Rosalyn Berne at the University of Virginia and Joachim Schummer at the University of South Carolina have written an paper on nanotechnology and ethics called Teaching Societal and Ethical Implications of Nanotechnology to Engineering Students Through Science Fiction [PDF] which suggests to use science fiction as a way to teach ethics.
Through science fiction, engineering students are given opportunities to move beyond ideas of present material reality into the domains of the imagined future, where they can work with moral questions of our future with nanotechnology in creative and active ways. From their engagement with science fiction, they can move back to real time and the actual state of nanotechnology research and development, to ask where we may possible move with these technologies, and how they may affect social, moral, and environmental conditions of human life. Most importantly, the imaginative process can better equip them to engage reflection over such issues as what we take to be out most cherished values and beliefs, and how those values and beliefs might drive technology development and in turn be impacted by the technologies we are creating. By bringing this imaginative process of reflection into the engineering classroom, engineering students are freed from the constraints of technical problem solving efforts to reflect more deeply upon the ethical dimensions of the emerging nanotechnology age.
There’s some sf book name-dropping along the way, like Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, Blood Music by Greg Bear, Prey by Michael Crichton, The Nanotech Chronicles by Michael Flynn and The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson.