Written by Lieve Van Woensel and Guillermo Garrido-Lestache
The first EPRS publication by the Scientific Foresight Service, ‘Ten technologies which could change our lives‘, which will be launched at an event on Tuesday 17 March 2015 from 18:00 to 19:30 hours at the EPRS Library Reading Room (ASP 05D). The event is co-hosted by the STOA Panel.
The capacity to look into the future, deliberate on what it might bring, and to prepare for it, has been described as one of the defining elements for the development of humans as a species. Hence, it is logical that in our ever-changing world of rapid technological progress, professionalised scientific foresight will have an increasing presence and importance as a means to inform EU policy-makers and citizens as to the potential impacts of these overarching technological trends. There are four sections of in-depth analyses provided in this publication. Firstly, they provide a brief overview of the current situation regarding the particular technology. Then, the expected impacts and developments are identified, based on what research scientists, innovators and enterprises are working on and setting as their goals. This is followed by an exploration of the possible unexpected impacts of the technologies if they become embedded in society, with a consideration of all actors in society. Finally, legislative pathways are provided so that policy-makers may anticipate what policies and measures are required so as to encourage the desired practices regarding these technologies and discourage the undesired ones.
Some of the technological trends and ‘what if’ questions explored in this first report are: Autonomous vehicles – could the definition of a ‘responsible driver’ change forever? Graphene – could it revolutionise the way we design tomorrow’s products? 3D printing – are we on the verge of a new industrial revolution? Virtual currencies (bitcoin) – how can their potential to stimulate a new form of economy be balanced with the cyber-safety needs of citizens? Drones – how can privacy be preserved if they become easily available and affordable? Electricity storage (hydrogen) – how can it improve Europe’s energy resilience?
The event will be moderated by Eva Kaili, MEP and STOA Vice-chair, and will feature speakers from different academic and professional backgrounds, who will cover the different aspects involved in scientific foresight. First, Professor Dr Bart De Moor (Catholic University Leuven) will give the scientific perspective and speak about the practical application of some of the technologies covered by the report. He will be followed by Professor Dr Tsjalling Swierstra (philosopher, Maastricht University), who will speak about the ‘soft impacts’ and the overall cultural shifts which are consequences of these technologies. Finally, Dr Paula Tiihonen, who works as a counsel in the Committee for the Future of the Finnish Parliament, will focus on the science-policy interface.