Society has the power to use technology so that it can be of benefit or be detrimental. On the latter score one should note that political decisions have resulted in the existence of some 28,000 nuclear weapons worldwide. In addition it now appears that our technologies may well have also catalysed a mindless mass-production driven plundering of the Planet’s resources. We may be hurtling towards disaster - we may not need an asteroid. For a 50:50 chance of surviving into the next century every segment of society, from industrialists, engineers and scientists to politicians, farmers and fishermen must now recognise that these issues are the most serious that the human race has ever confronted. Our only hope for survival rests on the shoulders of those who take survival and sustainability issues seriously - and do something about it.
I see a key role for “Nanoscience and Nanotechnology” which is arguably – and I would argue it - just a new name for Chemistry where this discipline overlaps Condensed Matter Physics, Molecular Biology and Materials Engineering. I also see improved SET education as vital. We have manifestly failed in this endeavour but there may be one last hope: The Internet is a major new communications technology which we must exploit to educate people on a global scale in the rational attitudes to decision-making that are now vital to our very survival. With the Vega Science Trust, (www.vega.org.uk), we have made over 200 TV and Internet programmes (almost half shown on the BBC). It is a highly successful platform for scientists to communicate directly and improve the public awareness and understanding of SET. With an exciting new Global Educational Outreach for Science Engineering and Technology (GeoSet, www.geoset.info) initiative we are working with other universities to make outstanding educational material available in any part of the world. The major aim is to empower teachers, worldwide, by giving them access to the best teaching material, packaged for direct use in the classroom, together with expert examples of how the material might best be presented.