Authored by: Andrea Porcari, Gustavo Gonzalez, Daniela Pimponi
Reviewed by: Andrew Whittington-Davis and Nuala Polo
Based on a wide-ranging horizon scanning of new and emerging technologies, TechEthos selected three families of technologies that are expected to have disruptive socio-economic and ethical implications: Climate Engineering, Extended Digital Reality, and Neurotechnologies. TechEthos will use them as models to explore the interaction of technologies with the planet, the digital world, and the human body to develop operative ethics-by-design guidelines for researchers and innovators.
New and emerging technologies are changing all aspects of our lives, from our habits, to how we live, take care and cure ourselves, how we interact and communicate with others, and how society is organised and developed. These revolutionary technologies can bring benefits, but at the same time, raise new risks and concerns. How can we guarantee that these technologies will not adversely surprise us in a few years? What regulates the development of new and emerging technologies and their applications? At TechEthos, our focus is to address such questions by developing ethics-by-design guidelines that will ensure that ethical principles and values are embedded during the design and development of new and emerging technologies because, after all, anticipating such risks and concerns can help avoid or mitigate future undesirable outcomes.
Our selection process
The selection of these three technology families is based on a horizon scanning process carried out during the first phase of the TechEthos project. We systematically analysed and compared the findings of authoritative and up-to-date studies that address similar technological interests, allowing us to identify a set of new and emerging technologies with high socio-economic impact and significant ethical dimensions. This analysis also provided valuable insights that helped us identify criteria for defining and assessing the potential socio-economic impacts of these technologies, supported by expert consultations, online surveys, interviews, and workshops. From here, we were able to cluster technologies into a set of technology families, according to their shared functions, applications, time-to-market, economic, ethic, public, policy and legal impacts.
The selected three technology families all have a high potential to cause disruption socio-economically and ethically and focus on overcoming existing social concerns. These points of contact were widely addressed and debated during the different steps of the TechEthos horizon scanning process. Such matters were mainly based on how new and emerging technologies can affect the use and access to natural resources, how they can be used to modify our atmosphere, how individuals might interact with and use cutting-edge digital technologies to alter their real-world environments, or how people can understand and modify brain functions through novel technological strategies. These and other considerations were the foundations on which TechEthos made its selection:
Following the TechEthos horizon scanning and technology selection, the next step will be to perform an in-depth analysis of the ethical, policy, and legal implications and obtain a deep societal understanding of the perception of these technologies families from researchers, industry actors, policymakers, and citizens. This analysis will inform the development of ethical and legal frameworks and support the creation of operational guidelines to assist the research community in integrating ethical concerns and societal values into research protocols and technology design and development.
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