Nanotechnology is technology that operates on the nanoscale, which is approximately 1 million times smaller than an ant. Nanotechnology could revolutionize the world by improving medicine, fighting climate change, developing better materials, and much more. However, it also poses an existential threat because the technology could be used to accidentally or intentionally wipe out humanity; the microscopic size of nanobots means that they could be difficult to detect and stop. ​


  • Countries could use nanotechnology against each other in warfare, resulting in a nanotechnology arms race
  • An organization or individual could use nanotechnology to create untraceable self-replicating weapons
  • A self-replicating nanobot could unintentionally self-replicate indefinitely, consuming all resources1
  • Nanotechnology could make surveillance ubiquitous and be used to invade the privacy of ordinary citizens
  1. For more information on the “gray goo” scenario, see the “Nanotechnology Blue Box” in this Wait But Why article. Note that Eric Drexler, the pioneer of nanotechnology, contacted the author to say that he believes gray goo is unlikely.


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