Scientific Foresight (STOA) By / November 4, 2014

Being human in a hyper-connected era – The onlife initiative

Written by Peter Ide-Kostic   Webstreaming available here 02/12/2014 at 5pm Discuss it via Twitter: #OnlifeEU The “Onlife Initiative”, a project launched by…

© Eugenio Marongiu
Written by Peter Ide-Kostic


Webstreaming available here 02/12/2014 at 5pm
Discuss it via Twitter: #OnlifeEU

The “Onlife Initiative”, a project launched by the Commission’s DG-CONNECT, explores the societal consequences of on-going digital transition. DG-CONNECT will present the conclusions of this project during a STOA workshop in the European Parliament on 2 December 2014.

The STOA workshop takes as its evidence-base that mobile broadband access to the internet, the Internet of Things, big data, open data, cloud-computing, social networks, and new forms of internet-based collaborative and co-creation models, (such as commons-based peer production and crowdsourcing), result in the ever-increasing pervasiveness of ICT in all aspects of our lives.

The digital revolution is clearly on its way. Governments are deploying e-government and e-participation systems, and in the political sphere, the new concept of online e-democracy clearly challenges the old representative democratic model invented by the Ancient Greeks. Progress in robotics, artificial intelligence, additive manufacturing, self-driving vehicles, drones and smart factories may result in the massive automation (between 30-50%) of existing jobs in the next 20 years and will require changes to the education system for the new jobs that may be created.

Long-term prospects for health look promising and are aided by the rapid development of technologies such as low powered electronics, 3D printing and nanotechnologies. The application of the latest advances in gaming technologies to the learning and teaching environment already allows for dramatic improvemenst in education and vocational and education training in some sectors, such as medicine – a trend which looks likely to grow in the future. According to economists, the increased use of ICT in all sectors of the EU economy would be, all other things being equal, the most sensible way of increasing labour productivity and therefore growing the EU’s GDP per capita.

© Eugenio Marongiu

The Onlife Initiative explores the societal consequences of this radical transition and calls for re-engineering of the fundamental notions on which existing policy frameworks are built. Public space needs to be rethought in the light of digital transition, as deployment of these technologies, and their up-take, will radically affect relationships between us, others, and the rest of the world.

The human mind grasps the world around us through concepts created as though they were ‘interfaces’ through which reality is experienced and interpreted. These concepts provide a framework for understanding our surrounding realities. However, our current conceptual toolbox was not designed to address new ICT and internet-related challenges and leads to negative projections about the future: we fear and reject what we fail to make sense of and give meaning to.

The Onlife Initiative explored, with a team of philosophers and other experts, the policy-relevant consequences of these changes. The objective is to ‘re-engineer’ some of our concepts and hence re-envisage the future with greater confidence.

Is autonomy a good proxy for freedom, now that relationality is at the heart of the life experience? Is precaution exercised only in relation to anticipation and risk-avoidance, or is it more about a critical accompaniment of technological developments? Will transparency and control provide a sense of fairness and respect, or will it lead to a ‘drowning experience’ for users?

Policy-makers must address these questions if we are to succeed in fostering responsible innovation.

How to get involved

Join the debate in the European Parliament at 17.00 on 2 December 2014.

The discussion will be fully available online via a live webstream and you can join the conversation on Twitter by using #OnlifeEU to put a question to the panel yourself.

Detailed Programme 

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