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  • The Unmanned Voyage: An Examination of Nanorobotic Liability

    The book and movie “The Fantastic Voyage” is repeatedly linked to discussions of nanotechnology. The plot consists of a crew of people that are shrunk to what we could call “nanosize” who travel in a submarine throughout a human body. Although the situation seemed unfathomable in 1966, scientists are trying to make it a reality using nanorobots. However, the nanorobots that will possibly venture through our bodies for medicinal purposes will not be manned by miniature humans to control their actions. Instead, the robots could be triggered by chemical stimuli or remotely controlled by doctors. Robot autonomy produces complicated questions of liability for the products liability industry and medical professionals. The actors involved in this dilemma will predictably include the designers and manufacturers of nanorobots and the doctors who may control them. Due to the advent of nanojuries and in response to government agencies requesting public opinion in lieu of implementing strict regulations from the outset, the discussion of liability is complicated by including the public who will later act as the consumers of these products. The liability concerns that have been voiced give rise to discussion of how the nanotech industry can prevent the debacle that occurred with the asbestos industry. The one thing we know for certain is that we do not know the full risk and potential of nanoproducts.