Four scenarios towards more ethical futures: a case study in nanoscale science and technology

Emmanuel Smadja (Emmanuel Smadja is a Graduate Student at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia, USA)


ISSN: 1463-6689

Publication date: 1 November 2006



This paper aims to provide a better understanding of the ethical issues associated with nanoscale science and technology (NST).


This paper suggests the use of scenario planning (SP), an approach already widely utilized in strategy and decision making. Scenarios are systemic tools, which can help express, discuss, and evaluate different possible futures. To illustrate this point, this paper provides an example of SP applied to NST ethics.


Provides an SP template framework which can be used by various stakeholders to discuss ethical matters pertaining to NST. Stakeholders will be brought to decide on the direction and extent of NST development.

Research limitations/implications

The presented framework admittedly has an idealistic side to it. In fact, a democratic and transparent process for choosing the future can never truly be accomplished, and even if it is accomplished, it does not constitute a guarantee for a more ethical future.

Practical implications

A very useful thought experiment and decision aid tool for any group interested in NST.


This work adapts a traditionally business‐oriented tool (SP) to the field of NST ethics. It then addresses under‐examined topics within the field of NST ethics.



Smadja, E. (2006), "Four scenarios towards more ethical futures: a case study in nanoscale science and technology", Foresight, Vol. 8 No. 6, pp. 37-47.

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Copyright © 2006, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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