This article questions whether governments can achieve these goals. As the world lurches toward regulation of nanotechnology, we should ask Why the rush? Can anticipatory action, perceived as the government doing something, fulfill the competing hopes to “restore trust,”“pave the way” for nanotechnology, “increase awareness,” and “satisfy democratic notions of accountability”? Or is government action more likely to increase existing divisions over nanotechnology's future?